Tokyo: Aoyama Esaki 青山えさき*** [2016.01.23]

One of my favourite things about Tokyo was how many food lovers I met there. It’s so hard to go eat at nice restaurants by yourself. Well, not hard. But I think eating a nice meal is infinitely better when you have someone to share it with. It’s just as much about the experience as it is about the taste.

So, it’s nice when I meet other people that are willing/don’t mind spending a boat load of money for good food.

Esaki was probably one of my fave restaurants in Tokyo. It has won 3 Michelin stars SEVEN years in a roll! A. was the one that told me about it, this is another one of those Michelin star restaurants that is quite affordable during lunch. Their dinner set tasting menu ranges from ¥12,000 to ¥15,000 but their lunch is only ¥5,500. $75 CAD is still sooooo affordable for those dang three stars. Plus, it was an amazingly delicious meal.

The chef, Shintaro Esaki, is a Tokyo-born chef who defines his food as “innovative kaiseki”. Kaiseki is the Japanese word for a traditional multi-course meal that showcases specific skills and techniques in the preparation of the food. So a mix of the modern and the traditional. Esaki also uses locally sourced, organic ingredients; traditional seasonal Japanese goodies that you probably won’t find a lot of off the islands of Japan.

A. and I showed up promptly for our noon reservation. The restaurant itself was a wee bit hard to find, nestled in between quiet residential streets in Jingu-mae. It has quite a nondescript entrance (small Japanese sign that was at the top of the staircase that led down to the restaurant). We found it pretty fast though as there were a small crowd of people gathering at the top, waiting for the restaurant to open.

They also have a gorgeous handwritten menu with cute little vegetable drawings framed at the top of the staircase. The lunch was 6 courses and the only thing I could make out was that course two consisted of fresh fish (goooo Kanji skillz!).

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A little after 12:00p, a server came to let us down into the restaurant. The tables were perfectly set to the number of reservations and we each got a tiny handwritten menu!

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I am easily amused impressed. I totally meant to take the menu home with me as a memento, but, my goldfish memory let me down yet again.

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The star of the first dish was ika. It was a light salad of sort welcoming you to settle in to a fresh, seasonal meal. The dish itself consisted of sizeable bites of meaty squid, apples, radish, chives, and caviar. The apple really brought out a good balance of sweet and sour notes.

The second dish was sashimi. I believe it was amberjack. I asked the server what the dish was and she was awesome and brought out a book to show me. But then, I stupidly just took a picture of the illustration of the fish and not the actual full english text that would have confirmed the type of fish.

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The skin of the fish reminded me of what mackerel would look like but it definitely didn’t have that distinct taste of saba. The meat itself was very firm and meaty and had the most subtle taste of sweetness. It was served with some kelp and a floral herb.

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Third was a broccoli cauliflower soup over hazelnut oil. This was an amah-zing soup. So good yet so simple.

Fourth course was seared yellowtail topped with an iyokan sauce. Iyokan is a Japanese citrus that is not your typical orange taste, it was a little more bitter. I usually don’t like orange sauce on things but I think the bitterness actually made me like it. Plus the fish was seared perfectly with a layer of fatty, crispy skin. The protein was also accompanied by a single jerusalem artichoke and leek.

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The server was great; after my initial interest in the ingredients of the courses, she would just automatically show me in these books what each ingredient was.

The fifth course was the rice and soup portion of the meal. Mind you, it was no plain white rice and boring old miso soup. The rice was cooked with snapper, so the rice was very flavourful and decently oily (in the best possible way), and the soup was a Chinese cabbage miso soup.

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Dessert was vanilla ice cream served atop of a roasted sweet Japanese potato and drizzled with a brown sugar sauce.

And then your choice to finish the meal with green tea or organic coffee. Guess which one I chose? #coffeefiend

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Amazing food. Amazing service. When we were leaving, the chef and our server walked us out to the door, bowing. And then stayed outside the whole time until we were up the stairs and out of sight!

Total star count: 6

Address: 3-39-9 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku 150-0001, Tokyo | 神宮前3-39-9, 渋谷区 東京都 150-0001, Japan
Telephone: 03(3408)5056
Hours: M-F 6:00p – 9:30p | Sat 12:00p – 1:30p, 6:00p – 9:30p | Sun CLOSED

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