Japan Trip Report - Tokyo February 2024

Reporting back from a nice week in Tokyo. End of February, early March is all about first tastes of spring, so bitter sansai (like fuki/fukinoto, udo, kogomi, etc.) and crunchy or snappy shellfish (akagai, tairagai, torigai, etc.). Also the ending bites of winter like torafugu, which I had for 7 days in a row and had no ill effects! :crossed_fingers:. Almost everyone was serving hamaguri broth.

I didn’t get to do everything, and in fact I had to miss a bunch of the walk-in places, but I still had a great time and am eager to return in a few months.

I’ll keep it to max 5 pictures from each place to keep the thread from being too long and to give some diversity.



7 otsumami, 12 nigiri, tamago, and a few supplmenetal maki. Excellent as always. With Usui-san.

Started with kaburamushi with sawara (as back in February 2020), the onto some super quality Akashi tai, which blows out any tai I’ve had stateside.

Torafugu was shirako chawanmushi.

Aori-ika (sliced incredibly thin and layered)


Chutoro senaka cut - incredible


Kanpyo maki and tamago


Had a business meeting so we got the private room, which is actually a separate 6-seat sushi bar with a second chef. Still great, with some unreal otsumami as before, but I do prefer sitting with Kurosaki-san. The hamaguri, namako, and the seasonal chawanmushi (botanebi last time, crab this time) are always knockouts.

5 otsumami, 16 nigiri, and tamagoyaki.

Started with hirame with irizake, then deeply smoky sawara, and then onto some aka namako with incredible slippery and gelatinous texture.

Torafugu was yaki shirako nigiri delivered straight to the hand.



Matsubagani chawanmushi




Very happy to return to this refined but comfortable restaurant with great technique, variety of neta (there’s always a bunch of supplemental options), sake selection, and a friendly atmosphere all at an excellent value. Nicely run shop by Hashimoto-san’s wife.

Started with a whitefish and shellfish soup with sansai. Great broth of madai, hirame, shiroamadai, akagai, hotategai, and tairagai. Then on to a sashimi duo of aoyagi and tairagai, grilled torafugu shirako over sushi rice, then some excellent komochi yariika.

Like at most sushi places in Japan of this style, the sake pairings are not set, but rather judged by your pace (and what course you’re on), preferences, and history. Some started off right away with Juyondai, others with Ubusuna, Jikon, Banshu Ikkon, etc. But I’m pretty sure everyone got the Sushi Hashimoto Edition Kamonishiki with the plate of chinmi. Kind of like how Sugita has his own Kamonishiki sake.

8 otsumami, 13 nigiri, tamago and supplemental akagai, kanburi, and torotaku maki.


Chinmi: ankimo, marinated oyster, and smoked and aged mekajiki (swordfish) with karashi mustard.


Double-layer kanpachi belly



Nikuyatanaka Ginza

Another great meal by BOSS. Beef was 47 mo female cow from Kobe. Not so much about crazy marbling as it was about silken muscle with great flavor. For beef, BOSS is the master, from the tataki, beef tongue, shabu shabu with oboro kelp, sirloin steak, etc. Even a beef connsomme for a ramen dish! But the signature is also the beef and suzuki (sea bass) maki and don’t sleep on the shellfish - this time, an excellent akagai nuta-ae whose great crunch (both for the clam and sansai) matched the “shortness” of the vinegary sauce. And a really plump botanebi, topped with caviar but balanced by the crunch and gentle bitterness of sansai.

There’s always a bit of luxury here, with truffles on torafugu shirako soup and even on dessert of some perfect kotoka brand strawberries.

Beef and seabass maki

Botanebi with caviar and fuki stems, nanohana, and an sauce

Beef tongue before portioning

Beef for shabu shabu

Shabu shabu with oboro seaweed, which looks a bit like napa cabbage but melted with a slight pickled taste.



Relocated to the new Azabudai Hills complex from Nagoya. It long held the top tempura tabelog rating in Japan, but this famous shop now no longer allows pictures or social networking service reviews at the new site. “Best” is a difficult concept and not really applicable when comparing shops in Japan, but safe to say it was considered one of the top shops. It was a very memorable meal, and actually quite nice to not have everyone standing at the counter recording videos.

Incredible technique. Niitome-san rests his flour near freezing for several days to let it dissolve super finely. He changed the oil every 3 pieces or so and mixed new batter fresh just seconds before coating. Niitome-san is continually modulating the oil’s heat, even between serving different diners at the counter, so that the serving temperature is as consistent as possible even by a matter of seconds spent cooking.

I’ve heard that tempura is considered by some as a “steamed food” as opposed to fried, which I thought was a bunch of bs. But, with Niitome-san’s tempura, I can see the point in some sense. The ingredients’ essence is augmented by being cooked as tempura, not obscured by the batter as one might think. The kaki, aoriika, soramame, and fukinoto were super juicy and heightened as tempura.

  • Hamaguri broth - incredible. Its umami was so deep and expansive that I closed my eyes for a bit. Part of the hamaguri is fresh and part of it was dried, giving it super concentration.
  • Tai sashimi - very good.
  • Meiji maguro no warayaki - excellent, could work in some sushi shops.
  • Tairagai served in a nori wrapper - not isobeyaki, which is soy sauce based, but rather briefly marinated in shiro miso. Very good.
  • Braised ankimo - incredible.
  • Aoyagi nuta-ae, excellent, with good textural play.
  • Shiroamadai chawanmushi - incredible. I don’t remember having a fish chawanmushi with the fish cooked as nicely as this. Usually, fish in chawanmushi is a bit overly cooked, but the shiroamadai was tender enough to flake off with your tongue.

Onto tempura…

  • Starting with the fried heads, shell removed, no batter, perhaps to flavor the oil.
  • Two pieces of prawn - the back next to the tail broken just before going into the batter.
  • Aoriika, thickish but super scored. Incredible, cooked mi-cuit and almost remniscent of mochi or gluten at some point, but with a slightly denser chew and gentle seafood flavor. Probably the best ika I’ve had.
  • Soramame - incredible. The batter was light and lacy - you could even smell the pronounced soramame through it. The texture was a mix between being melting and crushed upon chewing.
  • Shirauo, excellent texture, not bogged down by batter but still coated, not soggy.
  • Kodai - good.
  • Another sansai which I forgot in my notes - good.
  • Kaki - incredible. Super juicy, done medium, maybe bite of the trip.
  • Fukinoto - incredible - made to be like a flower, so the cooking could penetrate the center more. Elegant bitterness, not too much.
  • Renkon - excellent, sweet as corn.
  • Torafugu shirako - excellent.
  • Tamanegi onion - excellent.
  • Megochi (fish) - very good. One of the top 3 edomae tempura for “fish,” the others being kisu and anago.
  • Uni on seaweed - excellent.
  • Sweet potato with ice cream - excellent.
  • Tendon with pickles and red miso soup - good.

Chef Niitome-san is very friendly and his wife provided great service as well.

Tempura Motoyoshi

Very good, with friendly service (and some English spoken). Crisp batter, with the ingredients cooked admirably. Really no missteps. With its casually elegant and comfortable location in Ebisu, a very nice meal indeed. And since it’s easy to get in to and very welcoming to travelers, an excellent all-around choice.



Fugu shirako with daikon and nanohana. Symbolically, like the kaburamushi dishes I’ve had at Sushi Arai and Miyasaka, with unearthing a flower underneath the “snow” of white ingredients.

Hokkaido bafun uni on shiso (signature dish, along with their sweet potato)

Tendon - excellent. Small shrimps and kobashira.


Excellent kappo meal in Minamiaoyama. All around a great experience, from the cooking, comfortable but polished setting, service (with some English spoken), and varied menu which includes some homestyle dishes.

Hakuun comes from the Zen phrase which translates to white clouds passing over an immovable green mountain. The green mountain represents traditional washoku, while the white clouds represent the chef’s free-moving cuisine. Chef Sakamoto-san actually trained at Nihonryori Ryugin, of 3-Michelin star famous outside of Japan, but the food at Hakuun actually seems more traditional and less fusion.

I came for the signature katsuo, but actually the menu featured torafugu since it’s very seasonal. As with others, this started with a hamaguri soup, fragrant with kinome, but it was the well proportioned textures of various bite that impressed - the subtly chew on the clam, toothsome wakame, and crunchy takenoko that was sweet as corn. Then, a contrast of tender akashi tako vs fukinoto, with its bitter and crunch.

Torafugu presented many ways - sashimi, with an ankimo ponzu and accoutrements; its skin, with ponzu and egg yolk sauce; as nabe, with takenoko; fried as karaage; and as zosui with its shirako and chives. Zosui is such a homestyle dish, and the preceding Kagoshima beef with flavors of sukyaki, yurine puree, and fried leeks was very comforting as well.

The most impressive dish may have been shiroamadai, fried with its skin as a pinecone, with a surinagashi of white asparagus and fukinoto tempura. Just a masterful oil flavor in the fish vs the clean, smooth asparagus and elegant devliery of bitterness in fried fukinoto.

A very fair drinks menu, too. In fact, I bought a bottle of Aramasa No.6 X-Type for about $80 USD…which would cost 5x+ more in America. But they had Denshu, Isojiman by carafe on offer as well, some grower champagnes such as Laurent Benard, and even some Japanese wines.

Karasumi, torafugu shirako, mochi rice. Like a play on karasumi mochi.

Torafugu sashimi, aged 3 days for great texture. Ankimo ponzu was great with sake.

Shiroamadai with white asparagus and tempura fukinoto

Torafugu and takenoko nabe

Torafugu zosui

Ginza Ankyu

Rather nice kappo meal, with good service and some very nice dishes. A newish satellite shop from Kyoto.

Shellfish (tairagai, akagai, and aoyagi clam), with an sauce and sansai (kogomi, soramame, and urui)

Kue (longtooth grouper) owan with takenoko. Very nice owan. Bamboo is from Ooma, not to be confused with Oma. Here, takenoko from Kyushu is super sweet and crunchy, compared to ones from Kyoto, which are softer but more bitter.

Lobster sashimi with wasabi kimijoyu and nori.

Kinmedai from Chiba, made yuan-yaki, with nanohana an sauce.

Egg rolls of uni, kobashira, and aonori.



Primo Passo

Excellent value with some great pasta and refined cooking by what’s basically a one-man show in the kitchen. Yes he has a pastry chef helper who also does dishes, but this place is impressive not only for the food but what they’re able to accomplish for a small team. Chef was turning the Hokkaido beef on bincho with one hand while making pasta risottata style in the other hand. 11 courses for about $120. Chef trained in Napoli, and while pasta is the strength, it’s not quite Itameshi but a Japanese style of pasta indeed.

Highlights were:

  • cold capellini made in hamaguri dashi, with amaebi marinated in marsala. with shiso blossoms and dried nori.
  • meiji maguro with turnip surinaagashi, crunchy red turnips, yuzu gel, and yuzu zest
  • tagliolini with komochi yariika (pregnant spear squid), with karasumi, lemon, seaweed sauce, lemon peel, and I believe some colatura di alici.
  • linguine with hokkaido bafun uni, tomato, and italian parsley sauce. really well balanced tomato vs uni lift and the al dente linguine.
  • risotto - nanatsuboshi rice from Hokkaido, with italian peas, truffle, and ultra thin prosciutto. beautifully balanced between the pea flavor and truffle.
  • “cappuccino” of homemade ramen pasta and hotaruika with shiso sauce

bunch of Aramasa by the glass. not the easiest to pair, but I did a comparison between Amaneko and its aged counterpart, L’Heresiarque et Cie (formerly known as Brain Damage Incorporated). they can be a challenge, which is why they’re not always recommended right away, but the results can be interesting when dealing with Aramasa’s signature sour taste.

prosciutto on pizza fritta, with scamorza and parmigiano cheeses

marsala-marinated botanebi with cold capellini

baby maguro with turnip soup and yuzu sauce

tagliolini with komochi yariika, seaweed, lemon

prosciutto with mint and melon


Menya Kimoto:
A bit of a luxury ramen from the kappo restaurant Kimoto. The broth is made of shiroamadai, black abalone, Tokyo-X pork, and chicken. Pork and aji-tama were great. Noodles were cooked medium. Very nice as an experiment, though perhaps I’d want a simpler bowl less luxurious.

extra pork belly. super tender.


Kaiten Ginza Onodera
Ah, I’m not sure I can recommend this place anymore on quality. I always want to have a cheap kaiten place, and this place fit the bill before in many ways, but on this last visit, there was a bit of a downhill slide in quality. While their hotategai and Yamayuki chutoro are still good for the price, the rice came out kind of cold and there was a 10-minute wait between some pieces (they used to come out very quickly). Also, the akagai was stinky, that I considered spitting it out, but luckily I was ok having eaten it.
chutoro (Yamayuki)




Ponta Honke
Great old school fry place with history. Returned for their famous ebi furai, which was delicious, but unfortunately at the market price of 8,800 yen! Rather good, large shrimp cooked medium, with an excellent tartar sauce (went especially well with the fried heads). But the price is too much for ebi furai, imo! I’d stick to some other seafood fry or the beef tongue stew.


Excellent value. $7.30 USD for the lunch special of a pizza, side salad, and peach iced tea, with an additional pizza at $6. The pizza itself was really good, very light and airy, with a crimped cornichione. The tomato sauce is not as salty as PST’s and perhaps lacks a touch of character for some, but the overall pizza was very good imo. Very my style, especially for the price. Don’t mind if it’s busy - it was almost like ramen, with people in and out less than half an hour.
Trippa alla Romana



undercarriage shot



Aka Oni
A great drinking spot in Sangenjaya. As far as sake goes, the list is hardcore, but the food is a comfort food menu of snacks. Egg rolls of persimmon and cream cheese, roast ginko nuts, yuba, some whitefish sashimi, potato salad, etc. Was here with two friends who are locals. We had about 7+ large ochoko in masu, which amounted to maybe a bottle each. Great time!


Kotoka with truffle at Nikuyatanaka Ginza

Kotoka parfait at Hakuun

with Hojicha sorbet and creme crue(?) at Primo Passo

I tried about 29 sakes over the week, and there’s too many to list, but here were my top 10 (in no order):

  1. Nabeshima orange label goyakumangoku junmai ginjo nama (at Aka Oni izakaya)

  2. Jikon sakemirai junmai ginjo nama genshu (at Sushi Hashimoto)

  3. Shinshu Kirei hitogokochi junmai namagenshu (at Aka Oni izakaya)

  4. Hanamura omachi junmai ginjo (at Aka Oni Izakaya)

  5. Jikon hattannishiki junmai ginjo (at Kurosaki)

  6. Juyondai orikarami nama junmai ginjo (at Aka Oni izakaya)

  7. Aramasa No.6 X-Type junmai daiginjo (at Hakuun)

  8. Aramasa L’Hersiarque et Cie (at Primo Passo)

  9. Kamonishiki Yoshikawa Special A yamadanishiji junmai daiginjo (at Ginza Ankyuu)

  10. Juyondai Honmaru hiden tamakaeshi tokubetsu junmai honjozo (at Aka Oni izakaya)


Technically deep fried food is in essence “steaming” within the quickly formed outer crust. Why it stays so moist and juicy


Fantastic report back. Thank you! It inspires me to share some of my recent experiences in Japan.

Aramasa 6 was stupendously good. I tried a few different Aramasa bottles in Tokyo a few months back at Ebisu Endo.


Yes, I just had not experienced that quite to that level until Niitome. Between the oyster, soramame, and aori ika, it was eye-opening.

Yes, they can be great. Aramasa can be a little tricky to pair (particularly I think the Private Lab and Astral Plateau series get misunderstood a bit). Aramasa’s signature is a certain elegant light sourness but with different experiments, there are specific applications that can be amazing. (Respectfully, I’m not sure why Aramasa has a reputation around here as mainly being sweet). Generally, I the best place to experience the lineup is in Japan, due to storage, the proper distribution network, freshness, and understanding. If you want to try basically the full lineup, there’s a yakitori place in Tokyo that serves Akita chicken with Aramasa.

Which versions did you try at sushi?

At Hakuun, regarding no.6, I couldn’t resist the X-Type in part because the price was so good (I had paid 3x last year for the Direct-Path version), even though the S-Type would probably have been better throughout the night. And at Niitome, regarding Colours, I had a bottle of Viridian, though in retrospect, I think that Ubusuna might’ve done even better. Regarding Private Lab, the Flax Cat was super good with some Italian cuisine, such as the prosciutto with melon and mint, the meiji maguro with yuzu, and even the uni and tomato linguine.

Thank you. Please do.


Great to read! thanks

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hi @pomodoro
thanks for reporting back, great write-up.


Gee, thanks @PorkyBelly . I’m happy to report back.

Seasonal ingredient comparison 1: torafugu

In my experience, pufferfish shirako is noticeably better than cod shirako across the board. Still my favorite torafugu dish may be the shirakodofu from Kusunoki a little while back. But from this trip, my favorite is a toss up between Niitome’s shirako tempura and Hakuun’s aged sashimi with ankimo ponzu.

  1. not pictured: shirako chawanmushi (Sushi Arai)

  2. not pictured: shirako tempura (Tempura Niitome)

  3. shirako soup with Périgords (Nikuyatanaka Ginza)

  4. shirako tempura with daikon and nanohana (Tempura Motoyoshi)

  5. Shirako nigiri (Kurosaki)

  6. Yaki shirako on shari (Sushi Hashimoto)

  7. Yaki shirako with karasumi, mochi rice, tsume, and yuzu (Hakuun)

  8. Sashimi, 3-day aged (Hakuun). Great bite, a touch dense, with pleasant chew. Key was spreading on some ankimo in ponzu and wrapping some chives.

  9. Skin with ponzu and egg sauce, chives (Hakuun)

  10. Nabe with takenoko (Hakuun)

  11. Zosui with shirako (Hakuun)

  12. Karaage bone-in (Hakuun)

  13. Karaage (boneless) with nikogori of skin (Kurosaki)

seasonal ingredient comparison 2: komochi yariika

  1. at Sushi Hashimoto - the key is the use of wasabi, here grated on metal (cf. grated on sharkskin at Nihonbashi-kakigaracho Sugita). with Jikon junmai ginjo sakemirai nama, released February 2024. super fresh, delicious big presence but straight and a bit sharp.

  2. at Kurosaki - the key was the delicious niitsume. with Kamokinshu tokubetsu junmaishu 13. With gentle CO2, lively and so a perfect aperitif style sake that’s light, slightly spicy, and disappears (perhaps not the most interesting on its own, but good to match the thicker niitsume).

  3. at Primo Passo - with a seaweed and lemon sauce, including lemon peel (and I believe colatura di alici). with Aramasa private lab Amaneko, flavors of shiroan, wakamomo, faint lychee, green apple, and an elegant bitterness / slight sourness.


Amazing report makes me want to go to Japan asap!


2 posts were merged into an existing topic: Japan first timer – need advice

I know.
Admittedly it is a poor substitute but I really enjoyed Somebody Feed Phil’s recent Kyoto episode.


The one where he didn’t even really go to any Japanese restaurants and only talked to a couple tangentially food-related Japanese people? I didn’t care for it.

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Haha - like I said “poor substitute” - maybe “very poor.”

I was thinking more about the way the show captured the vibe of the city, and had a lot of lovely images rather than his food/chef choices - which were indeed very Western oriented. The soba place excepted.

I’m not a huge phan of pheed Phil, but I watch on occasion, and I do respect the positivity he puts out there, despite the shows numerous flaws and irritants.


I think he visited Lurra in that episode which I picked up from elsewhere on this forum and really enjoyed in November 2023. An experience reminiscent of Somni but set in Kyoto. Definitely not Japanese food and pretty much entirely foreign clientele the night I went but great food and time regardless. Quite creative in a delicious way!

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Great spot owned by head chef Jacob Kear, who helped open Shibumi and an Noma alumni (hence the good relationship with Rene). Very talented and cool dude.