M_Mugen - New Japanese-style Chinese (Tokyo)

M_Mugen is a new Japanese-style Chinese restaurant that opened in Ginza in November 2022.

Japanese-style Chinese “kappo” is its own thing - often a seafood-focused mix of Cantonese, Sichuan, and other regional traditions. It’s not a new cuisine, but it seems to have become more prolific in the last 5-10 years - or maybe just because the kinds of shark’s fin, Peking duck, and shirako mapo dofu are so photogenic and I’ve noticed it more.

M_Mugen has an 8-seat counter that faces a wok where chef Tatsuhito Uchida cooks, so this is sort of “kappo-style” Chinese food. Chef Uchida has experience working in Chinese restaurants around Tokyo, but he also spent several years at restaurants in Shanghai, including his own, Koen. He’s back in Tokyo now with M_Mugen and off to a strong start, in my opinion.

The meal was quite smart, delicious, and high-level. Chef Uchida seems to be knowledgable about various Chinese cuisines and has rotated various menus already. Service was quite nice and we appreciated that Chef Uchida spoke Chinese and English as well. We enjoyed our time and would return.

  1. Kegani and bafuni uni from Hokkaido with tomato gelee, red vinegar, finger lime, and kinome

Great seasoning and delivery. The tomato gelee had good umami and the red vinegar, a go-to pairing from crab in many Chinese dishes, gave the dish good brightness but it wasn’t at the forefront. Texturally quite nice and well proportioned. With an '05 Andre Clouet blanc de blancs, not my favorite vintage or producer, but decent enough breadth and generosity (as I’ve found '05s tend to have) to pair with the vinegar.

  1. “Buddha Jumps Over the Wall”

A famous Fujian soup of dried delicacies, here of sea cucumber, shark’s fin, abalone, scallop, fish maw, jinhua ham, black wood ear mushrooms, snow fungus, shiitake mushrooms, gojiberries, jujubes, Korean ginseng, rice wine, etc. etc. stewed for 2 days.

So the legend goes, a traveling scholar collected various ingredients in a jar used to hold wine. When he arrived in Fuzhou, he heated up the jar, and the smell of the seafood soup tempted the vegetarian monks nearby so much that it was as if even the Buddha would jump over a wall to have it.

This is one of the chef’s signature dishes, quite good.

  1. Drunken botan-ebi, soaked in aged xiaoxing wine, baiju, brandy, and tangerine peel for 2 days.

Super dish. Suck the head juices first. Love the marinade that had potent flavor but wasn’t too “boozy;” I think the tangerine peel balanced it out. Served w/ a 13-year old Xiaoxing wine, which tasted strongly of oloroso sherry. A bit strong for me, but the botaebi was great.

  1. “Tempura” of spring vegetables with a chicken breast-yuzu dipping sauce and sansho-salt.

Here was fried kogomi (fiddlehead fern) and koshiabura (not sure a translation other than “sansai queen”), but the “tempura” batter was a bit different - fermented flour, egg yolk, and lard. With Amakusa salt mixed with Sichuan peppercorn. Delicious and refreshing combo of the light batter, bitter mountain vegetables, bright sauce, and Sichuan peppercorn-salt. With a decent Sancerre “silex” but a very harmonious dish that felt light.

  1. Fukahire shark’s fin boiled and then broiled

Served with a supreme broth made like seafood paitan and mixed with oyster sauce. Such great texture, meaty enough to sink your teeth into, gelatinous but slightly crisped. Thick, smooth sauce with deep seafood flavor. With a '97 Kalin Cellars chardonnay.

  1. Fresh chashu Cantonese style

Made without soy sauce, but rather shio koji, “Hong Kong 5 spice,” honey, and sesame paste. Meaty, a bit lean, but delicious. With an Australian red, Teusner Avatar 2021, not my normal style but worked well with the five spice and honey.

  1. Hotategai wok-fried with fresh “X.O.” sauce and golden chives

This was smart, using a fresh homemade “X.O.” with ham and various seafoods (usually, dried scallop is a prominent ingredient in XO sauces). Good wok hei, which went well with the powerful chives, and the XO had a ton of umami and none of the dank flavor that some lesser versions. The fresh XO tasted a bit “looser.” Super dish.

  1. Hira-suzuki konbujime steamed, with shiitake and kelp

Black-fin sea bass, a high-end white fish, noted for its clean and sweet flavor like madai. Konbujime then simply steamed - a thick piece with clean aroma and no muddiness at all. Slightly firm but yielding texture, quite nice. Chef made it known that this is much more expensive than normal sea bass, which is why it’s treated simply. Not the normal prep of “steamed fish” that I’m used to in most Chinese restaurants, no real sauce or alliums and cut thickly to showcase the quality.

  1. Kagoshima beef hire steak ‘gung bao’

Kung-pao wagyu steak with pickled himetake bamboo, cauliflower, and peppers.

  1. Chaohan fried rice

Akita komachi rice, shirasu (whitebait), nanohana (rapeseed flowers), and pickled Taiwanese mustard greens. The nanohana was like a substitute for gai-lan stems in Hong Kong fried rice.

  1. Mapo dofu with homemade sauces (sansho oil, la-yu, doubanjiang)

Really nice rendition with good lift from the homemade sansho oil instead of Sichuan peppercorn. Related but a slightly different flavor and delivery. It had a “clean” taste, a touch of mala but a little bit less than I’ve had.

  1. Jasmine shochu ice cream with crumble of jasmine tea leaves and butter.

Refreshing ice cream of Jasmine shochu “Marika liqueur”

We were pretty impressed with a number of hits here - the drunken prawn, shark’s fin in seafood paitan stock, hotetegai with fresh XO, kegani and bafun uni with red vinegar, etc.

I believe there’s one 6pm dinner seating and it becomes a wine bar after. The curved bar setup is quite bright. If it looks familiar, I believe it shares some same management as the French restaurant “unis” in Toranomon Hills.