Having lunch at Nirvana was a relaxing experience. The food wasn’t a revelation, but it certainly put a nice break on my day.
The buffet (2,000 yen) gives you a choice between three kinds of curry, fried items (pakoras and rice fritters), salad, rice and nan. I found everything to be tasty, well seasoned, but shy on the spice factor. The daal (lentil curry) was particularly good, and so was the butter chicken.
The part where I just didn’t get what they were trying to accomplish was the dessert spread. Given that it is an Indian restaurant, I expected lots of milky desserts, carrot puddings and sweet syrups flavored with cardamom. Instead I found predictable western cakes and jellies. The most “exotic” of the desserts was tapioca balls in coconut milk.
The wall seats are decorated with lush pillows, and the tables overlook the gorgeous gardens at Tokyo Midtown. If you can, I would certainly recommend booking a window table.
Visit for inspiration and relaxation, but for Indian food nirvana, you’ll need to head elsewhere.
I used to work around Hiroo, and I became a regular at Plates for close to a year. At the beginning I tried various things on the menu, but in time settled on the one and only thing I eat there: the ham, baby leafs and parmesan pizza.
The downstairs houses a big wood-fired oven, while the upstairs has a medium-sized dinning room with murals adorning the walls.
I would always share one lunch with a friend. If you try having a lunch special by yourself, it is just too much. Half a pizza per person is more than enough.
The crust is thin and usually crunchy. We usually got some olive oil for dipping as well. They have different chefs though, and their skill shows in how thin they can roll the dough, which then determines if the crust ends up crunchy or doughy.
Plates is not reinventing the wheel with their pizza, but their lunch deals are pretty good if you share them between two, and it amounts to a satisfying meal.
With so many Belgian and British beer bars around the city, Cerveza at least has a niche with beer offerings from around the world.
The problem is that most of the beers are the crappy best-sellers of each country. If I can pay 900 yen for an excellent British Ale or a bottle of Singh La, I don’t need to think very hard to make up my mind. I know, I’m a beer snob, but I like to get hops and flavor for my buck.
I don’t want to come too hard on Cerveza -- some of the stuff is good, like a few German Pilsners or Anchor Steamer from San Francisco, but I also spotted crappy bottles from around the world like Coors Light.
We got a bottle of Duvel, Anchor Porter, Half & Half (Guinness and Ebisu) and a German Radeberg Pilsner at the suggestion of the owner. We also ended up ordering fried camembert cheese, which showed up doused in honey (?) and a mixed platter of German sausages that tasted quite good.
The owner was super friendly, and is clearly excited about beer. Drop by to feel global or to reminiscence earlier travels.
Toshi Yoroizuka’s store commands attention worldwide. Foodies from around the world line up at his store to try his desserts.
I was lucky when I arrived without reservations, because someone had just cancelled and my dinning partner and I were immediately seated at the counter from where you can see the chefs in action.
Unfortunately (or luckily) I’ve been spoiled by Tokyo’s amazing pastry chefs. Getting it perfect is pretty hard, and anywhere else in the world I’d be blown away by Toshi Yoroizuka. But, to stand out in Tokyo you need to go the extra mile to wow customers who already expect perfect pastries, and in that respect he fell flat.
We got two seasonal creations from the kitchen (1,200 yen each) -- peaches poached in white wine with ice cream, gelee and a galette for crunch, and a coconut and pineapple souffle.
Both dishes were beautifully presented and the flavors spot on. At the same time, they lacked wow factor. Peaches and white wine are a pretty common combination (think of a bellini) and so is pineapple and coconut.
On my way out I picked up an apricot tart, a chocolate tart and a financier, all to the same effect. They were technically perfect, but forgettable.
If you like your pastries to be comforting, this is the place for you. If you’re looking for that little extra something, then better head somewhere else. I expected Yoroizuka-san to deliver that extra touch, but found out that he’s in the business of comfort pastries done well.
Cock o'the Walk delivers what few British pubs in Tokyo can -- that extra little something in atmosphere that chains can’t seem to achieve. The place is not as pretty as other pubs, and the food is not as tasty, but seeing the staff goof around with regulars makes up for it.
We arrived during happy hour and were promptly served pints of cold British brews, together with a few cocktails (600 yen each).
The food took long, and it was mostly of the forgettable kind -- nachos, pizza with little on it, a tiny piece of lasagna that was nuked in the microwave and a salad (600-1000 yen). Nothing left a strong impression, and I wouldn’t recommend this pub for the food.
It’s hard to explain why this place has charm, but you’ll know the difference as soon as you step in.
Tokyo attracts world-renowned pastry chefs from the world over, and Jean Paul Hevin is one more of this exclusive list that opened boutiques in Japan.
Jean Paul Hevin’s specialty is chocolate. He sources some of the best cacao beans from around the world and crafts them into beautiful truffles and other sweets. His reputation is that no chocolate sits on the shelves for more than three days before they throw them away.
His resume is impressive: he was awarded the Meilleur Ouvrier de France award (best craftman in France) in the confectionery category, and spent seven years working side-by-side with another heavyweight chef from Frace, Joël Robuchon.
We visited his store in Tokyo Midtown and there was a perpetual line to get in. We finally secured a table and ordered a coffee and chocolate mousse and a bitter chocolate cake. The bitter cake was excellent ? a moist sponge covered with some of the best dark-chocolate ganache I’ve ever tasted. The mousse, however, was too sweet for my taste and needed some more coffee to balance all the sugar they added.
Jean Paul Hevin’s stores are designed to impress, and this would be a great date spot (not to mention the supposedly aphrodisiac qualities of chocolate!). The Tokyo Midtown and Omotesando branches have a full tea-service complete with light lunches, while the branch at Isetan works as a chocolate boutique. Be sure to come in small groups because it will be difficult to get a table.
TheObrama bills itself as a chocolate museum. I’m not sure there are that many chocolate choices to justify the moniker, but they definitely make some interesting sweets.
I’ve bought chocolates from them on a few occasions, with mixed results. The almond and chili pepper ones were good, the passion fruit lacked a bit more of a kick, and I can only wonder why they decided to make a tomato chocolate. It didn’t taste bad, but it wasn’t good either; all I could wonder was why they went in that direction, other than shock value.
On a different occasion I sat down and had a cup of lemongrass hot chocolate, which tasted pretty good, together with a perfect blanc manger.
The room is inviting, and I’ve enjoyed my visits so far. I think I still enjoyed the chocolates better at Jean Paul Hevin, but this is some serious competition.
The burgers are good, and you can taste the fresh potatoes behind their fries. It’s on the expensive side though for a fast food place. And that’s where I get confused...I’m not sure if Zest burger is trying to do fast food or being a budget burger joint. Since you have to order your food at a counter like McDonald’s, it feels like fast food, but the results are closer to a place like Kua ’Aina or Homeworks.
My burger set came to 960 yen, and included a hearty portion of fries, a burger on the small side and a drink. Everything was good, but the burger could have been bigger.
The other part I found amusing was the American teenager with an attitude working the register. I guess I’ve gotten used to over-the-top polite service in Japan so seeing a disgruntled American teenager on the other side was part amusing, part disconcerting.
The room, service and attention to detail at Fureika were amazing. This is one of those few places were the service is seamless, yet they pay attention to every little detail of the experience. To top it all off, there’s live Chinese music.
I visited for lunch and ordered the 2,500 lunch set. I received six courses plus dessert.
I’m no fan of Chinese soups. I’ve never understood why they thicken the broth with cornstarch; the texture is just not right for me. But, the soup at fureika was just right, and I found myself digging gooey soup for the first time. The barbecued pork at the beginning of the meal and the spinach dumplings were some of the other highlights.
The disappointment came in the fried rice, which was under-seasoned, and the dessert, which tasted like chilled coconut milk with ice cubes.
On the whole I thought the level of cooking was high, and they hit some high notes during the meal. The service also was so impeccable that it took the meal to another level. I’d definitely recommend a visit.
Every self-respecting foreigner living in Tokyo has complained at least once about Gaspanic, yet we all seem to gravitate towards it regardless. Most of my visits until now had been to the Shibuya one close to Hachiko, and that place is a drab (I got a flier though saying it will be upgraded). It is a place I'd visit while waiting for the first train after my favorite bars closed down.
The Roppongi club next to Don Quijote, however is like a real club. I actually had a good time! The atmosphere was good, the drinks not expensive, the music right, nice illumination, people dancing on top of the bar (they have bars on the ceiling so they don't fall down), etc. They also do this cool thing with "Sandstorm," where they time the release of pressured cold air to the music and it cools you down while jumping to the beats
My only complaint is that they let too many people in...at some point it was impossible to walk in or out of the dance floor.
Even though some of us like to poke fun at Gaspanic and its sleazy raucous reputation, I'd definitely go back to the Roppongi one, especially since you can make it a cheaper night than at the other clubs.
Everything was good, but nothing wowed me at Le Chocolat de H. Hironobu Tsujiguchi is one Japan’s heavyweights in pastry making, and I expected a lot more. Maybe that was the problem -- my expectations were too high, or he played it too safe.
The cafe is small, but we were lucky and got a table almost right away. The drinks are quite expensive -- my cold chocolate drink set me back a whooping 1,200 yen, but a much better choice was a glass of sweet red wine (840 yen), which pairs really well with dark chocolate.
For cakes we got a chocolate eclair (320 yen), a slice of opera (chocolate and coffee cake, 420 yen), and two macarons (190 yen each) in addition to two small bites that came with the chocolate drink. Everything was good, but also forgettable. On a different occasion I tried a chocolate bar, some chocolates and a chocolate financier to the same conclusion. What I like about shops like Pierre Herme, Aigre Douce or Hidemi Sugino are the surprises, but here there were none.
If you’re ok without the wow factor, then Le Chocolat de H delivers impeccable technique and a ritzy atmosphere for a nice afternoon out. Otherwise head to one of those other pastry shops.
Copacabana lacked the atmosphere of the other latin clubs in Roppongi.
Cafe Latino is still a better choice for me, partly because they mix the music a little more. Copacabana was an endless loop of salsa, merengue and bachata. This is fine if that’s what you want to dance to, but for me, I like more variety (reggeaton, reggea and contemporary merengue for example).
The room was also surprisingly empty. Somebody told me that there was a salsa congress going on, and all the regulars were gone. This made for spacious dancing, which is hard to come by in Tokyo, but it also meant that at times I was the only person on the floor with my dance partner.
The ticket (1,500 yen) comes with one drink included, but you get the same deal at the other latin clubs.
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon is one of those restaurants that I’ve been wanting to go for a long time, and it exceeded my already heightened expectations -- no wonder it got two Michelin stars.
My interest in L’Atelier started with an interview I saw with Joel Robuchon in which he lamented the stiff and overtly formal atmosphere at high-end French restaurants (even though he runs a few of those, including one in Tokyo that got three Michelin stars). The concept behind L’Atelier is to do away with the excessive formalities, but still serve top-notch food, and they did.
The seating is almost all at the counter overlooking an open kitchen, but there’s a couple of tables for bigger groups. From those counter seats we saw the kitchen whip up one of the most amazing meals I’ve ever had. The absolute highest point was the appetizer of the Menu Dejeneur B (5,400 yen); broadbean puree on a tomato salad, served with a parmesan cheese galette. I can’t even begin to describe how delicious this dish was. It was light, the flavors intense, and everything worked in harmony.
My dining companion (who ordered a cheaper lunch set at 2,950 yen) and I quickly figured out that the forte of the kitchen are the vegetables. The eggplants underneath our roasted fish in butter/balsamic sauce were absolutely stunning, and so was the salad-soup cappuccino with seafood. Everything we ate was good, but the smoked salmon tartare paled in comparison to some of the other dishes.
For main dish I opted for a piece of foie gras on parmesan cheese risotto (1,680 yen additional). The foie was a perfect medium rare with a nice caramelized crust outside, but the strong liver smell turned us off.
Dessert again was a masterpiece. On one side, yogurt ice cream with passion fruit sauce and crumbles, and on the other fromage blanc with mango, passion fruit puree and mango jelly. I am a sucker for sour desserts, and this was my equivalent of a dessert wet dream. On your way out definitely drop by the bakery next door where the tarts and canneles are excellent.
L’Atelier gets it right in doing away with the stiffness. I wore jeans and a tshirt, and didn’t feel out of place in the least. They also leave an amazing bread basket by the table, with which you can mop up the sauces (and I used my fingers after a while too). The service was polite, quick, and without the attitude.
L’Atelier adds up to one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had. Because we went at lunch time, our bill didn’t shoot out of proportions and the whole thing came to 12,000 yen with a drink and the service charge. I can only recommend this place.
I want to like Sadaharu Aoki more than I did. His store is fun; the music is upbeat and modern, his cakes colorful and bright, and the level of baking is high. But, when somebody announces him/herself with such a boom, I expect awesomeness.
Over time I’ve tried cakes, baked goods and his famous eclairs. I definitely come on the side of the baked goods. The croissants are some of the most amazing ones I’ve ever had (a whooping 300 yen for each) and a fig tart (680 yen) was also superb.
The cake was called bamboo (700 yen), and was a mix of several layers of green tea, beans and multiple other flavors. The cakes was beautiful, but there were so many flavors going on that it lost me at some point.
The downside were the eclairs, which I had heard were awesome, but didn’t think so myself. The yuzu cream just wasn’t tart, and the shell had become soggy. This is normal with an eclair after a while, but when I’m asked to pay over 600 yen for one, and to order a 900 yen coffee to be able sit down at the cafe to have it, I expect it to be flawless.
Definitely drop by to taste one of the big names in Japanese pastry. My take though is to stick to the baked goods.
Roti delivered the best, but also a bit of the bad, of North America.
I went for their deservedly famous weekend brunch. There’s few restaurants that do brunch in Tokyo, and Roti does a pretty good one. For me, brunch means eggs benedict, and Roti’s were excellent (1700 yen). The English muffin was nice, a good slice of bacon, a perfect poached egg, and a yummy hollandaise sauce, all served with fat fries and fresh fruit.
My brunch buddy settled on a grilled swordfish burger, served with thinner fries and tartar sauce (1600 yen). The fish came with a slice of grilled pineapple and hot sauce, but was a touch dry. It wasn’t bad, but I wouldn’t go for it again. We finished our morning meal with good coffee (500 yen) and a latte (650 yen).
Until this point, I thought I’d write all good things about Roti, but then we ordered dessert. I had read that their cheesecake is famous, and against the suggestion of our friendly Chilean waitress who pushed a chocolate cake, we ordered it (800 yen). It was bad. The cheese part was unappetizingly dense and we could hardly finish it. The sauces - strawberry & chocolate - tasted commercial (we didn’t get a single strawberry), and so did the whip cream that held together as if it was a piece of plastic (as opposed to real whip cream that folds over a cake).
I can’t make up my mind whether the decidedly large portions (average in North America) are a good or a bad thing. The bonus part is that you can definitely share some of the food, and if it is as tasty as my eggs benedict, you’ll be happy to keep on digging.
My take is to definitely drop by and taste good American comfort food; just don’t order dessert.
Piccolo Grande serves slightly upscale Italian home-cooking in a welcoming room in Roppongi. Nonetheless, inasmuch as I wanted to love it, I just couldn't. Sometimes there's a certain affinity between a restaurant and its regulars; you can't describe why you love going back, but there's something that is impossible to resist. The food was good at Piccolo Grande and I would heartily recommend it to people looking for comfort Italian food, but I know that I won't be going back. Why? Piccolo Grande and I just didn't hit it off.
The meal started with an aperitif of Italian Spumante (800 yen), which is Italian for sparkling wine. Soon thereafter our appetizer -- the chef's salad (1600 yen) -- arrived. The salad was a collection of greens with shaved parmesan, mortadella and soft-boiled eggs on top, and dressed in olive oil and crunchy bread crumbs. While the salad was good, I'd stick to the more economical salads in the menu (600-800 yen) that don't include the chef's “surprise” (we didn't know what the toppings would be until it showed up, and they don't seem worth the 100 percent markup).
Dinner continued with a creamy porcini risotto (1700 yen). The server informed us that they source fresh porcinis when in season, and if this is the case, I'd definitely recommend going for them. Porcinis are a wild mushroom with a strong earthy and nutty flavour that do wonders when thrown in a risotto. Our rice was properly cooked al dente with a strong earthy punch from the mushrooms, even if slightly undersalted.
At this point I asked the waiter to recommend a wine pairing for the next course (1200 yen per glass). Unfortunately the waiter showed me the bottle for two seconds, which didn't give me enough time to remember the label, but it was an excellent red and a good match with the roasted pork in marsala sauce that followed (2800 yen). The pork was also excellent -- slightly rare in the center and caramelized outside, served with a sweet marsala sauce and assorted vegetables.
To finish things up, cassatta (800 yen), which is an Italian ice cream dessert made with assorted dried fruits and nuts. This was slightly sweet for my taste, but then again, overall I prefer subtly sweetened desserts so it's probably fine for everybody else. To finish the evening off, we got a Campari with soda (800 yen). If you haven't had Campari before, be warned that it's a very bitter liqueur, but one that does wonders in helping digestion.
The service at Piccolo Grande was perfect, though they were a bit rude at first when we asked if we could be moved to a better table (they gave us a dark table by the wall when there were lots of other tables available that they claimed were reserved but for which nobody showed up). After that, the service was flawless, and provided you have a reservation, Piccolo Grande should be a good spot to bring business associates, family, significant others or dates for an upscale yet homy Italian meal. Unfortunately though, I won't be visiting back as something just didn't click with me. I'm sure the rest of you might enjoy it more.
Funabashiya is a Japanese confectioner who also deals in savory foods. Nonetheless, the emphasis is obviously placed on wagashi--Japanese sweets. I got the set lunch for 1,050 yen, and it included a fish dish with salad, rice and miso soup. The food was plain average, and in fact slightly boring. Where funabashiya comes alive is in the four desserts that come with the set, including a light pound cake, sweet bean paste with jello, rice sweets with roasted soy bean flour and vanilla custard. Once you add all of this, the lunch set delivers far better value.
The first floor works as a take-out retail store while the second houses the restaurant. On various visits I’ve seen adults and children alike slurping on massive mountains of shaved ice with syrup, munching on chestnuts, and working around a mandarine cake. The sweets change with the seasons, and this is an inexpensive store to give Japanese confectioneries a try. At the same time, these are not the best ones out there, and the best I can describe them is as just average.
I had read enough about Le garcon de la vigne (A boy from the vineyards in French) that I knew I wanted to love this place. Luckily, it exceeded my expectations and has become one of those places that I want to bring people over to enjoy superb cooking, healthy ingredients and excellent wine pairings.
The owner is a Japanese sommelier who worked in France for several years as an organic winemaker, and he is also in charge of the front of the house. The restaurant is obviously influenced by his love of wine, and beyond the collection of glasses and decanters, there's lots of wine objects scattered around such as old wine openers or a box of Romani Conti (one of the most expensive wines in the world). The wine list is not posted, but it's all organic and with an emphasis on French wines which is what he knows best. The wines are almost all available by the glass, and I would ask him to suggest the pairing as he is clearly a master in this regard. The pairing that he suggested for my salmon dish (1200 yen per glass) was perfect.
The organic philosophy also translates into the work of the kitchen. Le garcon de la vigne has a working relationship with a number of organic farms in Chiba, and the menu changes according to the seasons and what they receive from the farms; that is, the farms pick whatever is at their prime and the restaurant changes its menu to feature those items. The fish, whenever possible, is local and wild, and the beef comes from local herds that while not certified organic, are raised according to what they call “stress-free beef.”
My first taste of the kitchen was a cold potato cream soup (800 yen), while on a different occasion it turned into a cold carrot soup. Both were superb and light; just perfect to open up my appetite for what was to come next. The fish of the day (2000 yen) was roasted wild salmon in a caper sauce garnished with caramelized carrots and sauteed greens. The fish was absolutely exquisite...caramelized on the outside and still moist and slightly raw in the middle. Finally, dessert was a cr?me brulee (500 yen), to which they secretly added orange peel, and which came together with caramelized almonds and an excellent homemade chocolate truffle.
The room is small and inviting; this is a restaurant that makes you want to linger around and take in the surroundings. Having said that, the coziness translates into few tables available. Le garcon de la vigne can only seat 18 customers at a time, and by my calculation, the biggest group they can accommodate would be six people, so reservations are definitely a good idea. This is a restaurant that fuses ethical food with great cooking technique, awesome wines, superb service and extra little something that only some restaurants can pull off. This is one you don't want to miss.
This is the most spacious Latin Bar I've seen in Tokyo. Provided it's not too crowded, you can actually spin and do your business without having to worry too much about hitting every other couple on the floor. But, it does get pretty crowded on weekends, which makes it harder to dance. If it gets too busy, the upstairs room tends to have fewer people.
The music is a mix of merengue, salsa, bachata and reggaeton, and some of the people dancing here are pretty good. If you arrive early there's a free class to teach you the basics.
Both times I was there the women outnumbered the men, which kept the men pretty busy dancing all night long. The atmosphere is friendly, and people dance with strangers all the time. The entrance fee is 1,500 yen and it includes a drink.
Together with salsa sudada, these are the best latin clubs in tokyo in my opinion, and I'm definitely heading back to either of them.
For tequila aficionados it doesn’t get any better than this. It will take a good ten minutes to pour through Agave’s menu and pick your fancy from over 150 tequilas available at this Roppongi bar.
Unless you know your way around tequilas (and you’d have to be really good at it to navigate such an extensive menu), it would be best to ask the bartenders for advice, who are clearly well versed and speak fluent English. At their recommendation we picked a xalixco silver tequila and a tenampa reposado (tequila is divided into three categories, silver, reposado and anejo, the difference being how long the tequila was aged). The tequilas were presented in a sniffing glass and we ordered sangritas (a tomato-orange chaser) to go with them. Both tequilas were good, but I’m certain that there’s better stuff available at Agave so don’t go for my options. The sangrita was too thick and spicy for my taste, but then again, the saying goes that there are as many sangrita recipes as there are people making them.
One of Agave’s pulls is that there’s no service charge--you pay for what you drink. But, the tequilas are a bit overpriced. Some nice bottles like Corralejo, Don Fulano or Don Julio are priced in the 2000-3000 yen range, which puts them out of reach for someone like me (and especially given that there are other Tokyo places where you can try them for 1000-1500 yen). Our bill came to 2,700 yen for two tequila servings with the sangritas.
If you’re feeling indulgent, Agave carries a bottle of Don Julio Real, which is the holy grail of tequila. It will set you back almost 10,000 yen for a serving, but at least you’ll know if this premium tequila is worth all its hype.