Kondo – Tokyo, Japan
I knew this was a 2 Michelin star tempura restaurant but I didn’t know much more than that. Surprisingly I was able to make reservations just a day in advance for 6 people which was even more shocking when I saw how small the place was. There was absolutely no English signage so had it not been for our taxi driver pointing it out to us we probably never would have found it.
Once inside we were seated around the tempura bar with a front row seat to tempura delights being fried in front of us (also Chef Fumio Kondo unbeknownst to us). With three menu choices to choose from, we decided to go big and ordered the largest of the three, the “Yomoji” menu which included – an appetizer of 2 Japanese dishes, sashimi, tempura (7 vegetables, 4 fish, 3 shrimp), and Kakiage (a mixture of scallops and honewort fried in batter). It was an aggressive order but our thought was “go big or go home!”.
Highlights were the shrimp, tuna sashimi, and tempura vegetables. My least favorite dish was hands down the first appetizer which included two types of raw fish (which were very good) and then a large snail and fish liver. I’m not a fan of liver to begin with and this one didn’t do anything to change my mind. That being said I tried it to be polite and moved on:)
With each piece of tempura that we were served, we were told to eat half with a little salt and the other half dipped in the tempura sauce which had fresh diakon in it. Overall I enjoyed the simplicity of the salt. Everything was so fresh and cooked to absolute perfection. Watching the chefs delicately prepare each dish was a treat.
Sashimi, fish liver (I believe monkfish) and sea snail
Steamed tofu with yam, gingko nuts, and potato
Kisu – flat white fish
Some sort of fish/eel wrapped in shiso
Fruit for dessert
Matsuhisa – Aspen, CO
On our recent trip to Aspen for the Food & Wine Festival, I made sure to secure reservations at top restaurants in town to ensure an amazing culinary adventure from morning to night. On our second night there we ate at Nobu’s Matsuhisa which was PACKED! And full of culinary celebrities which was a fun treat. Our meal was incredible from start to finish. I would definitely order everything we had that night if we went back! Earlier in the day when we went to see Bobby Flay do a demonstration we happened to sit next to Nobu himself so I leaned over and told him we were eating at Matsuhisa that night and he couldn’t have been nicer. Talked to us for a while, even showed us photos of his granddaughter. Needless to say he was so friendly when he saw us there that night and even sat down and chatted us up for a while.
Rock shrimp tempura with creamy spicy sauce
Mixed mushroom toban-yaki
King crab tempura “Amazu” sweet ponzu
There were so many different mochi flavors to choose from but we settled on root beer (amazing!), mango and green tea. Perfect dessert!
How cute is Nobu?! Love him!
Morimoto – Napa, CA
My husband and I were lucky enough to have Morimoto do the sushi for our wedding welcome party but we had never been to the restaurant in downtown Napa itself. I recently went with a friend and I’m already dying to go back. I didn’t even have any sushi! I started with the Spicy King Crab with tobanjan aioli and micro-cilantro…wowzers!!! I can see why my friend had me order my own and didn’t want to share:) It was rich but not too crazy of a portion if you go with a lighter entrée which we did. Otherwise it would be a great starter to share with a group.
For our entrée we split the Tempura Calamari Salad which was perfect! The calamari was cooked perfectly and not too heavy considering it was fried. Yum!
To end the meal we splurged on the “S’mores” which I think was new to the menu. Definitely a great choice…I don’t think there was a morsel left on the plate:)
Japonessa – Seattle, WA
Located in the former Union spot on Union and 1st, this new sushi spot doesn’t seem to have a problem filling the large space. We went on a Wednesday night and the place was packed! Before I get into the food, I will say that my one serious complaint is that it’s so noisy it’s hard to hold a conversation which is a shame.
The food however was great and the expansive menu made it hard for me narrow down my roll choices. We decided on the Barcelona Sunset and the special Spanish Lover roll as well as the Salmon Sashimi and the Ahi Tuna Tartare which came a bit late but was so fresh and satisfying.
Worth it for the great food but just beware of the loud atmosphere. Not a place to take your grandma:)
barcelona sunset - spicy yellowtail, avocado, cucumber, topped with yellowtail, tobiko, habanero aioli
spanish lover - creamy scallops, avocado, snow crab legs, topped with chili seared white king salmon, chili oil, cilantro aioli, tobiko
ahí tuna tartare - balsamic soy vinegar, yuzu citrus aioli
Zen – Hakuba, Japan
Although Zen is known for it’s Soba, their Japanese small plates are a great option as well, especially for larger groups. Reservations are recommended although not necessary. Typically tatami mats can be a little uncomfortable but here they have seat backs to help your back and make it a little more comfortable. Below are my favorites dishes of the night. The menu is quite large so if you have a good group you can get away with ordering a lot of dishes for everyone to try.
Sashimi – Salmon and Tuna Sashimi
Tataki Kyuuri – cucumber with spicy Japanese sauce
Chicken Karaage – Fried Chicken
Agedashi do-fu – deep fried tofu in soup
Yanaimno – yanaimo and spicy roe pizza
Tako no peperonti-no – octopus with spicy olive oil and garlic sauce
Gobou no Karaage – deep fried burdock
Robataya (Roppongi) – Tokyo, Japan
This is by far the best meal I’ve had in Tokyo. I honestly couldn’t be more enthusiastic about this place! The experience was so fun and entertaining and the food couldn’t have been fresher and more delicious. There isn’t a menu because the ingredients are bought in fresh everyday and gone through every night assuring that nothing is old and needing to be sold off the next day. I don’t think you can make a bad order here. All the ingredients are recognizable so just order based off of what you like and you’re safe! The preparation is simple…lightly seasoned and grilled right in front of you. I highly recommend this place. There are only about 20 seats in the whole place and reservations are necessary!
The amuse bouche – tuna sashimi with fresh tomatoes, onions and a light vinaigrette
The sashimi plate
Waygu beef – seriously the best I’ve ever had!
Fresh grilled peppers
Whole fried snapper (if I remember correctly:))
Cinnamon and sugar mochi that was made right in front of us!
Le Vin sur la Table – Otari, Japan
We found this charming little restaurant from the staff at our lodge in Hakuba. The chef had spent a couple of years working in the south of France before opening his own restaurant in his hometown of Otari, about 30 minutes from Hakuba. It’s not very convenient unless you happen to be in the Cortina area. If you ski there I highly recommend making the 15 minute drive to this spot for an impressive meal. My dish, the trout, was $16.25…a steal considering the quality of the food and overall experience, not to mention it included soup and dessert. This was such a special lunch. I totally recommend this place to anyone in the area.
Pork Minced Meat
Wild Boar Stew
Dessert – panna cotta with espresso caramel, fresh seasonal fruit and persimmon ice cream
Our chef and his wife