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!
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