Crunchy Bottoms

Striking the caloric balance. Barely.

Tag Archives: michelin

Japan, Tokyo 2011-12: Sushi Kanesaka

I have an age-old habit of recounting things in chronological order. I have to present things sequentially. It’s rather like a form of reassurance for myself, that I haven’t left anything out, and also because I’m a stickler for build-ups and dramatic climaxes.

For the better part of the last three months, I’ve been putting this off. This was, after all, the last – but most memorable – meal I had in Japan, so it has to come after I’ve blazed through a total of three cities’ worth of blog posts, because Tokyo was my last stop. Right?

But I can’t wait. I ache, and pine, and yearn, and crave. Perhaps writing it out will soothe the gaping maw that Sushi Kanesaka has left in my chest ever since, as if being lovesick from Japan isn’t enough.

Sushi Kanesaka is a two-starred Michelin restaurant, located in the Ginza district of Tokyo. It is, almost by definition of being a famous sushi restaurant, invariably excruciating to find. So what if it’s Michelin-starred? Before the rampaging Michelin people started sweeping across Japan, these sushi joints were already popular among locals, cleverly squirreled away in basements, near car parks, office buildings, and the like. You’d need to be local to know where these ninja restaurants were.

Googlemaps is useless. Heck, Googleman, is useless. After anxiously circling blocks of buildings in Ginza, and already late for our reservation, I had to phone up the restaurant for directions. Truthfully speaking, even after that, if one my of travel companions hadn’t been able to read the Hiragana on Kanesaka’s red banner, I’m certain we would have given up and sat on the sidewalk, and I would probably have been in tears.

We even wandered down into a tiny warehouse because my frazzled brain was convinced we’d be dining among crates of fruits and sake, which doesn’t sound half bad, but unfortunately wasn’t Kanesaka. A kind Japanese man had to lead us gaijin out and point us in the right direction. Boy was that hilarious.

Perhaps calling it a sushi ‘restaurant’ isn’t quite as accurate as describing it to be more of a sushi bar. It isn’t as tiny as Sushi Saito (7 seats), but still rather small at 14 seats. To put things into perspective, I almost walked right into my seat when we slid open the wooden, rice-paper entrance door. Yep, you read it right. I opened the door, and less than an arm’s length away, was my seat. Perfectly convenient. The three of us had to shuffle around each other to get comfortable. I was also almost responsible for injuring a French customer after I sent a chopstick flying through the air in the narrow confines, but that’s another story.

Our reservation was made about 3 months in advance, done by a friend (thank you Edward!) who was doing an exchange in Japan, and who could speak the language. We had to settle for lunch instead of dinner because of our flight to catch in the evening.

Sushi Kanesaka serves their Edomae-style sushi only as omakase – a phrase which very literally means “I’ll leave it to you”, and which also means that you entrust your stomach, and wallet, into the capable hands of the chef. There is no menu. You will not know what you will get. It is a gamble, except that you can be certain that it is, at the very least, skewed in your favour at Kanesaka. I do believe that it is this silent agreement, rather like a leap of faith, that enriches the dining experience and forms an intangible bond with the chef almost immediately from the moment you quote your price. It is personal.

Their lunch omakase go for a range, at ¥8,000, ¥10,000, ¥15,000. Prices may vary according to what ingredients are available that day, but not by very much. I’ve seen other posts on Kanesaka on the web quoting different prices. Lunch will, however, always be around ¥10,000 cheaper. That’s about S$170 cheaper. My travel buddies went for the ¥10,000, while I went all out with the ¥15,000.

I won’t lie, sushi omakases are a pricey affair. Be prepared to drop at least S$150. This was a meal I had saved up, apportioned, and reserved a sum of my travel budget for. This is also, after all, a two star restaurant, not that the sushi chefs in Japan actually give a flying rat’s ass about European culinary grading or anything.

This is going to be a picture-heavy post, and possibly my lengthiest one ever, but I’m sure you’ll understand since I have 18 courses to cover. You might also want to brace yourself and grab a cup of tea or two.  Read more of this post

Hong Kong (2011): Tim Ho Wan – Cheapest 1 Michelin-starred Restaurant

I wish I could say that I’m almost done with my Hong Kong posts, but I’m not. I just happened to have gotten the easier ones out of the way first.

I put this one off for quite a while because I’ve been pacing back and forth restlessly, mulling over how best to present to you the cheapest 1-Michelin starred restaurant on the face of the planet. Should I wax lyrical? Burst into colourful prose? Throw around a several handfuls of hyperboles?

So I sat back down, and sighed, and decided I’ll do the usual boring thing of letting pictures speak for themselves. I know, how very original of you Christine.

You see, at other places there are queues, and then at Tim Ho Wan there are queues.

Now if I had been ill-prepared, thinking I could skip into a Michelin-starred restaurant without reservation and without even going early, then I very much deserved to squat in the line.

But we were early. We knew there would be a wait, and that the queues were legendary, so we got up at the crack of dawn, and found ourselves at the back of a queue anyway – at 9.15am, 45 minutes before the shop even opened at 10. No reservations allowed.

They have another outlet, but rumour has it that this original outlet is still the best.

The rest of the 45 minutes was spent lolling around in the summer heat, and as luck would have it, when it opened, every single person in front of us fit into the tiny shop, except for us. Only 20 people in at a go. Can you imagine that?! We passed the next half an hour slobbering with our faces plastered to the glass windows watching everyone else eat. It was excruciating. The lady staff outside passed us a slip of the menu in English, in what I think was pity, and we calmed down enough to order.

You can leave to walk around once you have taken your queue number, but if you’re not around when they call for you, your table goes to the next number. No way we were risking that.

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