On our recent trip to Japan, it was not easy deciding what to eat in Tokyo, which is widely regarded as the best food city in the world. It certainly has the most three-star Michelin restaurants in the world. We decided on a mix of Japanese and other cuisine, formal and informal. We start our 2016 Tokyo eating stories with our lunch at Sekihoutei restaurant (赤寶亭) – a two-star Michelin restaurant serving kaiseki traditional Japanese multi-course meals. It was one of the easier restaurants to locate, only ten minutes walk from the Omotesando Metro Station (use Exit A2 and turn into the street next to Apple Store).
Sekihoutei restaurant is located in a small two-storied house. We were led up a flight of steep steps to the second level and were seated at the counter facing a small Japanese garden. No cooking was done at the counter when we were there. The food was prepared in the kitchen at the side and served at the counter. At lunchtime, there were two lunch course options – 8.000 Yen or 12,000 Yen (excluding taxes). Dinner options are more pricey (15 to 20,000 Yen). We opted for the 12,000 Yen course. We had made advance reservations through the hotel concierge but the restaurant was not full that day.
We had no idea what the 12,000 Yen course was when we made the reservation. It turned out to be an eight-course lunch and dessert. The first course was persimmon with shrimp and cucumber topped with sesame paste. The dish was presented beautifully with some autumn leaves. The clean and fresh tasting ingredients shone through this first course. This was a simple and refreshing dish that opened the door to two-and-a-half hours of eating happiness.
The second course was sea eel (anago) wrapped around glutinous rice and chestnuts. It was chestnut season in Japan and we saw chestnuts used in several of the restaurants we visited. The sea eel was milder tasting than the usual unagi and had a more pleasant and refined taste. Eating eel with chestnut was a new experience for us. The flavours of all the ingredients were all very subtle and combined well. The floral tasting sake was a perfect match for this combination.
Next was a clear soup with egg tofu, potatoes, mushroom and egg-plant. This showcased the quality of these common vegetables which the farmers in Japan seem to be able to grow into very tasty items.
The next dish was sashimi – thinly sliced raw flat fish (the Japanese description was told to us but we cannot remember it). It was very lightly flavoured and delicate sashimi.
We changed sake midway through the meal to something stronger and dryer. Which was timely as the next course was grilled barracuda with ginkgo nuts. The barracuda was very good. Some sweet sauce was spread on the skin which caramelised in the process of the grilling. The ginkgo nuts were more than decoration, they very delicious, with very concentrated flavours.
The second sashimi course was sliced tuna and young yellow-fin. The tuna was not memorable but the yellow tail was simply wonderful.
The second soup dish was Spanish mackerel boiled with vegetables and turnip topped with miso sauce. Another fine soup that highlighted the quality of Japanese produce.
All good things have to end. The final course of lunch was sea-bream rice with the usual pickles, seaweed and miso soup. The sea bream imparted a slight fish taste to the rice. The seaweed and pickles were crisp and crunchy and great to eat with the rice and soup.
Ending the meal at Sekihoutei Tokyo restaurant on a sweet note – red grape sorbet and fresh green grapes with pomegranate seeds.
The lunch at Sekihoutei was an enjoyable one. We were served by a pleasant Japanese lady who also spoke perfect English. The meal was enhanced by the reasonably priced sake that was served. We had no idea what we were ordering but they turned out to be good choices. We were given a note with the names of the sake as there was no way we could remember what we ordered. The total cost of our lunch at this two-star Michelin Tokyo restaurant was about 32,000 yen – including taxes and drinks.
Overall Rating: 5 TOPs
Address 3-1-14, Jinguumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-0001
東京都 渋谷区 神宮前 3-1-14