Japan 2020 – Tokyo Food-Otaku: Of joys and disappointments. Yakitori Tsukada & Ginza Kyubey.

Dining out in Japan will forever be filled with memorable experience. Be it standing under the train tracks in a smokey hole-in-the-wall Kushi-katsu diner with barely enough room to stand or heading out to a beautifully quaint Izakaya in a remote part of the city. Each one ingrained into the mind in their own unique way.

But that said, there will always be expectations when it comes to dining out in certain establishments and as our title implies, sometimes you find joy and other times, it eludes you. Still keen to read on?

Yakitori Tsukada (Naka-Meguro)
From a high-end top-dollar Sushi restaurant in Ginza, we now shuttle over to Naka-Meguro for some Yakitori. We’ve visited Yakitori Tsukada previously on our last trip to Tokyo and I’m happy to report, their grilled chicken remains as good as I remembered. This time, our first night dropping by yielded a full-house restaurant with no seats available for us, which incidentally led me to discovering an extremely easy to use reservation system via google for our return visit the next evening.

While not a famous restaurant on the internets by any means, Yakitori Tsukada still remains my personal favourite establishment for tasty grilled chicken. I can even imagine it as I’m writing now. I wish I can go back.

As shown above in their english-friendly menu (they previously only had Japanese menus), Yakitori Tsukada uses their own select breed of fowl for their cooked meats and really, this is hands-down the best grilled chicken I’ve ever had.

For the brave, or brave-at-heart (hehe), Tsukada also serves up chicken raw or lightly seared wrapped in a piece of toasted seaweed. It is sublime.

I liked it so much I ordered seconds. Tsukada also serves up properly cooked meats of course. Another recommendation is the tasty chicken meat ball served up with a little raw quail egg.

Yes, it is good. Yes, I want to eat it right here, right now, as I am writing this.

Their chicken heart was also tasty with very little of that gamey taste you’d come to expect.

More tasty goodness from standard meat sticks to chicken pate.

Our final bill for the night after plenty of meats and a glass of beer and wine. Not the cheapest but in my opinion, well worth the yens spent and well worth returning yet again. So now you know which one brought us joy, leaving only….

Kyubey Ginza Honten
There are a ton of reviews online with regards to Kyubey Ginza Honten. Regarded as one of the most popular high-end Sushi restaurants in Japan, Kyubey has a pretty strong reputation to uphold when it comes to serving up premium fish. I’m pretty sure most of us have seen the Buzzfeed video. For those that haven’t have watch.

Indeed it was pretty much that very video that got us “buzzed” about making a trip to Kyubey. Reservations are not impossible though not entirely simple either. They do not have their own online reservation site (yet), so bookings can only be made by 3rd-party sites which all require additional fees. We made our booking through our hotel’s concierge which made things slightly easier although the restaurant also required a reservation deposit that would be refunded when we show up.

For those who are not able to book, you can also try your luck arriving just before 11am as they do have a limited number of seats available for walk-in customers. Seating for walk-ins start at 11am so, I’d recommend dropping by slightly earlier.

On the day of our reservation, we (excitedly) headed over to the rather understated entrance with a lady ready to bring us up to our table. Once settled in, diners have basically 2 Omakase courses to choose from. One, with a “Kaiseki” course, a selection of both sushi and other dishes (ranging from 13,000-23,000 yen), another, a purely sushi-only experience (8,000 yen for the standard, or 13,000 yen for the ‘Kyubey’ course). Each of these courses also have a sub-selection for just how much food you’d like. We went for the full 16-piece “Kyubey” lunch course.

While I’d love to shower you with words on how each piece of carefully pieced together sushi tasted, I doubt I have enough words in my vocabulary to sound like a proper “foodie influencer”, so here are some pictures to entice you instead.

So…. how was it? Well, having just arrived a few days earlier from Japan’s seafood capital Hokkaido and having dined at Sushi-Dai a number of times on previous trip to Japan. We’d have to unfortunately say that, we were kind of hoping for more. The food was great no doubt, but for the amount of money spent, and the amount of hype generated around Kyubey. We were really expecting to be blown away, instead, we ended our meal happy but not thoroughly impressed. Our final lunch bill with drinks and tax was around 35,000 yens.

For those who are right aghast at me for comparing Kyubey with a Sushi establishment at a fish market, you do have a right to feel so. Sushi-Dai will never have the ambience nor the clout a restaurant in Ginza is able to project, but what it does have, is food that is almost as good and a warmth from the chefs which sadly, Kyubey lacked, at a much more wallet-friendly price point that is impossible to find anywhere else.

Will we recommend Kyubey? Well, that all depends. For those who just don’t have the time nor patience to visit Sushi-Dai nor am able to get a table at other top Sushi establishments in Tokyo, then sure, I doubt you will regret it. But if you’ve dined at multiple other high-end establishments and are looking for something special that can elevate your sushi dining experience, then I’ll suggest reading those tripadvisor reviews with a pinch of shio. Will we return to Kyubey in the future? No.

Again, I stress that I am no foodie reviewer so these are just my own personal views and opinions. Feel free to disagree.

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