Flavors of the year

Flavors of the year

Metropolis staffers pick their favorite new restaurants of 2008


Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on January 2009

The second Tokyo branch of a renowned Hong Kong restaurant chain, Itamae in Ginza offers top-shelf sushi at bargain-basement prices. Nori-roll combos start at just ¥840, while the ¥1,999 “Tokusen” set is a wondrous assortment of a dozen nigiri sushi and rolls, chawan mushi, kani-miso salad and lobster soup. Friendly and brightly lit, Itamae is the perfect spot for a light snack or a hearty sushi dinner, and its location makes it an excellent jumping-off point for urban exploration. Picture menus are on offer for the kanji-challenged.

8-2-13 Ginza, Chuo-ku. Tel: 03-3571-9970. Open Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm & 5pm-3am, Sat-Sun & hols 11:30am-2:30pm & 5-11pm. Nearest stn: Shimbashi, Ginza exit, or Ginza, exit C3. www.itamae.co.jp

We were saddened when the year-old raw/macrobiotic restaurant Veggie Paradise closed its doors last summer, but our spirits perked right back up when Café Alive opened just down the road in Yoyogi-Uehara in November. The all-vegetarian menu is divided into “neo-macrobiotic” and “living food” categories; the latter are prepared without high-temperature cooking. Try the soy meat kara-age, veggie shumai, “salmon” canapé, or Caesar salad with creamy nut-based dressing. Lunch plates cost ¥1,060-¥1,460, while à la carte dinner dishes are just ¥580-¥950.

22-3 Moto-Yoyogicho, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3468-6438. Open daily 11:30am-2:30pm (LO), 6-9pm (LO). Nearest stn: Yoyogi-Hachiman or Yoyogi-Uehara. www.cafe-alive.com

With a classic wafu interior and lip-smacking kaiseki cuisine, Kiyoyasu-tei in Roppongi tops our list of notable new Japanese eateries. Kimono-clad staff aim to recreate the service standard of kami-san—the female attendants at traditional ryokan—while private and semi-private rooms ensconce diners in Zen-like seclusion; a six-seat teppanyaki counter completes the scene. Kiyoyasu-tei’s menu features 7- and 8-course dinners from ¥8,400, with the usual kaiseki array of lovely dishes bursting with seasonal ingredients, with a crowning touch of premium grilled Japanese beef. Lunch from ¥1,000.

B1, 4-8-6 Roppongi, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-3408-4889. Open Mon-Sat 11:30am-2pm and 5pm-midnight. Nearest stn: Roppongi, exit 3. http://r.gnavi.co.jp/g953106

Soft velvet curtains, plush leather chairs and dark, wood-paneled walls set the tone at Console, open since the beginning of July. Manager-sommelier Akira Tanaka’s international wine list features glasses from ¥1,000 and bottles from ¥5,000, while the food menu offers a selection of savory dishes like Norwegian smoked salmon in honey-mustard sauce (¥1,300) and a meatball stew with lingonberry sauce (¥1,400). Add in late-night hours, a spectacular view, and a location across the street from Roppongi Hills, and you can see why this is one of our favorite new additions to the Tokyo dining scene.

5F Edge Bldg, 1-1-1 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-5775-3283. Open Tue-Sun 7pm-4am, closed Mon. Nearest stn: Roppongi. http://r.gnavi.co.jp/e023100


Run by well-known cookbook author and restaurateur Harumi Kurihara, Hatea specializes in café drinks—but uses tea instead of coffee. The latte, for example, is brewed in an espresso machine with “shots” of blended tea leaves and topped with milky foam (¥330-¥430). Other drinks include “tea Americano” (¥290-¥390) and ginger chai (¥360-¥460). The food lineup features creative light fare like a tofu and hijiki sandwich flavored with a sesame sauce (¥460) and Western treats like cookies-and-cream cheesecake (¥290).

1-1-10 Ebisu-Minami, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-5720-1508. Open Mon-Fri 7am-10:30pm, Sat-Sun & hols 7:30am-10:30pm. Irregular holidays. Nearest stn: Ebisu. www.hatea.jp

Tokyo has been inundated with high-end chophouses lately, but The Steakhouse, open since September in the classy ANA InterConti-nental Tokyo, was the meatiest debut of 2008. Classic appetizers like shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad and clam chowder (¥1,250-¥2,200) serve as warm-ups to the Aussie grain-fed sirloin (250g 9oz, ¥5,200) or New Zealand tenderloin (310g; 11oz, ¥10,000) cooked on a 3m binchotan grill. Premium wagyu selections include Iwate and Kobe beef (¥11,000-¥22,500). The Steakhouse’s eye-catching interior and adult vibe make it appropriate for either a date or a power dinner.

ANA InterContinental Tokyo. 1-12-33 Akasaka, MInato-ku. Tel: 03-3505-3911. Open daily 11:30am-2pm and 5-9:30pm. Nearest stn: Tameike-Sanno. www.anaintercontinental-tokyo.jp