Foodie Haven: Akasaka, Tokyo

Being a brisk 15 minutes’ walk from my apartment, Akasaka was the natural dining destination for us on many of the frigid days and nights during our recent stay in Tokyo. Not that we were complaining. Akasaka, one of Tokyo’s several central business districts, is lined with hundreds of restaurants concentrated within four blocks bound by Sotobori-dori and Hitotsugi-dori.

While we could only cover a mere fraction of the restaurants in the area, we did find some very very good chow indeed. Here are our top 4 favourites, excluding Aronia De Takazawa which is also located in Akasaka (and our obvious ichiban!).

1. An-an – Tofu and Yakitori Specialist

We love An-an. Somewhat similar to Ginza Toriyoshi, but a little more up-market (you can tell when Otoshi costs JPY700, almost double the average price at other restaurants!). But oh so worth it. The tofu and yakitori here are top-notch and they do a wicked crab croquette, grilled chicken wings (tebasaki), and tofu & whitebait salad with a perfectly cooked Japanese tamago thrown in. You can never leave An-an disappointed, especially when served a hand-frothed matcha to end the meal together with the most dainty and refined red bean mochi. Touch down! Tel: 03-5549-2527

2. Kisoji – Shabu Shabu and Sukiyaki

We were tentative about trying this place, having never lusted over slivers of meat as much as we have over a hefty (and bloodied) piece of steak. We kid you not, we literally had to eat our words after tasting our first sliver of waygu shabu shabu. Oh.my.gosh. Come for only the best melt-in-your-mouth beef that you dip in a kick-ass sesame sauce. The shabu shabu set comes with a decent helping of vegetables which are paired with a tangy ponzu dipping sauce. Do make sure you accept your kimono-clad waitress’s offer to do the cooking for you. We made the very silly mistake of turning her down only to make a mess and overcooking our noodles. Argh. Tel: 03-3588-0071

3. Neboke – Tosa Cuisine

This traditional restaurant specializes in Tosa cuisine (local cuisine of Shikoku), which heavily features katsuo or bonito (the same fish from which you get bonito flakes that are so commonly served over agedashi tofu). In Tosa cuisine, the favored way of eating this fish is as katsuo tataki, in which the surface of the bonito fillet is seared. Do come during lunch as prices for a hearty bento start from JPY 1,200. The set lunch we ordered came with 3 slices of katsuo tataki, a chicken salad with honey mustard dressing, a delicate portion of chawan mushi, miso soup, a serve of pickles and a bowl of lovely steamed Japanese rice – all for JPY1,500. Katsuo is very special and a wonderful treat to have – plus your tranquil and rustic surroundings will make you feel as though you have been transported to traditional Shikoku. Neboke also serves whale and fugu hot pots. Tel: 03-3585-9640

4. Sharaku – Sushi

Sushi in Japan is always good. But if you are in the area, do pay a special visit to Sharaku. Not only is their produce of exceptional quality, the rice they make here has the perfect balance of texture and taste, making their sushi probably the best we have had. Everything melts in the mouth! We enjoyed the sea eel, otoro and uni most, but really, they were all good. They also serve vegetable sushi. We will miss coming here. NB: Sharaku is open for dinner only. Tel: 03-3479-9065

Unfortunately, we didn’t have the camera with us when we visited Neboke and Sharaku. Nevertheless, they are fabulous restaurants not to be missed.

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