Tokyo, Japan Dinner: Kurosatsuma

Tocqueville had been in Tokyo, Japan 10 years prior and had experienced “shabu-shabu” at that time. Shabu-shabu is a style of Japanese cuisine where thinly sliced pieces of meat are cooked in hot broth tableside.  Now, as you can imagine, this cuisine can be experienced at all different price points.  Picture the high-end of experience of kobe beef cooked and served by geisha-like women.  Given our amazing asado experiences several weeks prior, we weren’t looking for the high-end experience.  We just wanted to experience this style of cuisine in an authentic setting.  After some searching, we came upon Kurosatsuma located close to our hotel and decided to check it out.

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Based on our research we thought that there would be an English speaker at the restaurant.  Our waitress spoke some English, though really very little.  Given some pointing at the menu and gesturing, we found out that this restaurant serves pork shabu-shabu.  We settled on the pork and a carafe of saki.

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The pot of broth was prepared on a hotplate on our table, and a box of vegetables and the pork was placed beside.  The vegetables included what looked like iceberg lettuce pieces, some shredded onion, another more green lettuce that looked sort of like arugula, a couple mushrooms, and some bricks of white stuff that we didn’t have a clue about (more on that below).  To be honest, we weren’t sure what to do.  Was the lettuce to be used as wraps for the pork?  After some blank stares at each other, our waitress came over to politely show us what to do.

She placed a little of all the vegetables into the broth.  Ah ha!  So the vegetables are to be cooked!  After about a minute, she placed the vegetables in our bowls and spooned some broth on top.  Yum!  Veggie soup!  She then cooked a couple pieces of meat for us, and we ate those with the veggie broth.  Once we knew what to do, she let us handle it from there.  We finished one plate of pork and ordered one more.  We were pretty sure that the meat was unlimited (i.e., additional plates could be ordered at no additional cost), but given we couldn’t communicate, we weren’t sure and hoped we weren’t getting ourselves in too deep.

After the second plate of pork, we had eaten all the vegetables and only had those white bricks left.  Our waitress came our rescue again and showed us that it was some type of rice pasta that turned really gooey when cooked in the broth.

A couple of carafes of saki later, we asked for the bill and held our breath.  Whew!  We weren’t sure what all the line items were for, but the total was just about what we expected and very reasonable for shabu-shabu in Roppongi district.  Another culinary win!

Tokyo, Japan Dinner: Sushi Zanmai

While in Tokyo, we had to get our sushi on.  It turns out that one of the receptionists at the Vedema Santorini mentioned she lived in Tokyo for a bit. We asked for sushi restaurant recommendations, and she provided several excellent choices. We settled on Sushi Zanmai because it was supposed to be the best choice for fresh sushi in a casual atmosphere at a price point that wouldn’t break the bank. Plus, it’s a favorite of the locals, which is one of the strongest factors we consider when choosing a restaurant. Sushi Zanmai did not disappoint!

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When you enter this location of the restaurant (there are several locations), you pass a couple of fish tanks letting you know the sushi you are about to consume is fresh.  We even saw the guy next to us eat a fish that had been cut up, but that was still barely breathing and alive!  Wow!  Now, that’s what I call fresh.

We sat at the sushi bar which gave us a view to the skilled sushi chefs (the older men) and the up-and-coming trainees (the younger men who prepped and cut whole fish and stocked supplies for the chefs).

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We started our meal with a half bottle of cold saki.  I’m not a saki expert, so I cannot really comment on the unique flavors of the type we had.  I will say that Sushi Zanmai seemed to have a decent list of choices at multiple price points.

Tocqueville is not a fan of sushi, and I can only handle things that are not too fishy.  So we played it safe and stuck to tuna and salmon.  For the tuna, I ordered a “flight” of regular, medium fatty, and fatty.  Whoa, was the fatty tuna good!  If I remember correctly, the fatty tuna cost around $4USD per slice, the medium fatty around $3USD, and the regular maybe $1.5USD (and there was a discount for the “flight”).  Tocqueville ordered a mixed tempura plate, which had some veggies, a prawn, and a small fish (with tail).

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Most of all, we were well satisfied with the very reasonable cost of this dinner (especially considering we were in Tokyo), the freshness of the food, and the local-filled atmosphere.