Tuesday, 5 March 2013


Sure Japan's known for fish and sushi but Japan is also home to the best beef in the world. Most definitely did we want to go to somewhere that specialises in beef. Every cuisine known to man is available in Tokyo so we were reasonably certain we could find a place that served a decent "steak" in Tokyo. I am lucky to have the winning combination of Michelle and Michelin Guide. Michelle spends plenty of time researching just what is available, where and when. All I have to do is find the place. Tonight we're going to attempt Sukiyaki. I do almost no research so I am always surprised and delighted by what we discover. All I know is that Sukiyaki is some way of preparing steak.

Michelle decides on Hiyama because it seems to be reasonably close but not in Ginza. It is in Nihonbashi but it is only few minutes away on the train. We could probably walk there if we had a spare half hour or so. Even so we decide to catch a taxi much to the delight of Georgia. If she is reluctant to do something we say we're catching a taxi and she drops everything to go. Our taxi driver drops us off near the restaurant and points in the general direction of the place. The problem with Japanese addresses is it is almost impossible to find the exact address unless you know where actual place is. We usually have to wander around the block till we find the place. Building numbers aren't necessarily sequential. They can be, but not always. So we did our usual wandering up and down alleys. We found some trucks with the logo for the restaurant parked in the alley. Hiyama is connected to a butcher and the butcher shop is supposed to be above or next to the restaurant so we knew we had to be close. Of course the restaurant was back around the corner on the main road more or less where the taxi driver had gestured to.

The building was nondescript but the entrance to the restaurant was distinctive. A stone garden entrance leading to a wooden staircase. A big solid oak like wooden staircase. I ducked up the stairs and was confronted by a woman and and older man who seemed surprised to see me appear. I had a moment of doubt and asked "Hiyama?" They both chorused "Hai, hai" so I asked about a table for two and a baby. They seemed to understand but I asked them over to the stairs and pointed to Michelle and Georgia. Again they said "hai" and I relaxed. The older man produced list of courses and prices and I said "hai".

We took off our shoes and our hostess lead us down and around a couple of corridors and doorways, and a group of kneeling women who all bowed and chorused "irasshaimase", to our private dining room. In the room was a low table, about shin height, and a number of pillows. Great, I have get on my knees. Our hostess produced the menu listing the available courses (Sukiyaki, steak, Japanese, shabu-shabu). We decided on Sukiyaki because that is the speciality of the house. When in Rome.

Tea was poured, a bowl and spoon were produced for Georgia and our feast began. Sukiyaki is prepared at the table. Plates of vegetables and steak were brought to the table. The steaks a big thinly sliced wagyu. We chose the most expensive "marbled" beef. As I mentioned, Japanese beef is the best so why not go with the best of the best. We certainly can't get this at home. Close but not close enough. The cooker was right tthere on the table too. Huge chicken eggs were cracked into bowls by our hostess and they were beaten. I thought they were going to poured onto the hot plate or something, an omelette maybe? Oh no indeed not. Our hostess fills the bowl with meat and some sauce and some of the veggies and the egg mixture becomes a kind of rich rich sauce that coats the meat. The meat is succulent and delicious and rich. The egg just enhances the richness and flavour. This was nothing like I was expecting.

I think three times we go though this process with slightly different cuts of meat, veggies and sauces. Each time it is as good as the last. Georgia isn't forgotten and our hostess brings her rice and noodles and Georgia also shares our meat and veggies. Our hostess is a lovely woman and enjoys interacting with Georgia. She even crawls around to Georgia and feed Georgie some rice and noodles.  Georgia looks a little bewildered but she goes with the flow. This is turning out to be another of the special experiences we seem to extract out of Japan. If you wonder why we've come back here or why we'd bring Georgia to Japan it is for moments like this. The food is wonderful, the people are brilliant and the surroundings special and just a little bit exotic. The is experience with a capital E.

Just when I've started to feel bloated it is time for the rice, soup and dessert. I'm told I must have some of the rice because it is special Japanese rice. Japanese rice is special. I can take or leave rice but Japanese rice is a must try. Even if you're feeling bloated.

Considering that we have a private dining room with a hostess assigned to us and we had the choicest cut of beef in a one Michelin starred restaurant in Tokyo the bill wasn't as much as you would think. Take a stab and leave a comment. I'll let you know if you're close. Not as expensive as Sushi and probably nowhere near as expensive as something similar, if it existed, in Sydney. Hint: the menu is on their webpage.

Packing up and leaving topped off the night. The Japanese love little Georgia. I think it is her large eyes. Some old guy in the street once said she was like a doll. All the hostesses line the corridor to say goodbye. They wave and giggle with Georgia and there are many "oohs" and "aahs". Georgia finally overcomes her shyness a bit to wave goodbye which sets off a dozen hostesses laughing and waving and saying bye bye.

Two Michelin starred restaurants in one day. Things are looking up. I was worried yesterday we wouldn't get to one. We're back on schedule. We've had a good day.

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