Zuisetsu (瑞雪、梅ヶ丘)

In Japan, Valentine’s Day is for women to give a present to men.  I told my wife I don’t want a present, but would rather a delicious, Michelin-starred meal somewhere.  She was kind enough to take me to Zuisetsu, marking the first time we would indulge in Michelin grade Chinese food.  It was a fantastic choice. (Oh, and for the romantics/purists out there, men reciprocate in March during White Day.)

Zuisetsu is essentially a Chinese restaurant showcasing seafood dishes.  Located in a very quiet neighborhood a couple stops from the more lively Shimokitazawa, the restaurant is a bit off the beaten track.  However, it’s well worth the effort, and the location may be one reason the restaurant is able to provide an astoundingly large amount of food at a very reasonable price.  The course is a mere 7000 yen, and glass wine only 750, making Zuisetsu quite possibly the best Michelin bang-for-your-buck in Tokyo.

The restaurant is very small, meaning reservations are essential.  We were able to quickly and easily secure a table with one phone call a couple of weeks ahead.  There are around 12 seats in this unpretentious and comfortable restaurant (you take your shoes off before entering), and the restaurant is run entirely by the chef and his wife.  They are friendly, accommodating, and the chef comes to each table to greet each customer at the end of their meals.

Zuisetsu quickly became one of our favorite restaurants and we will definitely be back.  The course changes monthly and the amazing food makes the journey all the more worth the effort.

Let’s eat Zuisetsu!

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The amuse bouche was two cooked oysters. A subtle taste of star anise.

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Tai (red snapper) sashimi salad garnished with coriander, crushed peanuts, and fried wonton chips.

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Crab and shark fin soup served with black vinegar.

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The next dish was presented as above.

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Unwrapped, we were presented with fried honmoroko fish with a yuzu sauce. That fish is translated to, er, Gnathopogon.

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“Mocchiri Tofu.” A tofu with a thick, almost bread-like texture topped with a juicy piece of crab.

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Tenshi no Ebi (angel shrimp) served with a dipping sauce and a bowl to wash your fingers. This shrimp was absolutely amazing. We sucked the hell out of those heads and it wasn’t bitter at all. Creamy, sweet, delicious.

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Butter-soft pork belly in “douchi” sauce with vegetables. That’s a Chinese black-bean sauce. So so good as the pork belly and fat mixed together to form an almost cream-like texture.

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The same fish used in for the sashimi salad above, the red snapper is cooked and served in a decidedly salty sauce for the table to share.

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We plated the fish to make it look pretty.

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Later, we were given a bowl of rice in which to mix the soup and have a kind of porridge.

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Fish dashi and seaweed Chinese noodles. Like a ramen to finish the meal.

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Dessert was a coconut “Oshiruko” (coconut milk with kodaimai “ancient rice”) and annindofu, a very traditional Chinese tofu-based dessert. Served with complementary jasmine tea to round off an absolutely amazing meal.

Da Olmo(ダ オルモ、神谷町)

I work in Kamiyacho, a business district in central Tokyo.  I was browsing through the Michelin guide to see if there were any restaurants in this area, and was happy to find Da Olmo, a one-star Italian restaurant featuring simple, yet beautifully prepared dishes from Northern Italy.  In 2015, Da Olmo was listed as a “Bib Gourmand” restaurant, but was promoted to one star in the 2016 guide.  I knew I had to go.

At 7000 yen for the dinner course, this is one of the best values for a Michelin-starred restaurant in Tokyo.  Wine starts at 800 yen a glass, making it easy to enjoy a fantastic, authentic Italian meal for two with plenty of drinks for under 25,000 yen.  We let the staff choose the wine to pair with each dish.  All I told them was I don’t like anything too dry, and they were able to pick delicious wines that went perfectly with every dish, every time.

Attentive and friendly service, a knowledgeable sommelier, and a boisterous (but never obnoxious) atmosphere round out Da Olmo as a real winner.

Hidden on a side-street in an area of Tokyo that is somewhat deserted on the weekends, this restaurant feels like an undiscovered gem.  Highly recommended for any occasion.

Let’s eat Da Olmo!

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Bread was served warm with our glass of prosecco.

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Appetizer plate.  From the bottom, R to L – carpaccio, fried gori fish, mackerel, spicy anzu beans in a tomato sauce, smoked duck (amazing), and a “cake” made from soba flour, milk, and ham.

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Tai (red snapper) and fresh tomato pasta.

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The highlight of the meal- risotto with loads of parmesan topped with a generous portion of shaved black truffles. I’d go back for this dish alone.

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Main option one- duck served rare with seasonal vegetables, all expertly prepared and delicious.

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Main option two- Que fish (longtooth grouper) served with its scaled fried like a senbei cracker. Same vegetables as the duck. I preferred the fish, Midori preferred the duck.

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A cheese plate featuring Danish, French, and Belgian cheeses. Perfect with the bread.

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Rum raisin ice cream, panna cotta topped with kinkan (Japanese kumquat), and hazelnut cake. A great finish with my cappuccino.