Just a quick note. I bought a bottle of Sharaku 写楽 (#10 on this list), at my local wine store. I picked the junmaishu (gold characters on the label). I'd say it's about 3 months old, they just received the shipment last week. They also had junmai ginjo (bronze characters, oddly no back label with date), and a pricey black label junmai daiginjo in a box.
I thought I'd start with this sort of entry level bottle, before taking a leap with the pricier options. (Not that I have any place to corkage it anyway... sigh)
Any thoughts @ChuToroZuke? Any more information about the company, its history and reputation? I think this brand gets overshadowed by some of the other names on this list, but I'm quite happy I came across it! I believe I've had Miyaizumi 宮泉 before, but this is my first time trying Sharaku.
It really depends on your tastes and preferences, as well as your understanding and acceptance of different styles.
I can tell you why I like it. The sake selections are great for those really into harder to find quality brands, and there are some offerings unique to just Kirakutei. Chef has personal direct relationships with some of the sake breweries, who are able to source some unique brews for them not available elsewhere. Owners are super friendly, and okamisan speaks enough English that if you converse slowly with simple sentences, you can get by.
Chef owner doesn't have or list formal training, but I feel he's super talented and creative, and does not conform to any style. He loves eating around (high and low end) and stays in tune with trends, and thus draws inspiration and creates his own style while staying grounded in both modern and traditional washoku principles. Some of his really good friends are well respected chefs in town (Kurokaki, Amamoto, Ivan Orkin etc). Those who dislike this place perhaps feel the skill level is incomparable to their favorite harder to get into places (and many at times not fair comparisons to begin with), or they simply do not understand nor are willing to accept chef's style, or maybe they feel they would rather spend similar money somewhere else.
Out of the three times I've been, I've always been pleasantly surprised. The last visit was amazingly splendid, particularly when they paid extra attention to pouring sake for me that matched the food. I also recommended two friends to go there and they loved it as well.
To really appreciate Kirakutei, one will need to embrace a larger view of Japanese cuisine and be willing to put aside comparisons of literally anything. Don't think of Shinhara, Kimoto etc, and enjoy it for what it is. It's also easy to confuse it with "kaiseki" which it is not, but you will still get a sashimi course, grilled course, dashi course, dessert, and a gohan mono course of kama meshi, or the wickedly wonderful shrimp curry rice (simmered for a long time and is very intense), and something that would equate to a hassun platter. Kappo izakaya high end might be a very loose descriptor of the restaurant before the Ginza move, but perhaps modern washoku is more apt.
If you do try, please come back here and share your thoughts, good or bad.
@localtaste Oh interesting I didn't even consider that it was in Manhattan - though unfortunately it seems like there's been a mixup as I'm based in Atlanta and only have the opportunity to take occasional trips to NYC though when we do visit we tend to stay in the noho/lower east side/alphabet city area so will be quite convenient! If we get the opportunity to visit soon will definitely keep you posted but like so many others during this time we've been in lockdown to minimise the spread of covid.
Still truly appreciated though, when responsibility keeps us at home the correspondence here is a small solace from the outside world!
@guest wow I have to agree with the OP guest, unagi shun one of the most overrated unagi imo, it’s not bad but nothing special to travelled all that way from Tokyo can definitely find as good or better within Tokyo.
Thank you Saito-san. Your sense of humor and clever wit today is at its finest! I appreciate a good joke, haha. (facepalm on the Shinkansen tip) I will swim out to Suruga Bay if I have to. I was thinking of stopping in Fujinomiya on the way back.
So another recommendation of gyokuro. I guess I'll have to have some then. Will look forward to the post meal tea. And also took down your suggestion @localtaste. I thought Yame Gyokuro was the famous variety, but I guess Shizuoka must have something on par.
Upon your advice both my wife and myself opted for the Western set, it was quite tasty however as we expected it was not quite at the level of restaurants on the ground. Despite this disparity it was still a very enjoyable experience and I was happy just to have the opportunity to try it!
I found the seasoning of the food to be just about right considering the atmospheric conditions which was a relief as the outbound business class meal on JAL tasted quite salty to me. I did wonder if that was due to the higher humidity from flying on a 787 and not having the food adjusted for that.
Given the opportunity I would be curious to try the kaiseki options as well just for the sake of comparison but wanted to reiterate I was quite happy with the entire experience.
Hi, I stayed at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. The concierge was lovely, even though they failed to get seats at Tenzushi - which we were told should be done more than 3 months in advance. Hotel was a bit old but decent for the price range.
Also just to provide a report on Chisou Nakamura. Lovely kaiseki meal with modern touches here and there. Nakamura-san was also a great host despite speaking very little English. Really appreciated how he tried to joke with us and use Google Translate to show us rare ingredients during the meal. Would definitely recommend
I'm actually very drawn in by a restaurant owner's 'story'. When I bought my Tokyo Michelin guidebook in 2012 or so, the thing that stuck out most in my mind about their writing, was when they (as though going on a tangent) comment on how the chef is a fisherman that likes to adventure, and goes out to find their own ingredients, or spent years endeavoring to open their own place, etc... I like that sort of thing, when they describe the personality and background of the person.
These days, I'm starting to grow more interested in trying local sake, rather than big name labels. It's exciting, and I feel more like an insider, and less like a tourist. However, I will say that well known brands are useful to 2 things: 1) impressing people when you bring a bottle back as a gift that they know is hard to get. And 2) it's more exciting to try something that you've seen over and over again, that you eventually come to recognize. If you try a sake that you only just saw for the first time, it might taste great, but it's difficult to feel as excited when you haven't spent a sufficient amount of time memorizing it, getting hyped about wanting to try, and eventually committing yourself to seeking it out.
On another note, because of your reference to katsuo shuto, I curiously asked my local sushi ya about it, and he brought out his secret personal stash for me to try, with some Denshu. Stuff stinks (haha), but really does go well with sake.
I tried going to the restaurant in August, after watching an episode of Nhk's Japangle, featuring the chef Yasushi Matsumura 松村康史. I foolishly arrived after 7pm, well before they were supposed to close at 9. All the chairs were stacked up, and no customers, just staff inside, with all the lights dimmed out. I thought, did I mistakenly go on a day they're closed? After asking, I discovered they were indeed open, but done for the day, as all the soup ran out. I was recommended to come another day, before 5, no later than 630. I think I'll try to go again this time.
Here's the video below. His section starts at 16 minutes 15 seconds. Interestingly, the ramen he made for the show, is not at all what he serves at the restaurant.