Ishikawa (神楽坂 石かわ), 2016.03
Another visit to Tokyo to eat, means another visit to Kagurazaka Ishikawa (神楽坂 石かわ) - an evergreen in the red book which had been honored Michelin stars for continiously 9 years since Michelin Guide Tokyo firstly published in 2008. It is not hard to find that the Michelin group loves Joel Robuchon, then Chef Ishikawa might be the Japanese version of Robuchon as all his three restaurants were starred: Ishikawa and Kohaku (虎白) with 3 stars respectively, and Ren (蓮) with 2 stars. All these three restaurants located in a same neighbourhood in Kagurazaka. Well, personally believe Michelin is not THAT trust worthy, but i have to admit that Ishikawa is possibly the best Kaiseki restaurant with Michelin star(s).
I made this reservation right after my last meal in Winter. To be honest, i didn't expected too much about the food here as it is always good, much of the time i am more impressed by the homey flavors, Zen and warm amabinace, of course the interactive Chef Ishikawa plays a major role too.I am sure there's a restaurant that everyone of you like in a city you familiar with, you will visit that restaurant everytime you go back to that city, and even yourself cannot tell a specific reason - yeah, its just a feeling that this.
Unfortunately, i didn't see the familiar face of chef-owner Ishikawa on the day of visit, i was told he is ill and thus the cous chef will handle everything. A bit sad though but still a satisfying meal.
Ishikawa serves Omakase menu at two different prices - JPY 15000 and JPY 19000. Same amount of dishes but the ingredients used in the later one are much better. Actually there's only 4000yen ( around USD$30?) difference between these two menu, as you travel so far to Tokyo to eat, i recommend the more expensive menu for a complete experience. If you are travelling there in Winter, you can also have the seasonal crab menu at JPY 30,000~.
It was almost the last period to eat Kegani (Japanese horsehair crab) before the wheather getting warmer. A quite nice balance of fresh & mildy sweet crab meat and the sour & refreshing flavors of Tosazu vinegar jelly, I really loved the crab miso (ovaries) underneath the jelly, very creamy and umami. This was a clean and freshing starter to awaken my taste buds.
Followed by a deep-fried dish of tones of tiny white fish served with homemade seaweed salt. The golden crust and the hot, moist center was such a nice contrast, the seaweed salt enhanced the umami flavor of the dish.
I was at Kyoaji the day before, and i really enjoyed Kyoaji's clean but very umami clear soup as usual. Probably because Chef Ishikawa was not here today, the dashi (clear broth) was a bit turbid that my friend said it looks like miso soup (because miso soup always have condiments on the bottom). Although the soup was umami and the clams were delicious, the dashi itself was lack of depth.
The sashimi part was made up of: Hirame (flat fish) and its cheek, Hokkaido Uni (sea urchin), and Tai Shirako (Snapper's milt) in a grated turnip sauce. This is the first time i didn't have Ishikawa's famous Tai sashimi, due to Chef Ishikawa was sick. I really missed his Tai, he wrapped the flesh with Kombu to give the fish a more oceanic flavor, it is one of my Top.3 Tai sashimi on this planet. Although the Hirame was not bad neither, i still feel quite regreting.
Instead, i had the best uni during my trip, so creamy and sweet that i asked cous chef to serve me another portion...
The last season to have Shirako from Tai (snapper). Quite large in size that chef cut into smaller cubes, very creamy and packed of umami flavors. The grated turnip gives a freshing touch.
Another dish i always enjoy at Ishikawa is the grilled fish, looks not exquisit and boring, but always perfectly grilled. The fish skin was slightly burnt which was aromatic and crispy, with a sweet hint of soy sauce added when grilling. The fish meat underneath was succulent and delicious. The spring cabbage on the side was freshly picked in the morning, it was also well-grilled that keeps the moisture and natually sweet flavor of the cabbage. Nice combination :D
The last dish at Ishikawa is always a small hot pot of seasonal seafood and vegetables. (I missed the duck soup again!). This time i had Yari-ika (spear squid) cooked with croccoli rabe, tofu and Shiitake mushroom from Kyoto. The most impressive part of this dish was the white miso soup base - the savory soup base has a mildly sweet flavor ('amai' in Japanese"), indeed enjoyable. I soaked up all the soup at last.
The rice dish was cherry blossom trout over clay pot rice, served with homemade pickles and misio soup with deep-fried tofu and Nameko mushrom. The trout was quite tender, rice in oils and deep in flavors, the rice was very good after being mixed up. The miso soup with deep-fried tofu was really pretty, texutural and delicious - argubly my favorite miso soup by far. I don't like rice but i always have two bowls when i eat in Japan, for the second serve, i requested for some nori (seaweed) to have the rice in my preferred way - indeed delicious! Oh, i don't like the pickles this time - it has a smell of nail polish.
Dessert is another strong part of Ishikawa. The basic components of Ishikawa's dessert are always mousse, jelly (rum flavor for most of the time), and fresh fruits. Smooth mousse, refershing jelly, juicy strawberries and creamy red bean paste - a wonderfull sweet ending.
Again thanks the team for the lovely dinner. Although there are few muffs in 1-2 dishes, overall it was still a very enjoyable experience, and i will definitely keep coming back in the future. Ishikawa is possible one of the very few restaurants/chefs that never put itself/himself at a very high position, the restaurant is always not hard to book, all the staffs treat the foreigner and Japanese guests in a same way and same manner, Chef Ishikawa cannot speak proper English but he always try his best to communicate with everyone, accompany by its affordable price, i personally believe Ishikawa is the best Michelin-starred Kaiseki restaurant that you should not miss in Tokyo.
Address: 東京都新宿区神楽坂5-37 高村ビル １Ｆ
Hours: 17:30-00:00, Closed on Sundays
Menu: JPY 15000+ or 19000+, Winter Special Crab Menu JPY 30,000~