Tokyo Day 3: Dinner at Aoyagi

I cannot rave enough about Aoyagi restaurant in Minato-ku.  If you are fortunate enough and in a position to invest $500/person on a fine dinning experience, then Aoyagi is not to be missed when visiting Tokyo!

The evening began with popping the cork on a bottle of sparkling Dassai sake.  One of my absolute favorites.  Sparkling sake is having a second life right now.  It has been around as long as sake has, but went out of favor.  Thanks to some very clever marketing (positioning it as Japan’s sister to champagne) it is becoming quite popular these days. And that is a good thing.

a glass of sparkling dassai sake

The minute we sat down in our private room the chef got to work.  That is some pretty impressive knife work.  And so the night was just beginning.

the aoyagi chef gets to work

Course 1

I should of had a notebook with me to jot down what all the delicacies were during the meal – but I didn’t.  So I hope my photos are enough to make your mouth water as you accompany me on this food-porn journey.  What I can say about course 1, it was a fish in a lovely silky gelatine.  And it melted in my mouth.

aoyagi meal first course

The attention to detail is incredible. For example, even the o-hashi (chopsticks) are thought through.  They were moistened before being placed at our table settings.  If the chopsticks were used dry, then the flavor of the food would impart itself on them never to fully be removed. Which would spoil the subtlety of the dishes we were about to enjoy.

Course 2

This one I do remember.  It is ebi (shrimp) with white asparagus topped with a raw egg yoke sauce.  One of my pet peeves is America’s fear of raw eggs.  Thank heavens the Japanese do not share this paranoia… because course two was out of this world.

aoyagi meal 2nd course

Course 3

Of all the dishes served that evening, this one is my favorite.  While others had more interesting flavors, none were as charming.  When the dish is served, the long narrow o-bento box is closed.  I slowly opened mine to reveal what I can only describe as a treasure chest full of miniature edible jewels.

Accompanying the bento was a small side dish with scallop and a dried piece of bonito (I believe).  The dried fish is not to be mistaken with “jerky”.  It was still silky and so packed with flavor – I have never had anything like it.

aoyagi meal course 3

And tucked in yet another secret compartment of the dainty bento was a single piece of delicate sashimi adorned with a single daikon pearl.

aoyagi meal course 3 part 2

At this point in the meal, the sake had been flowing generously.  So what started out as a very prim and proper occasion was about to relax into a much sillier affair.

the dassai sake is flowing freely

And the chef continued to turn out the most amazing dishes all the time.  Here he is preparing wasabi for what looks to be a heavenly sashimi course.

aoyagi chef preparing wasabi and sashimi

Course 4

The sake is taking its effect now.  I believe this was a dumpling in a gelatine topped with daikon and adorned with a bitter flower blossom.  But your guess is as good as mine ;)

aoyagi meal course 4

The dinner was approaching halftime but I had no idea how many dishes were yet to be served.  It was clear though that this was no ordinary meal and that there was no rush.  We were in the right place to enjoy exquisite food and the company of dear friends.  All in our own private room with our personal chef and very attentive but never interfering service from older sister Kimiko and younger sister Sachiko.

So I must keep you in suspense a little longer regarding the rest of the meal.  The post will never load if I continue with my photo euphoria.  So for now consider this part 1 with part 2 to soon follow.

Disclaimer:  I am not affiliated with Aoyagi or Dassai Sake.  But I am very good friends with Dassai’s sales and marketing director.