Tokyo Day 3: Dinner at Aoyagi Part 2

So where did we leave off.  Oh yes, the sake was flowing…

lots of dassai sake at aoyagi

… and flowing…

3 friends and lots of sake

Course 5

And the food was still flowing as well.  And the proportions suddenly grew making me wish I had worn an elastic waist skirt that night.  Course 5 included sashimi adorned with daikon cut in the shape of falling cherry blossom petals served on dish featuring a willow and a bridge.  So appropriate for the season.  The sashimi was accompanied with a seaweed soup and a small side dish which my memory has failed to remember exactly what it was.  I do know it was very very tasty.

aoyagi meal 5th course

Course 6

Up next was a few bites of grilled eel. We were all chatting and interested in the technique used to prepare the eel.  It was very soft and not chewy at all.  At which point Kimiko magically produced a book full of incredible photos from the restaurant.  She showed us a 2 page spread featuring preparation of this specific dish.  The cutting technique is critical to its success.  And the flavor imbibed from the grilling was extraordinary.

aoyagi meal 6th course

picture book of aoyagi dishes

Course 7

Up next was a tuna sushi roll and a piece of pickled myoga ginger. Forget the typical slices of ginger that are served with everyday sushi.  That little chunk of ginger was spectacular.

aoyagi meal 7th course

Course 8

I am not an anime otaku by any stretch, but when this single piece of sushi arrived I couldn’t help but channel Haruhi from Ōran Kōkō Hosuto Kurabu. FATTY TUNA!!!  Need I say more?

aoyagi meal 8th course

Course 9

Surely, I thought, the fatty tuna must be the climax of the meal.  I was wrong.  More dishes were still ahead of us.  Next up, a slice of grilled fish.  The grilling gave it a wonderful bouquet and a distinct texture.  Still soft on the inside but moist on the outside.  Adi raved about this dish the entire cab ride home.  As he is our resident chef, I think that says something.

aoyagi meal 9th course

Course 10

I confess, when this mystery bowl arrived I was nervous.  How on earth am I going to eat any more.

hum what is inside this bowl?

And then more and more and more plates kept coming.  And then a giant nabe of rice too!  The good news, we had reached the grand finale.  The bad news, it was a delicious conclusion and I just couldn’t eat it all.  Lucky for me, Asumi had no issues and helped me out. Dōmo Asumi, dōmo.

aoyagi meal 10th course

Dessert 1

Ah, but wait, there’s more.  No meal is complete without dessert.  This evening it was a slice of musk melon and a strawberry topped with a sauce and mint. おいしいですね!

aoyagi meal 1st dessert

Dessert 2

Maybe I should have split this post into 3 parts.  Cause even dessert was turning out to be a serious affair.  This dish has a little story to it.  On the surface it looks like a straight forward manjū, bun filled with anko bean paste.  But this little treat was especially made using Dassai sake lees.  A very thoughtful and special touch for our dinner party.

aoyagi meal 2nd dessert

What is Going On???

As I mentioned in the last post, while this all looks very posh and proper, the giggles in our little private room were anything but.  There were jokes relating those in our party’s ability to consume sake as compared to Starbuck’s serving sizes.  I am a “tall” if you must know.  And some very interesting attempts at translating using a combination of Japanese, English and French.  But those are our secrets and shale not be spoken about further.

However, it seems I have some gaps in memory not just about the food.  My camera captured a few shots where I am still not exactly sure what was going on.  Looks pretty serious!

don't drink and play with wabocho

And so that concludes our evening at Aoyagi.  I’ve been fortunate enough to dine at some of the best restaurants in NYC.  Sorry Daniel, but I did just find my new, most favorite restaurant on the planet.

2丁目-3−20 Azabudai
Minato, Tokyo 106-0041, Japan

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.