Visited in January 2017
1-27-5 Yoyogi (1st floor)
Shibuya, Tokyo 151-0053
The infamous poisonous BLOWFISH, Japanese FUGU! We were so looking forward to this! Our reservation wasn’t until 7:30PM, but we were starving, and I couldn’t risk us doing a pub crawl, and snacking my stomach space away. So upon landing, immigrations, baggage claim, a 1.5 hour taxi ride, and what seemed like a 30 min check-in process, we quickly got ourselves together, and headed straight to Takase. We showed up at 6:15 and were their first patrons of the night. They were super kind, and took us right away. The Japanese are VERY polite people!
Before getting into our meal, I have two quick things I want to quickly talk about. In SushiGirl speak, that means complain about…
First the reservation debacle: If you’ve ever made reservations at a higher end Japanese restaurant in Tokyo before, you’ll know that this is not an easy feat. And please do not tell me to just book through my hotel concierge. If it was that simple, do you think I would complain about it? This isn’t my first rodeo you know, I HAVE traveled before. I’m actually an insane planner. Need to know exactly which restaurants I need to hit up, plan out my days, my routes, my meal options throughout the day, and reservations for dinner. All that is done months before my trip. I have actually contemplated doing travel planning as a side job! I take it very seriously! It is very difficult to book reservations at higher end restaurants if you are not a native Tokyo resident. It’s actually pretty widely written about. Your chances are increased if you speak Japanese, but no, not guaranteed either. Restaurants and chefs have even publicly defended their position on not granting reservations for foreigners, stating foreigners tend to cancel last minute or just not show up. Why they don’t just take a credit card to secure your reservation, and should you miss it, charge you for the full meal anyway? I do not know. NYC restaurants do it all the time, some even require a 48 hour cancellation! I ultimately had my girlfriend’s mom call and make the reservation for me. What a sweet lady! While making the reservation, you had to choose which tasting option you want though, they had a ¥15,000, ¥20,000, and a ¥25,000 tasting options. The exchange rate is roughly $1 USD to ¥110, but the crude way is to just take off 2 zeros. I wondered, how can I decide which tasting I want, if I don’t know what the different tastings included, or how hungry I would be 6 weeks down the line? But then again, how often will we get to have another FUGU tasting? To ensure we don’t miss out on anything, I chose the ¥25,000 tasting. Of course I did.
Second, Tokyo, the land of “specialty”: Almost every shop, every restaurant has a specialty. The Ramen restaurant will have Ramen only, no Udon, no Soba, just Ramen. The Teriyaki store will have Teriyaki only, no Ramen, no Sushi, no Curry, just Teriyaki. We’ve stumbled over a few “diner” like restaurants, but on the most part, it’s all specialty shops. To be honest, it can get pretty annoying. I get having an expertise, and thus specializing in it, but does it necessarily have to be exclusively that? Well Takase is a Fugu (Blowfish) specialty restaurant. All they serve is Fugu. Different cuts, different preparation methods, but all just Fugu. The owner and chef, Chef Takase actually owns two other restaurants nearby, an oyster bar, and a sushi restaurant. Why, oh why can I not have oysters, sushi, AND Fugu in one meal? So frustrating!
Our Tasting tonight:
- Small plate trio:
- FUGU SHIRAKO (Blowfish sperm sacs) – I am in SHIRAKO heaven! SHIRAKO is one of those servings that Americans get very squirmish about. It’s a milky texture, with a light, delicate taste. Between Hong Kong and now Tokyo, this was my fourth meal where SHIRAKO served. Lovely!
- NISHITIKAMAGO (two colored egg) – I really don’t understand the Japanese’ fascination with the egg. It’s a light egg custardy sponge cake, sweet, but not sweet enough to be deemed dessert. If you walk through the markets of Tokyo, you’ll see TAMAGO vendors with lines around the block. For egg??? I don’t get it.
- Japanese spring onion – I would never take onions and just chew on it, but this was a super light onion, lighter than the others we typically have. It was delish.
- FUGU skin Gelée – The combination of the FUGU skin with the DASHI gelée (a light broth made with dried kelp (seaweed) and Bonito flakes made into a gelatin) was incredibly tasty. The FUGU skin itself was very chewy though. None the less, I would gladly have requested a repeat!
- FUGU & FUGU skin sashimi served with ANKIMO (monkfish liver), MOMIJI OROSHI (Grated Daikon Radish marinated with red chili peppers) and chives – The HIGHLIGHT of the night!!! This is what you read about, what you drool over! I’ve had FUGU a few times in New York, but it was always super chewy, and all around pretty bland. That’s because there are very few chefs in New York actually trained and skilled enough to cut the FUGU without activating the poison. If the restaurant even offers FUGU, it’s often sliced from a precut slab, frozen and shipped here. That is also why you don’t get the other parts of the FUGU. This was so amazingly delicious. The fish was so light, mild, not at all chew and still very tasty. The skin was chewy though, the skin will always be chewy, not reflective of the quality or the preparation. When combined with the ANKIMO, MOMIJI OROSHI, and chives, this was outrageous tasty.
- Smoked FUGU sake – We are huge sake people, so for the majority of the meal, we paired each serving with sake. Chef gave us a variety to taste. Our favorite was “jun ong dai”. Chef shares that it’s the number one sake in all of Japan, but it does not get exported outside the country. For this next tasting, chef wanted us to try his homemade smoked FUGU sake. Taste like cognac. How cool are we? We’re not cognac people, but it was tasty.
- Torched FUGU SHIRAKO (Blowfish sperm sacs) – The earlier serving was a poached SHIRAKO served cool with a DASHI sauce, delicious, but this one was even better!!! The torching really brings out the natural nuttiness of the fish (pun not intended). Ridiculously good.
- Grilled FUGU Kama (Blowfish neck) – As Americans, we often have the HAMACHI KAMA (grilled yellowtail neck), this is the same, just made with FUGU rather than yellowtail. Comparatively, the FUGU is a much lighter fish, very little fat, very little oils. It was good, boyfriend enjoyed this very much, but for me, I think I would have been happy wrapping up the meal after the torched FUGU SHIRAKO, and had some sushi or teriyaki instead…
- FUGU NABE (Blowfish stew) – Very, very light broth made with FUGU, mushrooms, radishes, and other greens. It was fine, good even. I just don’t have much to say about broths…
- Deep fried FUGU – You know how Americans deem everything that has little taste to be chicken? This might as well have been fried chicken breast for me. Clearly, the texture is very different, but this one really does not have much taste at all.
- FUGU Fotagé – A rice porridge made with Fugu, and egg. This was not good. I love porridge, but this was SLIMY, and not very tasty.
Towards the end of the meal Chef Takase pieced back our whole FUGU for us. Head to tail, minus the collar that we ate, my guestimate is that this was once a two foot long fish. Chef shared with us that this is the “number one size”, meaning it does not get any bigger. He also shared that FUGU is only in season between September and March, which is the only time his restaurant is open. Imagine that! To be so specialized that your business can only be open for six months out of the year! I really loved all my servings right up to the Torched FUGU SHIRAKO. After that, I could have left very happy. This is where they need to open the restaurant’s menu up, and allow for me to continue my meal with a 10 piece sushi!!! None the less, this was an experience to remember. Chef Takase’s English is really not to the level of conversing, but he tries so hard to explain and really make your experience a memorable and enjoyable one. I am so happy I went, but before going back, I would negotiate to stop a little earlier.