Tokyo: With Money to Burn

From having a chef prepare teppanyaki in your own exquisite limestone-cave-reminiscent dining room, to eating in front of a multi-story glass-paned wine cellar, to mouthwatering foie gras-topped wagyu inside of Tokyo’s most exclusive private club, to painstakingly perfect sushi so gorgeous that you hesitate to eat it, if you have a plethora of ¥10,000 yen notes, I have the places for you to spend them. I also have the places for you to avoid like the plague, places that are date ruiners, places that could cause whoever you are with to look at you with contempt if you take them there. Knowledge is power.

Azuman|2-3-9 Azabujuban, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 106-0045, Japan +81 3-3454-5871
Opening Hours: Lunch: Monday – Saturday, 11 am – 1 pm | Dinner: Friday – Saturday, 5:30 pm – 9:30 pm.
Closest Subway Station: Azujuban

Azuman plays it so cool that, even with highly precise directions and the GPS on my phone repeatedly announcing that I was standing directly in front of my intended destination, I found myself staring at a brick wall, mouth open, baffled. Neither neighboring shop on either side of the alleged restaurant/actual brick wall had any idea what Azuman was, nor recognized the logo on the business card that I showed them. It was a riddle wrapped in a mystery. Just as I turned around to leave, a black-tinted, nondescript door on the edge of the flower shop to the edge of the brick wall caught my eye. No sign, no indication of where the door led to, no clues. With nothing left to lose, I stepped inside. Darkness fell upon me, but, dim light spilled down from the top of the steps on the second floor. Gingerly walking up, ignoring the nagging feeling that I might be barging directly into someone’s living room, I heard the gentle murmur of voices. Upon reaching the top of the stairs, I turned to the right, where a wide-eyed Japanese hostess greeted me. “Irrashaimase,” she cooed. “Welcome to Azuman.” Leading me into a cozy little waiting area, where the rest of my lunch party was already waiting, she informed me in Japanese that it would be just a minute before our private room was ready. Less than 15 seconds later, before I even had time to properly sink into a soft leather chair, we were led away.

Where you wait for your private room to be ready

The cozy little waiting area

As we passed the long communal counter that ran perpendicular to most of the private rooms, I was able to peer into the open doors.

If you are not feeling a private room, you can also eat lunch at this elegant counter.

One of the private rooms

One of the private rooms I passed.

Finally reaching our private room, I noticed that the configuration was exactly like the counter in the main part of the restaurant, meaning that it was difficult to hold a conversation with anyone except for the people seated on either side of you. However, with this configuration, everyone had unobstructed interactions with the various members of staff that rotated on and off of the other side of the table: the sommelier, the chef, and the restaurant’s manager.

My private room seated 5.

The enthusiastic sommelier.

Another member of my lunch party ordered for the table, meaning that I never even peeked at the menu. This was not a great loss, as I doubt they even had a menu in English. Instead of fretting over what to eat, I sat back and enjoyed a perfectly chilled glass of champagne.

A pretty appetizer

My pretty appetizer: tempura something with flowers.

First came a pretty little appetizer, tempura something with tiny purple flowers. While I didn’t care for the sauce it was floating in, the presentation was aesthetically pleasing enough to overlook it.

Followed by this


The next appetizer was a mystery. Cucumber and salmon were involved, but beyond that I know nothing.

Then this

The hot mess.

The next dish was a hot mess of assorted seafood and vegetables.  I stoically worked my way through the dish, feeling slightly bored and unimpressed with all that had been on offer up until now.

Next, some little plates were placed in front of me.

Next, some little plates were placed in front of me.

Suddenly, glistening chunks of wagyu caught my eye at the same time that three bowls of seasonings and a slate plate with horseradish and wasabi were placed in front of me.  I looked up, hopefully. A chef entered the room. Pensively staring down at his chopsticks, he lit a small fire. A plate of sliced vegetables was placed next to the plate of wagyu. Australian Shiraz pooled ruby-red in our wine glasses. A hush fell over the group. The stage was set.

The chef appeared

The pensive chef.

I was like, "Let's do this!"

I was thinking, “Let’s do this!”

So he did.

He cooked our lunch with a small charcoal fire and chopsticks. La classe.



The wagyu was by far my favorite part of the meal. Added bonus: fried garlic chips!

Japanese digestive soup

Japanese digestive soup

As the meal wound down, I was given a bowl of miso soup, the traditional ending to a Japanese meal. Each restaurant makes their miso soup just a little bit differently than all of its competitors, so I always enjoy trying a mouthful or two of it when eating somewhere for the first time.



Dessert was a slice of mango cake with a scoop of indeterminate ice cream. At this point I was so full that it took everything in me to feebly manage one spoonful of sugary sweetness.

Looking back on this lunch, months later, I can not tell you how to get to Azuman, even with the restaurant’s business card, even with the GPS on my cell phone. However, I clearly remember the mouth-watering flavor of the wagyu chunks and the poetic melancholiness of the chef. While this is an excellent place to have a quiet lunch with friends, it would be a nightmare for a non-Japanese speaker. Bring a Japanese friend.

Lunch for one at Azuman, without wine, is approximately $150 USD. Good luck finding it.

Dazzle|2-4-1 2 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 104-0061, Japan +81 3-5159-0991
Opening Hours:  Dinner: 5:30 pm – 10:30 pm
Closest Subway Station: Ginza

The wine cellar at Dazzle

The multi-story glass-paned wine cellar at Dazzle is the show piece of the restaurant.

Dazzle is yet another somewhat difficult restaurant to find. Even if you manage to locate the elevator and press the button to the correct floor, you’ll notice that you’ve been deposited squarely in the middle of the restaurant’s kitchen, with, in my case at least, several chefs and sous-chefs eyeing you. Don’t worry. You are, in fact, exactly where you’re meant to be. Turning to the right, a small, nondescript area contains two hostesses, one of which will gently guide you over to them if you become frozen in the gaze of the kitchen staff. After crossing your name off of the reservation list, one of the hostesses will lead you to another, smaller elevator. The first elevator you had to come up in was not large to begin with, or even normal sized, so this smaller elevator is one you should only enter with people you wish to know intimately. It is Parisian-sized. You will take the elevator up one floor, and, stepping out, rest your gaze on one of the most gorgeously weird wine cellars I’ve ever seen in a restaurant. It is the focal piece of the main dining room and something about staring at the dark bottles of wine in the multi-story glass structure is soothing.

Dazzle describes itself on its website as follows, “Dazzle’s vibrant kitchen is alive with sights, sounds and flavor to excite the senses. The beautiful open design makes you part of the kitchen as we blend the best of traditional cooking technique with the finest ingredients to create a uniquely contemporary cuisine.” I think that the open design makes you part of the wine cellar, and not part of the kitchen, which is not even on the same floor as the dining area. In any case, it is a weirdly, and wonderfully designed, multi-level space.

I found myself at Dazzle for a wine dinner that promised excellent pairings of Shafer wine with each course. Reasoning that, even if the food was boring, the wine alone would be worth the cost of the meal, I went with relatively high expectations. While all of the Shafer absolutely lived up to its reputation, the food was also surprisingly good, if not innovative. My only objection went to the summer truffles in the venison tortellini, as no good truffles come from the summer. The truffles were tasteless, but that was only to be expected.

The wine dinner I attended

Zee menu.

Here are Dazzle’s DinnerDessertWine and Cocktails menus. This would be a safe choice to bring a date, business associates or friends. While the food is not particularly exciting, the quality is consistent and the decor is intriguing. Dinner for one, without wine, runs approximately $100 USD.

Decanter at Tokyo American Club|2-1-2 Azabudai, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 106-0041, Japan +81 3-4588-0675
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday, 6 pm – 11 pm. Closed Sunday.
Closest Subway Station: Azujuban

Decanter is one of my happy places. Part of Tokyo American Club, where I am a member, it is conveniently located for spontaneous steak cravings in an upscale setting. I go so often that all of the staff know me by name, which is nice. It is also a three-minute walk away from the fitness center, which is even nicer. Eating dinner at Decanter feels like being back in the States, which is incredibly comforting when constant Japanese food starts to feel overwhelming.

Decanter’s website describes itself as follows: “The Club’s flagship culinary destination, Decanter, invites diners to indulge in its playful avant-garde concept. Featuring an eclectic mix of Las Vegas- and Hollywood-inspired spaces and menus, diners can expect nothing less than impeccable service, fabulous new American fare and uncomplicated dining fun, partnered with one of the country’s finest wine collections. Decanter, which is open to adult Members and non-Members alike, offers seating for 60 in the main dining area, with up to an additional 40 in the dining bridges, FLATiRON and the intimate chef’s table.”



Low lighting, discrete seating arrangements and luxurious velvet chairs make Decanter a blissfully romantic place to bring a loved one, or someone who you would like to become a loved one. Besides couples murmuring softly to each other, I often see groups of businessmen intensely negotiating deals over $400 bottles of wine and groups of women chatting over cups of tea. The views from the floor to ceiling windows are stunning, the food is delicious and the staff is incredibly attentive. Not only have all of the servers memorized my (never-changing) order, but they also remember whatever I told them the last time they saw me and follow up on it. “How was your trip to Scotland,” “Did you have a nice birthday,”  and “How much longer before your cats arrive,” are only some of the questions I’ve been asked. Everyone working in Decanter is kind, without being uncomfortably familiar, and quick to do any and everything that could make your experience at Decanter any more pleasant. Tokyo American Club’s President is known to walk around the restaurant, shaking hands with all of the members, which is also a fun experience is you are lucky enough to be there at the same time as him.

Zee menu

Zee iPad menu

The finish on the wood tables is sexy, the glassware is sexy and the iPad menus are sexy. The magnifying glass icon, seen in both the above and below pictures, shows you a picture of each item on the menu when you tap on it. This is helpful when stuck between deciding on two dishes, or when bringing a guest to Decanter that has never tried anything on its menu before.

Zee menu part 2

Zee menu part 2

One of Decanter’s best-kept secrets is its incredibly competitively priced wine menu. I have ordered excellent vintages here at a fraction of what I could get them for anywhere else in Tokyo. If you are willing to drop $200 or $300 USD on a bottle of wine, you’ll find that your purchasing power is on par with someone who has $500 or $600 USD to spend on the same bottle elsewhere in Tokyo. Here are the Dinner and Wine menus.


A bottle of 2003 Pommard on the incredibly sexy table.

A yummy brioche

A yummy brioche

Once you’ve placed your order, a delicious brioche with black sea salt appears on your table. Fluffy, buttery goodness pared with salt is a flavor profile not to be missed. My record number of brioche eaten before a meal? 3. I have to cut myself off at some point, each and every time. I could eat nothing but Decanter’s brioche and sea salt and be satisfied. When the mere before-dinner bread is this good, you know great things are coming.

Tenderloin with foie gras

5 ounce Wagyu Tenderloin with foie gras

I always order the 5 ounce Wagyu tenderloin with a side of mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese that the table shares. Sometimes, if I am feeling particularly decadent, I will order the wagyu topped with seared foie gras.


New York Cheesecake

The New York cheesecake is one of the desserts on the old menu, which was recently, sadly, changed. Nothing on the new dessert menu appeals to me, but this cheesecake, if ever brought back into the mix, is a creamy, graham cracker crusted delight.


Deconstructed Black Forest Cake

My other favorite dessert from the old dessert menu was the Deconstructed Black Forest Cake, seen above. Oh, the decadence.

Dinner for two, with a mid-range bottle of wine, is $350 USD for members of Tokyo American Club, $400 USD for non-members.

The French Kitchen|Grand Hyatt Grand Hyatt 6-10-3 Roppongi, Minato-Ku, Tokyo, Japan, 106-0032 +81 3 4333 8781
Opening Hours: Daily, 6:30 am – 9:30 pm | Bar: 11 am – 9:30 pm

The restaurant was completely empty when I visited it last week, at 9 pm on a Wednesday evening. My 8 person dinner party felt very small in the cavernous indoor space, leading me to wonder what had gone so terribly wrong that no one else in Grand Hyatt’s 200 room hotel wanted to eat there. Then, I ate the bland steak and boring sour cherry tart and understood. There was no passion in the food, no soul, no life. It was definitely not, as it describes itself, “Classic French”, despite what was listed on the menu.

Additionally, the service was painfully bad. I kept flagging down waiters to ask for water, which is rather annoying when you can finish off the half-filled water glass in two gulps.

The French Kitchen describes itself on its website as follows: “The French Kitchen offers breakfast, lunch and weekend brunch buffets, and is open all day, serving classic French dishes from Pâté de Campagne and Sole Grenobloise to Boeuf Bourguignon. The restaurant features an open kitchen, a bar, an outside terrace and the “Chef’s Table”, a private dining room equipped with its own kitchen that is ideal for special dinners, private parties and company celebrations.”


The outside dining area at The French Kitchen.


The inside dining area at The French Kitchen

Here are The French Kitchen’s BreakfastBrunchLunchDinner and Bar/Dessert menus.

Dinner for one, without wine, is approximately $125 USD. I would not recommend eating here unless you need a place to break up with someone, end a friendship, resign from a job or announce depressing news.

Kazahana|Conrad, 1-9-1 Higashi-Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 105-7337 Japan +81 3-6388-8000
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday: 11:30 am – 9 pm | Sunday: 11:30 am – 2 pm
Closest Subway Station: Shiodome


Oh, the gorgeousness of it all.

Having eaten sushi all over Tokyo, I have become a bit of a sushi connoisseur. At the very least, I can tell good sushi from bad sushi. The quality of Hazakana’s sushi is no better than the sushi I can get for $10 in the building next to my apartment. Do not get me wrong, the preparation of this sushi is the stuff legends are made of. Unfortunately, you will pay through the nose for it without tasting any discernible boost in quality. Additionally, the sushi chef is a bit controlling on how much soy sauce you can use. I realize that sushi should not be submerged in soy sauce, but some of us like doing that, and no one should try to make us feel bad for doing so. The decor is nice, it is The Conrad, after all, but the taste of Kazahana’s sushi lacks any sort of wow factor. It is once again, in my opinion, extremely expensive for the quality of the sushi received.

The Conrad’s website describes Kazahana as follows: “Sample traditional Japanese dishes given a contemporary twist at Kazahana. Take in the skyline view through floor-to-ceiling windows and appreciate the contemporary Japanese decor. Dine on a countertop and soak up the convivial atmosphere. Indulge in an intimate dinner in a private dining room and enjoy the elegant ambiance. Savor innovative Sushi, Kaiseki and Teppan dishes while taking in the minimalist design of this skyscraper restaurant.”

I ordered the Sushi Set Lunch. This was the first thing I received, some sort of salad from hell.

A pretty ballsy salad for a sushi restaurant.

After the salad, which I half-heartedly forked through, the sushi started coming, fast and furious, as beautiful as sushi can possibly look. When I asked the chef for soy sauce (because none had been provided), he pretended not to hear me. Homie don’t play that. I ended up with the soy sauce I wanted, but not before he explained to me what a mistake I was making. As I was plunging each piece of sushi in the soy sauce directly in front of his face, I felt a tad uncomfortable. His eyes shot daggers at me. I tried to ignore him, but, remembering a long-ago watched episode of Seinfeld, a little voice in my mind kept chanting, “Sushi nazi, sushi nazi, sushi nazi!”


Isn’t this exquisite looking?


A piece of art.


Look at how rich the color of this piece of sushi is.




Hello, beauty.

Here are Kazahana’s KaisekiSushi and Teppan menus.

Lunch for two, with a mid-range bottle of wine, is approximately $250 USD. If presentation is all that you care about, and you are cool with someone trying to micro-manage the amount of soy sauce that you use, Kazahana might be just the place for you.

La Tour D’Argent|4-1 Kioicho, Chiyoda, Tokyo 102-8578, Japan +81 3-3239-3111
Opening Hours: Daily, 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Closest Subway Station: Nagatacho

La Tour D’Argent’s Tokyo website reads, “Since 1582, La Tour D’Argent in Paris has upheld a standard of quality and tradition, serving only the most exquisite French Cuisine. It has been honored for being the most authentic representation of French culture and tradition, and has been compared to a National Treasure. La Tour D’Argent, Tokyo, is the only other La Tour D’Argent. It is decorated with period pieces and its rooms have the style and design representations of the many centuries that have marked the original. Let us majestically wine and dine you with the best wine cellar in the world and the seasonal creations of our Chef.”

Wikipedia adds, “The restaurant claims that it was founded in 1582 and frequented by Henri IV; it does not however offer any documentation for these or other claims about its history. Duck, especially the pressed duck, is the specialty (Canard à la presse, Caneton à la presse, Caneton Tour d’Argent). The restaurant raises its ducks on its own farm. Diners who order the duck receive a postcard with the bird’s serial number, now well over 1 million.”

I could not get over the carpet. It reminded me of the castle at the end of each level of Super Mario Brothers 3. All that was missing was the Princess.

La Tour D'Argent

An elegant location for lunch, especially if you played Super Mario Brothers 3 as a child.

The Precious.

The Precious.

La Tour D'Argent

Zee menu.

La Tour D'Argent

Choices, choices, choices.

La Tour D'Argent

Christofle cutlery. Ooh la la. Notice the Super Mario Brothers castle on the tablecloth.

La Tour D'Argent

Aesthetically pleasing.

La Tour D'Argent


La Tour D'Argent

A nice bottle of wine.

La Tour D'Argent

I liked the shape of this dish.

La Tour D'Argent

I tend to not like branded glassware but this was tolerable.

La Tour D'Argent


La Tour D'Argent

I ate duck #22047. Sorry, buddy.

La Tour D'Argent


La Tour D'Argent

Choose  your cheese, bitches.

La Tour D'Argent


La Tour D'Argent


La Tour D'Argent


La Tour D'Argent

I liked the china.

La Tour D'Argent

What a gorgeous dessert presentation.

Eating at La Tour d’Argent reminded me of every high-end restaurant in Paris that I love. Lunch for one, with a decent bottle of wine, is approximately $400 USD, and is, if you can ignore the Super Mario Brothers carpet, worth every penny.

Had I listed all of the restaurants in Tokyo that I love or loathe, this entry would have become extraordinarily long. Thus, I will continue documenting my quest for quality meals in subsequent posts. In the meantime, いただきます!


Japan: Learning Japanese

My translation: I do not know how to correctly eat a piece of fruit.

My translation: I do not know how to correctly eat a piece of fruit.

After moving to Tokyo on May 1st, it became obvious that I must learn Japanese immediately. 

Unlike, the United Arab Emirates, or Singapore, I would not be able to skate through life here with only my mother tongue. My conversations with taxi drivers, whose taxis I flagged down in front of my apartment building, went something like:

Taxi driver: Hai. Dōzo.
Me: Please take me to the place listed on this card. (Hands business card to taxi driver).
Taxi driver: (Silent.)
Me: (Silent.)
Taxi driver: (Silent.)
Me: You have no idea where this address is, even though it is in Japanese, do you?
Taxi driver: (Smiles.)

When they pull out their giant magnifying glass, it is never a good sign.

When they pull out their giant magnifying glass, it is never a good sign.

Or, when returning from a night out on the town, I would have an interaction like this:

Me: Here is the card of the apartment building I live in. See the address? (Turns card over.) See the map?
Taxi driver: (Flips card back to the address. Stares at it silently.)
Me: Oh no.

After a quick trip back to the States for my brother’s graduation, I started Japanese lessons on May 17th.

Konnichiwa, bitches.

Konnichiwa bitches.

I’ve been to 7 lessons so far, but if I wrote down everything that I have learned in that amount of time, your brain would most likely explode. Here is what I learned in the first lesson.

Super-Basic Japanese

Ohayō gozaimasu. = Good morning.
(O-HIGH-oh goh-zie-mass)

Ohayō gozimasu.

Ohayō gozimasu.

Konnichiwa. = Good afternoon./Good day.

Kombanwa. = Good evening.

Sayōnara. = Good-bye.

Dewa mata. = See you.
(Deh-wah matt-tah)

Ja mata. = See you (more casual). Laterz.
(Jah mat-tah)

Ja mata ashita. = See you tomorrow.
(Jah mat-tah ash-tah)

O-genki desu ka. = How are you?
(Oh geen-kee dess-cah)

Genki desu. = I’m fine./It’s all good, home boy.
(Geen-kee dess.)

Genki desu ka, bitches.

Genki desu ka.

Watashi mo genki desu. Arigatō gozaimasu. = I’m fine, too. Thanks.
(Wah-tash-ee mo ginky dess. Air-e-gaht-toh goh-zie-mass.)

(Other person’s name) san wa? = And you?
(Other person’s name) sahn wah?

Dōzo. = Please (when offering something).

Dōzo. Eat some chicken from this van.

Dōzo. Take a ride in the chicken van.

Dōmo arigatō gozaimasu. = Thank you very much.
(Doh-moh air-ee-gat-oh go-zih-mass.)

Dō itashimashite. = You’re welcome.
(Doh ee-tash-ee-mash-tay.)

Su(m)imasen. = Excuse me.
(Sue-me-mah-sin OR swee-mah-sin.)

Sumimasen. This is what my supermarket is like, in every aisle, only weirder.

Sumimasen. This is what my supermarket is like, in every aisle, only weirder.

Chotto matte kudasai. = Wait just a moment, please.
(Choh-toh mah-tay coo-das-I.)

Daijōbu desu ka. = Are you okay?
Dah-I-joe-bu dess-kah).

Daijōbu desu ka.

Daijōbu desu ka.

(Hai) daijōbu desu. = (Yes), I’m okay.
(HI! dah-I-joe-bu dess.)

Ii tenki desu ne. – Nice weather, isn’t it?
(eee tinky dess-nay.)

Sō desu ne. =Hellz yeah./That’s true.
(Soh dess-nay.)

Atsui desu ne. = It’s hot, isn’t it?
(Aht-sue-ee dess-nay.)

Samui desu ne. = It’s cold, isn’t it?
(Sah-moo-e dess-nay.)

Gambatte kudasi. = Go for it! Keep your chin up. Good luck. Literally: Please do your best.
(Gam-baht-tay kuh-dess-I.)

Japanese production of Peter Pan.

Gambatte kudasai, Japanese production of Peter Pan.

Gambarimasu. = I will do my best.

Abunai. = Watch out! Literally: dangerous.

Dame desu. = No good. No. Hellz, no! Literally: No, you can’t.
(Dah-may dess.)

Mō ichido onegaishimasu. = Once more, please.
(Moh ee-chee-do ohn-ee-guy-she-mass.)

Itadakimasu. = What you say before you eat/drink. Literally: I will take.

Itadakimasu. What will you choose for lunch?

Itadakimasu. What will you choose for lunch?

Gochosōsama deshita. = What you say after you eat/drink. Literally: Thank you for a good meal.
(Go-chi-soh-sama desh-tah.)

Oyasumi nasai. = Good night.
(Oh-yah-sue-moo-ee nah-sigh.)

Dōzo osakini. = After you./You go ahead.
(Doh-zoh oh-sock-kee-nee.)

I haven't figured out what any of this is yet.

I haven’t figured out what any of this is yet. Dōzo osakini.

Odajini. = Take care. (For sick/injured people.)

Omedetō gozaimasu. = Congratulations!
(Oh-mehd-ee-toh go-zie-mass.)

Itte rasshai. = So long.
(It-tay rash-I)

Tadaima. = I’m back!

Okaeri nasai. = Welcome back!
(Oh-keer-ee nass-ee.)

Otsukaresama deshita. = Thank you for working hard. Literally: You must be tired.
(Oh-suh-kah-rah-sahm-mah dess-sh-tah.)

Thanks for working so hard.

Otsukaresama deshita. Please utilize the subway correctly.

With all of these phrases swimming through my head, I left my first lesson feeling woozy. How would I ever master any of this? I went home, wrote down all of the above phrases twice, practiced saying them out loud, et voila! It stuck. I started muttering random phrases to my apartment’s concierge, to people going up or down in the lift with me, to anyone trapped in a confined space with me, basically.

As the Chinese philospher Lao-tzu once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”