Kaiseki in Japan does not always need to be a costly affair if you know where to look and, quite frankly, Tokyo is where I least expect to spot an affordable one - until Nihonbashi Yukari appeared on my radar. Stripped of all pretence and Japanese garden ostentation, this convivial kaiseki restaurant has been operating from its humble roost at Nihonbashi since 1935.
Now run by third generation chef/patron, Kimio Nonaga-san, a 2002 Iron Chef champion, the restaurant has doubled in capacity to 80 seats with the addition of private rooms in the basement when the building was torn down and rebuilt in 2000. Nonaga-san has 20 years of kaiseki-prepping chops (including seven years at Kikunoi Kyoto) under his belt and his flair shines through at the affordably priced nine-course kaiseki dinner (from 10,500 yen to 15,750 yen).
Count yourselves lucky if Nonaga-san presents the first-rate Japanese gazpacho, a beautifully composed bowl of yuba and dashi jellied tomatoes with tongues of shiso flower-crowned sea urchin in the middle; or Oma tuna grilled with soya, mirin and sansho peppers served alongside teriyaki-style grilled leek.
The arrival of a rice dish, in our case the porridge in umami-packed dashi broth with clouds of barely-cooked egg and clams, and the ensuing black bean ice cream, would signal the conclusion of the meal. But there would be no sips of frothy matcha to complete the kaiseki experience – this is, after all, Tokyo.
Nihobashi Yukari |4 Nihonbashi Chuo, Tokyo 103-0027| Tel: 81-3-3271-3436| www.nihonbashi-yukari.com |Lunch from JPY3,500, Dinner from JPY10,500 www.facebook.com/bibikgourmand
Evelyn Chen traded her frequent flyer miles from her jet-setting corporate days for a critic's pen, and has been eating and drinking on the job ever since. She is a former Time Out food critic and current editor of Zagat Guide (Singapore); her food and travel features have published in CNN Travel, New York Times, Telegraph and Destin Asian, amongst others. Follow her on www.facebook.com/bibikgourmand or www.twitter.com/bibikgourmand for updates on where she's eating right now.