Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Newsweek on Culinary Tokyo

Teppanyaki at Morimoto XEX, TokyoNewsweek's has a recent cover story on how Tokyo beat out Paris and New York to become the best restaurant city in the World. Readers of my blog would have read about Michelin awarding Tokyo an astounding 191 stars (posted here).

Some interesting nuggets from this Newsweek article:

About a third of all TV broadcasts in Japan are devoted to food. Tokyo has 160,000 restaurants, compared with 13,000 in Paris. Japan food bloggers are hugely prolific, cataloging their meals in painstaking detail (and, often, with cell-phone photos). One housewife whose blog documents her quest for the country's best bread proudly notes that she's visited 384 bakeries in the city of Kobe alone.

Sukiyabashi Jiro's 82-year-old owner, Jiro Ono, has spent the past 50 years perfecting his sushi technique. "I've only been there once but I was stunned," says restaurant critic Jun Yokokawa. "It's the ultimate sushi." Ono meticulously controls the temperature of each type of fish he uses, in order "to bring out the best in each," and is famous for wearing gloves whenever he leaves the restaurant, even in summertime, to make sure he never loses his magical feel for fish. His restaurant is all about the food; if you need to use the amenities, you'll have to go next door. Just because Ono got three stars, notes Michelin's Naret, he's unlikely to add toilets any time soon.

At two-star Kikunoi, the water to make fragrant dashi broth is trucked in several times a week from a well owned by the restaurant's parent establishment in Kyoto. The bonito flakes that flavor the soup come from fish caught off the southern island of Kyushu and are carefully sliced to a thickness of one third of a millimeter. Another ingredient, top-quality kombu kelp from Hokkaido in the north, is dried in temperature-controlled storage, then in the open air, for more than a year before it makes it to Tokyo.

Such obsession and intensity! It's no surprise that Tokyo is where the serious foodie is now headed.

Update: And now the Washington Post profiles a Michelin-starred chef in Tokyo here. Amazing stuff - read this to understand the lengths some Japanese chefs will go to in order to make the perfect meal.

9 comments:

Vishal Pipraiya said...

That's some excellent research. A very informative post!

Zhu said...

I'm not that surprised actually, given that Japanese always seem to value good food... and local food made its way abroad quite easily. I think sushi, makis, miso etc. can be found always anywhere in the world now!

I enjoy Japanese cuisine but I must say it's not one of my favorite.

Shantanu said...

@vishal: Yes, great article. In my only trip to Tokyo I was fascinated by the attention to aesthetics and detail even in the packed lunch boxes (called Bento).

@zhu: Yes, sushis are suddenly available everywhere; quite a change in the last decade.

Jenny said...

is it my imagination or are they scrimping on the raw fish?

Shantanu said...

@jenny: Hmm... :-)

Mallika said...

Very interesting read! I wonder where London figures in it all...

Shantanu said...

@mallika: London trails Tokyo, Paris and New York (I think even San Francisco).

beaverboosh said...

I love Tokyo. The Japanese are obsessed with quality, especially in food preparation!

SF over London, no way!

BB

Shantanu said...

@beeverboosh: I am not an expert on London (yet!); have been there only once...