- Rating: 19.5/20
- Address: Carioca Bldg. 4fl., 5 Chome-4-8 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo, Japan
- Telephone: +81 3-6215-9544
- Price (all-in): 23,600 Yen ($197 at 100 yen = 0.83USD)
- Value: 4.5/5
- Dining Time: 120 minutes
- Chef: Toru Okuda
- Style: Kaiseki
- Michelin Stars: 2
Harmony – ingredients perfectly chosen for each other. Ginza Kojyu (with Mr Okuda at the helm) is a restaurant on the upper-end of the 3-star spectrum.
Kojyu, the jewel of a fledging empire from Chef Toru Okuda, was recently downgraded from three to two stars in the 2015 guide. While Chef Okuda has three other Michelin stars and several other restaurants (including Ginza Okuda in Tokyo (2*), Okuda in Paris (1*), and Sushi Kakutou in Tokyo among others), Kojyu forms the basis of his fame. Prior to the 2015 Michelin guide, Okuda-san had always been awarded 3 Michelin stars for Kojyu every year since 2007 (the year of the inaugural Tokyo Michelin guide). Yet despite the drop in quality a downgrade signifies, Kojyu was one of my favorite kaiseki meals in Tokyo (along with Ryugin).
The reason may be that Okuda is now back to personally cooking at Kojyu. Prior to this, I had heard through the Chowhound grapevine that Okuda cooked lunch at Ginza Okuda, and dinner at Ginza Kojyu. His ambitious restaurant empire (which in early 2014 included plans for a New York restaurant in 2015) is built on the fame of Kojyu, so it is no surprise to see him hard at work to regain the lost star.
There were two points of atmosphere at Kojyu I especially appreciated:
- At every service, ice with flower petals is poured into the sink. As service progresses, the ice pile gradually shrinks down to nothing. Quite a romantic setting.
- At the counter that seats 8, classical music is played which lends an air of refinement to the meal. Classical music can be schmaltzy, but it works at Kojyu.
At Kojyu I feel there are dishes (e.g. scallop dumpling soup, simmered vegetables with wrapped anago) where there is one central element that is just perfect. It does not have to be the largest part of the dish, but all other ingredients serve it. I have tried to annotate what I felt to be the core of each dish.
- Codfish milt / thick turnip soup / shimonita scallion / yuzu (4.5/5)
- Luxurious tastes of creamy sperm explosion. (there is no real way to describe milt without sounding porn-y). Shimonita scallion was sweet and mild, the best exemplar of leek. (it occupies top place on the onion hierarchy along with Cevennes onion)
- Core: Milt explosion, earthy turnip (surf and turf)
- Giant prawn / ankimo / chilli-vinegar jelly (5/5)
- Slightly spicy jelly, with seaweed.The jelly was a almost-liquid agar. The crunchy gelatin of prawn was precisely offset by a creamy-chunky ankimo. Perfectly balanced, harmony.
- Core: Gelatin of prawn meets creaminess of ankimo
- Scallop dumpling, maitake mushroom, pepper, turnip, radish (5/5).
- So simple, but perfect. Scallop, lightly seared. Chopped, and then bound with egg-yolk and whitefish binding – perfect uniform consistency, no chunks. Simplicity itself, but the taste was perfection.
- Core: Scallop dumpling
- Tuna with soy and wasabi, hirame (halibut) with salt and sudachi lime, squid
- The squid was (5/5) creamy and starchy, dissolving in your mouth. Hirame was perfect with salt and sudachi lime (4.5/5). Tuna was decent.
- Sawara (Spanish Mackerel); Ozaki beef (5/5)
- The fish was charcoal grilled with pickle turnip, and was good (clean, though grainy – perhaps the graininess is the essence of cooked mackerel). Ozaki beef was full of clean fat, bursting with flavor. It was fantastic. Served with salt and pepper, or with grated daikon and wasabi…
- Simmered vegetables – anago wrapped in turnip(?), tofu, spinach, shitake, daikon radish (5/5)
- The hazy moon of daikon radish, draped over a medley of vegetables. Each element was good – but the anago (wrapped in something sweet) was sensational – a touch of class – the protein that swept the dish from pedestrian to classy.
- Core: Anago wrapped in a sweet root vegetable
- Rice steamed with parrotfish (3/5)
- (Way) overcooked fish. If it didn’t undergo rigor mortis when it was iki-jime-d, it definitely went through rigor mortis in the clayware.
- Persimmon-apple blancmange (5/5)
- A delicate milky flavor from the blancmange (thickened milk pudding). Sensational. The creamy milk tastes blended well with apple. Persimmon disguised tartness from the apple.
Other Notable Links:
- Gastromondiale – “I would call this gem, which consists of six seats at the counter and a few tables, the L’Ambroisie of Tokyo. That is to say, Okuda-san, not unlike the great Pacaud of L’Ambroisie, is a true perfectionist who selects the best seasonal ingredients and calibrates complementary and contrasting elements to create incredible harmony.”
- David Kinch (chef-owner of Manresa) – “Chef Okuda is an immense talent who is working within a very codified tradition. His is a personal cuisine with a sense of place, a reflection of who he is and where he’s from. His ingredients are seasonal and top quality. His enthusiasm shows in the generous staff and overall happiness of the space. Unlike a lot of his countrymen he has embraced Michelin. He says foreigners are requesting spots in large numbers to visit the restaurant and he loves it. He says he is exposed to new ideas and can interact with different cultures. “How can I not benefit from that?” he asks.Koju deserves high rankings. It is also on the upper level of the three star strata. Warmth, passion, a quiet confidence in their own abilities make we want to return again as soon as possible even if i have to hope on a plane halfway around the world.Worth a special journey, they say and without a doubt, one of the great culinary experiences of my life.”