Washoku and Bib Gourmand

One of my favorite things about Tokyo is that high quality dining can be done for prices that are actually affordable. You can get Michelin starred ramen for under 10 USD in Tokyo. While this is the land of hundred dollar grapes it is also the land of fresh produce being sold at the dollar store. If you want to spend 100 USD on the most perfectly formed grapes you’ve ever seen, you have the option. It is not your only option though. So don’t let absurd trip advisor reviews let you think Tokyo is expensive. Expensive is available but so is cheap.
There is also the Michelin Bib Gourmand.

Michelin Stars for Days

Tokyo is the most Michelin starred city on La Terra. Which does not mean it’s the world’s best city for food but it does mean something. Even if you have no interest in what a French Tire Company and a bunch of secretive French food critics think of food it’s telling that they would award more stars to a city outside of France. We aren’t talking just a few extra either, it’s more than twice the number of Paris. If the Michelin guide is GAP then the Bib Gourmand is the Old Navy edition. The Bib Gourmand is a guide for regular folks who like their food but are unable to take advantage of Donald Trump’s private jet tax break. The Bib Gourmand guide gives honorable mention to restaurants that serve “exceptionally good food at moderate prices”.

Washoku in Araki Cho

A friend from my days in Osaka came to visit us in Tokyo. He and his missus are big on food and were keen to check out Araki Cho after seeing some of the blog posts. So it was off to Miywaki. A small Japanese restaurant serving washoku, that is listed in the Tokyo Bib Gourmand guide. Washoku is complicated to explain but the “Wa” means harmony. It is considered the most indigenous and important concept in Japan. For society it means (and I’m putting this real simply) the continuous harmony of the group outweigh any personal interests. So, stand on the left on escalators and don’t you fucking dare not wait your turn in line. For food it’s more about having some form of soup, ending the meal with rice and only eating seasonal foods.

White Wine Wa

 Washoku is flavorful but still too delicate for red wine. Red wine is on the menu but for every red there are 5 whites and then a whole bunch of sake to choose from. We went with the Chablis.

Washoku Course for the Wa Win

It’s my opinion that you should just get the course. It will feature the most seasonal and freshest items on offer. Also, you wont know what you’re eating anyway. If you do know what everything on a washoku course is then you probably also think this blog is garbage. Our course started with some pretty exciting stuff. In the fancy shot glass we have wasabi leaves and stems. They tasted like…I want to say those little sparkler fireworks but that makes very little sense. In the square bowl we have konyaku which is made from a type of yam. Now, it’s not the most flavorful dish. However, in English konyaku has a crap load of awesome names. Devil’s tongue, voodoo lily, snake palm or elephant yam. Take your pick and #voodoo lily. The pink meaty bit on the left is tarako, cod roe and on the right we have a piece of sanma which is a fish called Pacific Saury (or sometimes Autumn Swordfish) and is one of Autumn’s yummiest fishes.

Next up is our soup. It’s a simple soup of matsutake mushrooms with Golden Snapper fish in a dashi broth with a slice of Kabosu (citrus) on top. My guess is this is meant to serve as a palette cleanser for the next round.

 

Sashimi round is always my favorite round of any Washoku meal. Tonight we had maguro (fatty tuna). The white one on the left is tai (sea bream) and then on the right is saba sashimi (mackerel).

Next up we have anago, salt water eel. I promise you it was delicious but at this point the Chablis must have been getting to me. Just look at that crap photo. The salt water ell comes to us grilled and covered in a tare sauce. Eel has the softest texture of any seafood I can think of.

 

Things are getting serious now. Wagyu, barely grilled, then battered and deep fried. Look how rare that is. Eaten with some horseradish and a bit of soy sauce. This was one of the highlights of the meal for me.

 

I thought things were slowing down once they brought out the chicken fried steak but I was wrong. Next up a bubbling cauldron of molten soup was brought to the table. Not just one either, one cauldron for each of us. It was covered in green onions and had an aroma of dashi and ginger. It smelled incredible and yielded quite the surprise as well.

This soup is called Suppon. If you haven’t identified that lump of meat and collagen yet dont be surprised. Turtle doesn’t usually end up on your plate. This is a Softshell Turtle Soup. Softshells are common in Japan, they linger around rivers and rice paddies. While it was odd looking it tasted amazing. Very soft meat with a consistency similar to slow cooked pork. The soup is a simple mix of dashi, soy sauce, sake and ginger. It was a big first for me. I think the strangest part was the odd shaped bones.

Next up was 2 slices of karasumi. The white strips are thinly shaved daikon radish. Karasumi is made by salting the eggs of a fish called the Flathead Grey Mullet and then drying them in the sun. If you are a fan of fish eggs and caviar you’ll love this. If you aren’t or haven’t ever tried fish eggs before…maybe don’t start with karasumi.

Next up was another cauldron. Before the cauldron came we got served a tiny plate of pickles and miso soup which meant that rice was approaching.

Inside our cauldron was rice topped with a layer of whitebait fish and what appeared to be tiny dinosaur eggs. On closer inspection they were a type of baby potato. I also just now realized that whitebait is basically baby sardines. A theme perhaps?

 

It was time  to serve up some rice and eat it with our pickles and miso soup. We also polished off what was left of the sake. While this meal was delicious the most exciting part for me was the non stop parade of things I had never eaten before. I’ve been in Japan 10 years now and every time I go out for Washoku I am exposed to something new.

Seriously, turtle bones are odd looking.

Now all that’s left is to figure out where to go drinking after your meal. You’re in Araki Cho and its a maze of bars and tiny restaurants.
Make the most of it.

Nearby Stations: Yostuaya San Chome, Akebonobashi

Neary Attractions:
Yotsuya Fire Museum 
Shinjuku National Gardens
Yotsuya Children’s Toy Museum

 

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