Park Hyatt Tokyo Kozue’s Tohoku Heroes

Hatsumago Sparkling

Hatsumago Sparkling

Kozue at the Park Hyatt Tokyo is a lovely spot for Japanese cuisine. At lunch if the skies are clear you have a gorgeous view of Mount Fuji. At night the city twinkles below you.

Two years ago Kozue did a special Tohoku menu to show their support for three prefectures that were hit hard by the earthquake and tsunami, Fukshima, Miyagi, and Iwate. This year Kozue is repeating the Tohoku Heroes menu, but moving on to the other three prefectures, Aomori, Akita, and Yamagata.

Chef Kenichiro Ooe is from Yamagata, as is my family, so we share this connection with Tohoku. At a recent dinner at Kozue chef Ooe introduced many products and sake from Tohoku.

Koji Nishizaki, the manager of Kozue, gave lovely commentary on the sake with each course. We started the evening off with a sparkling sake from Hatsumago. Hatsumago is a lovely brewery from Sakata in Yamagata. I sold many bottles of Hatsumago when I worked at Takashimaya. It means the first grandchild. A lovely gift for new grandparents. It is only 10% in alcohol, so light on the palate and refreshing. A great start to any evening.


Hiraizumi Marubi 15, Yamahai Junmai, Akita Miyama-nishiki rice. The yeast that is used for this sake is called Akita kobo #15, where the sake gets its name. Although it is a yamahai sake, it is not too heavy as yamahai can be. A very food friendly sake.


Chef Ooe talked about visiting the Tohoku region to meet the farmers, ranchers, and fishermen behind many of the products that they are using. For example, the watarigani crab used in this starter has a local name of gazami. I love these local colloquialism regarding food. It seems to be especially prevalent with seafood. The crab is  steamed in sake, spinach, myoga, and Tosa-zu jelly. Tosa-zu is a classic tart dressing made with rice vinegar, soy sauce, mirin, and dashi. As a jelly it adds a nice texture to the dish. The Hatsumago sparkling paired well with the Tosa-zu jelly, myoga, and crab. Underneath is some kani-miso, or the offal of the crab, a delicacy and an unexpected and nice surprise. The rich kani-miso was rich and paired well with the Hiraizumi Yamahai Junmai.


Warm Aomori hokkigai appetizer with seri, maitake mushrooms, ginko nuts, and sansho was served with Hakkoda Oroshi Daiginjo. Both the hokkigai clam and sake are from Aomori, so a natural partner. I also love this dish with the accent on both edges of the bowl. Dining at Kozue is also a delight on the eyes. Each time I am here I come across new tableware that capture my attention. The Japanese eat with their eyes and taking in the vessels are part of the pleasure of dining at Kozue.


Owan soup bowl. Check out this lovely lacquer bowl with silver and gold circles. My neighbor at the dinner, a Japanese travel writer, said, “it is September”, like I should know why this bowl is being used this time of year. Of course, the harvest moon. So here you also get an appreciation that chef Ooe selected this bowl for this dish due to the time of year.


The owan soup course is a famous local dish called ichigoni of awabi and uni. I’ve tried it in the past and have never liked it, until now. Chef Ooe’s soup was rich in umami and the seafood was pristine. It didn’t hurt that there was matsutake mushrooms and other vegetables in the soup.


Denshu Tokubetsu Junmai from Aomori, lucky if you can get your hands on this sake. :-)

PHT Kozue sashimi

Chef Ooe sashimi presentation always has a big impact. How gorgeous is this large katakuchi bowl filled with crushed ice? This is a serving for three guests. Mimmaya bluefin tuna, makogarei, and amaebi. The fresh nori is always a treat. Chef Ooe commented that it is still early in the season and that the tuna was not as fatty as it will be later in the season as the water cools down.


Amanoto made with kuro koji from Akita. This was my favorite of the night. I wonder if it is because of the black koji – as I am a fan of Okinawa awamori spirit, which is also made with kuro koji. It was served with a Hinai jidori chicken from Akita and included a kiritampo rice ball, a classic dish from Akita. It was nice to see it elevated to this level, as it is a dish often made at home. I think this dish that this was presented in was my favorite of the night.

Sadly I had to leave the dinner, unexpectedly, and missed out on the Yamagata Yonezawa wagyu and the Yamagata soba. Dessert was a rice ice cream. I did love being introduced to new sake, a renewed appreciation for Tohoku ingredients, and seeing new vessels. If you go, I highly recommend asking to have Tohoku sake paired with your meal.

The Tohoku Heroes event runs now through November 30th, both lunch and dinner. There will be a special dinner on the evening of November 29th, where some of the producers will be in attendance. For more details:

Imperial Hotel La Brasserie

La Brasserie

Chaliapin Steak

Feodor Ivanovich Chaliapin, a Russian opera singer, was touring in Japan in 1936, and was a guest of the Imperial Hotel. He was dining at the New Grill, the predecessor to La Brasserie, even though he was suffering from a toothache, he wanted to have steak. The executive chef, Fukuo Tsutsui, came up with this dish, now called the Chaliapin Steak. Taking inspiration from the classical sukiyaki dish, he put finely minced onions on top of a steak to soften the meat and then grilled it.

The ingredients are simply steak, onions, butter, salt and pepper. La Brasserie uses aged rump steak. The onions are sautéed just enough to draw out the sweetness.

La Brasserie is a nice nod to the classic French brasseries. As it is in the basement of the Imperial Hotel, many visitors never make it down here, which is also part of its intrigue. The restaurant is popular with Japanese and reservations are highly recommended at lunch as it is very busy.

The interior reminds me of a polished up Balthazar. Red banquettes, but these are velvet. Service is professional but without the stuffiness that can be found at many Japanese French restaurants.

If you are craving something more formal, then head to the mezzanine level to Chef Thierry Voisin’s Les Saisons, which has recently started serving breakfast. I am a big fan of his cuisine.

La Brasserie at the Imperial Hotel
Chiyoda-ku, Uchisaiwai-cho 1-1-1 千代田区内幸町1-1-1
Imperial Hotel, Tokyo, Tower Bldg., LL1

Imperial Hotel Lemon Pie

Imperial Hotel Terrace Lemon Pie

Imperial Hotel Terrace Lemon Pie

The main building of the Hotel Okura will be closing at the end of summer. Many are coming to sit in the lobby under the signature lantern lamps. The visitors are a mix of locals and non-Japanese, young and old. It will be sad to say sayonara to this beautiful lobby as we know it.

I wanted to bid farewell to the hotel with a taste of the Okura. The lemon pie at the Terrace restaurant is the original recipe and has not changed in 50 years. It is sweet and tart and has an old school meringue on top. The custard is rich with eggs and the lemon flavor is mild. It is the lemon pies I grew up with, not the fancy tarte au citron available at French patisseries throughout the city. It tastes old and what better way to say adieu than with a nod to the past?

Lemon Pie poster

Lemon Pie poster

A poster of the Lemon Pie at the hotel. It is one of their signature items.

One of the staff escorted me to the Terrace Restaurant and I asked her about the new hotel and if the lobby would be coming back. She did say that plans are to save some of the pieces, such as the lantern lamps, chairs, and tables. If it makes sense to bring these back, then we may be seeing some of these again. The South Wing will remain open during reconstruction of the main building.

Hotel Okura Lantern Lamps

Hotel Okura Lantern Lamps

I’ve stayed in the Hotel Okura years ago for about a week. I never made it to the Terrace Restaurant, and so exploring the hotel was another treat. I was here for business and all I could enjoy of the hotel was my bed and bath.

There is a lovely garden that the Terrace overlooks. Sitting next to me was a group of older Japanese ladies who were very sad about the renovation project. One even walked over to the small pond to bid farewell to the fish. We are all treasuring these last few days.

Hotel Okura

Minato-ku, Toranomon 2-10-4

New York Grill Lunch at the Park Hyatt Tokyo

Park Hyatt Tokyo

New York Grill buffet

One of my favorite lunch spots in Tokyo is at the New York Grill in the Park Hyatt Tokyo. The view at 52 floors above Tokyo is amazing, even when it is overcast and lightly raining. The lunch starts at 5,000 JPY and includes a gorgeous buffet of appetizers. Customers choose a main course and then dive into the buffet again for dessert.

Appetizers include flatbreads, salads, sliced meats, and much more. It’s hard not to stuff yourself with only appetizers, but make sure to make room for the main course.

We asked for seats at the kitchen counter so that we could talk with chef Federico Heinzmann. He was very gracious to talk to us about the different dishes and answer our many questions. Sitting here is also fun as we can watch all of the customers come in. It’s such an amazing spot that it is great to watch the faces of guests as they look into the open kitchen, as they check out the view, and as they walk into the main dining room. On this day it was cloudy and I expected the restaurant to be quiet, but even on this day it was busy.

Park Hyatt Tokyo

Chef Federico Heinzmann’s Chicken

Argentinian chef Federico recommended the chicken as it “is the most Latin”. The chicken is marinated in orange juice, grilled and topped with a fresh salsa and served with a corn cake. Living in Tokyo the flavors are so exotic and I quickly said that I would not be sharing this with Shinji.

Park Hyatt Tokyo

Australian Lamb and Romesco Sauce

Shinji was fine not sharing as he loved the lamb, which we don’t eat very often. The sauce was made with bell peppers and hazelnuts. Chef told us about how in Spain this is used as a dipping sauce for whole leeks that have been charred and peeled. it sounds like an amazing dish. The hazelnuts makes it a very meat, albeit, vegetarian sauce. Chef Federico was kind enough to share the recipes for the sauces for both dishes, so we will try to recreate some of these at home.

The wine list is rich in American wines, mainly from California. There are always interesting offerings by the glass, perfect for lunch.

Park Hyatt Tokyo

Dessert Buffet at New York Grill

This is only half of the dessert buffet. There is something here for everyone, including ice cream and several sauces and toppings as well as a simple fruit salad with mango and pineapple, and key lime pie. Coffee and dessert is usually taken in the New York Bar so diners get another magnificent view of the city. Fans of Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation will remember this space as it has a starring role in the movie.

Service is always impeccable here. If you are looking for a special lunch spot, the New York Grill, never disappoints. I have come in the past with girlfriends and we still reminisce about our lunch here, years later. The view, the cuisine, and the service makes this a memorable meal.

New York Grill at the Park Hyatt Tokyo

Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 3-7-1-2


Chef Nicolas Boujéma of Signature at Mandarin Oriental


There is a new French chef in town, Nicolas Boujéma, at Signature in the Mandarin Oriental. I was very curious to try his food as he has a very impressive resumé, most recently coming from Pierre Gagnaire in Hong Kong. I had the chance to interview him for Metropolis magazine for a Tastemaker piece. It’s always exciting to see a chef who is new to Japan explore the local ingredients. Boujéma is a talented chef and it will be fun to revisit and see how his cuisine evolves as he experiences the changing produce and seafood. He lives near Tsukiji Market and visits often, and says that he finds a lot of inspiration there.

Louis Roederer champagne to start, a lovely wine. This table overlooks Tokyo station, the Bank of Japan, and the historic Nihonbashi district where the Mandarin Oriental is located.


Some lovely amuse bouche to start includes smoked eel, an aromatic muscat, and gougère.


An earthy Australian truffle soup, ravioli foie gras, with a light vegetable broth. It is well balanced and not too heavy, and just sexy enough with the truffles. Which makes me feel guilty for indulging in something so nice before dinner.Sig4

Saffron butter and whipped butter. Excellent bread is being made in house  like this petit baguette and brioche. The saffron butter was a very nice touch.


Tavel Chateau d’Aquéria is a lovely rosé and perfect not only on a hot summer day, as this was, but also with the sardine and tomato dish it was served with.Sig6

Lovely presentation of iwashi (sardine) that is marinated in salt, lemon juice,  and olive oil. It’s served with a refreshing tomato terrine, goat cheese from Loire, Italian ham, and mustard crouton. Again, the dish is well-balanced and not too rich, as one would expect from iwashi.


Alsace is one of my favorite wine regions for its aromatic white wines with a crisp acidity. It is the wine I choose when we are out and celebrating a special occasion. When the sommelier brought this to the table I couldn’t stop smiling. I was told that a former Japanese sommelier at Signature married into the Hugel family and is now living in Alsace. This was riesling was nice with this next dish.


My favorite dish of the meal was this amazing combination of truffles, waffle, braised shallots, leeks, mushrooms, and whipped cream with truffles. The leek was sliced thin and painted onto the plate. The waffle pockets were stuffed with braised shallots and served with a lovely Port sauce. And again, a hedonistic course with truffles. Had I been at home I would have picked up the plate and licked it clean. Sig9

Francois Villard Condrieu Les Terraces du Palaix. Lovely aromatics in this viognier. This floral Rhone wine is perfect for the accompanying fish main dish which reminded me of the Mediterranean.Sig10

Bouillabaise inspired cod, amadai sashimi, eggplant puree with lemon, zucchini, and fennel. The warm breeze of the south of France. A nice touch of amadai (tile fish) sashimi with the cod. Sig11

Potato espumante with saffron is a refreshing palate cleanser before the cheese course.Sig12

Macon La Roche Vineuse Gamay – lovely with the cheese! Fruity yet with a nice backbone.

48 months aged Comte cheese which I am told is very rare. It is prepared with truffles, a white pepper cream, and shaved with some sweet jelly, and brioche in the middle. Muscat grape and dragon fruit. A luxurious course and so nice to see the cheese served three ways.


Hakuto peaches espumante. A wonderful, light finish and a nice touch as peaches are at the peak of their seasonality in Japan at the moment. Sig15

And a few sweet touches to end a lovely lunch.

It’s always exciting to welcome a new chef to Tokyo. Be sure to put Signature on your Go List for Tokyo. Excellent food, outstanding service, knowledgeable sommeliers, and spectacular views – day or night. It will be fun to watch his cuisine evolve as he acquaints himself with the seasonal Japanese ingredients.

Signature at the Mandarin Oriental

Nihonbashi Muromachi 2-1-1

Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Reservations: 03-3270-8188

Kozue at the Park Hyatt Tokyo

Kozue at the Park Hyatt Tokyo under the helm of talented chef Kenichiro Ooe is a wonderful traditional Japanese restaurant with amazing views of Mount Fuji on a clear day. Lunch was a gorgeous affair filled with seasonal spring May seafood and vegetables.

First course – Yomogi (mugwort) tofu garnished with shirasu, umeboshi neriume, gomadare (sesame sauce), and wasabi – loved the lacquer spoon at the bottom of the photo.

First course close-up. The yomogi is an earthy green which was a nice contrast to the sesame dressing. The tart umeboshi brightened up the palate and the shirasu added a nice texture and contrast to the dish.

Second course – Ainame (greenling) with itawarabi (gelatin-like sheets made from bracken – this can only be made in the spring), and wakame soup with ki no me (tender leaves from Japanese prickly ash sansho).

One of the pleasures of Japanese cuisine is that even after years of experiencing the cuisine, I am constantly learning about new ingredients. Today’s surprise was the itawarabi. It had a delicate, jelly-like texture. I thought it was a thin sheet of konnyaku. Chef Oe explained that it was itawarabi and something that is only made in spring when warabi are harvested from the mountains.

Third course – Sashimi course of tairagai (pen shell), katsuo with pickled rakkyo over grated daikon oroshi, ika (squid), and namanori (fresh nori), and julienned daikon.

A famous chef from the US highly recommended Kozue to me. He said the cuisine was exquisite, but he was also taken with the presentation of the food and the serving vessels. I understood when this sashimi course was presented in this large ceramic filled with crushed ice. The kimono-clad waitress then plated the seafood and garnishes onto serving dishes. A feast for the eyes indeed. See for yourself the difference from the above photo to the one below.

Third course – after arranged by waitress. My favorite was the tairagai which I don’t see much outside of Japan, notably sashimi grade tairagai.

Fourth course – Again a beautiful presentation under fresh wasabi leaves.

Fourth course  uncovered – Spanish mackerel with eggs, hotaruika (firefly squid), kani  (crab) potato croquette.

Fifth course – Tai zushi under a sakura leaf

Sixth course – Takenoko (bamboo shoots) pork and cabbage (home-style rolled cabbage). This is a dish I will try to make at home. I love rolled cabbage but can’t be bothered with making the dish more than once a year. Here, chef Ooe stuffs the ground pork mixture into layers of cabbage that are then cooked. Brilliant idea. And, delicious.

Seventh course – Asari gohan with pickles and fuki (butterbur) miso soup. Asari clams cooked with the rice. A nice way to end the savory dishes with.

Eighth course – Yamabudo (mountain grapes) with ichigo strawberries and biwa (loquat) jelly and creme sauce and berry sauce. I love these large glass dishes. I have seen it used for both savory and sweet courses and it’s always a treat. This course was a nice, light finish to the many dishes.

We had tea with our meal and I feel as though we were served at least two if not three types of tea throughout the meal. Service was lovely. And even though I speak Japanese it was nice to hear the staff explain each dish in English. They could answer all my questions which was also very impressive.

While my eyes are mostly on the food, between courses looking over the room the high ceilings are impressive. The windows face West. So if the skies are clear Mount Fuji is just in front of you. On this weekday lunch the restaurant was very busy. A few tourists, several business lunches, and some ladies-who-lunch types.

One option at lunch is to take your dessert at the Peak Bar & Lounge which is a restaurant on a different floor, also with high ceilings and great views, including a wall that overlooks Mount Fuji. I will do this next time I eat at Kozue.

Chef Ooe came out and talked about the dishes, ingredients, and about Japanese food in general. He said that he is from Yamagata, which is also where my mother is from. Now that I see his photo, I think we could be long-lost relatives. We could be second or third cousins. He reminds me of some of my first cousins so you never know. :-)

Kozue at the Park Hyatt Tokyo

click on the link above and another link will appear for the menu

Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 3-7-1-2


Lunch: Daily – 11:30 am to 2:30 pm
Dinner: Daily – 5:30 pm to 10:00 pm