Wadakura at the Palace Hotel Tokyo 和田倉

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Seasonal Sashimi of Sea Bream, Medium Fatty Tuna, and Squid

Kaiseki restaurant Wadakura in the Palace Hotel Tokyo is a quiet oasis overlooking the moat of the Imperial Palace. Seasonal dishes are brought out in small portions and presented on beautiful dishes. There are many good reasons for having kaiseki for lunch. First and foremost, it is much more affordable than having kaiseki for dinner. But, more importantly, evening kaiseki meals can be very taxing on the stomach. Some kaiseki restaurants are only open for dinner, so it is good to keep in mind the restaurants that are serve kaiseki at lunch, including Wadakura.

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Wagyū Sirloin Steak Jyūbako

I dined with a girlfriend so we ordered two different menu items. This jyūbako, a square lacquer box of rice topped with seared wagyū sirloin steak as the main part of the kaiseki is 8,700 JPY. This comes with an appetizer, sashimi, miso soup, pickles, and dessert. The meat was marbled with fat but was not too rich. A great option for meat eaters.

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Nodate Bentō Box

The three-tiered lunch box kaiseki set starts at 5,400 JPY. This is a lovely presentation with many courses served in one box. This is also served with rice, miso soup, pickles, and dessert. Following are some of the highlights of the Nodate bentō.

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Wagyū Croquette

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Grilled delicacies. Small bites including duck, eel, chicken, and eggplant.

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Bamboo Shoot, Wakamé, Fuki (butterbur stalks), and Roe

This is a typical spring dish. Delicate flavors of the ocean (fresh wakamé and roe) come together with mountain vegetables (bamboo shoots and butterbur stalks). In particular, the sansai mountain vegetables sing of spring. Tender bamboo shoots and the crunchy butterbur stalks simmered in dashi.

Desserts were the perfect finish to a big meal, warabi mochi with coconut and mango and an aromatic annin dōfu.

Wadakura is on the 6th floor of the Palace Hotel Tokyo. There are private rooms, but the main dining room has a large window overlooking the moat of the Imperial Palace. There are only a handful of tables in the simple space so it still feels intimate. This day the other diners included some businessmen and well-heeled ladies. The kimono-clad servers are very gracious and could answer my many questions about the different ingredients. The Nodate bentō comes with a bilingual Japanese and English menu which is a nice souvenir, especially when looking back at the photos of the different dishes. A very nice touch for novices to Japanese cuisine who want to know more about the varied ingredients.

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Ichi-no-Ichi-no-Ichi Palace Hotel Original Sake

One of the highlights of dining at Wadakura is the private branded saké made for the Palace Hotel by Hakkaisan of Niigata. This saké is not sold retail so the only place one can try this is at the Palace Hotel. The name of the sake, Ichi-no-Ichi-no-Ichi, is the address for the hotel, Marunouchi 1-1-1. The calligraphy on the label is gorgeous as well. The saké has a nice aroma of rice and is very food-friendly.

Wadakura, a kaiseki oasis on the moat of the Imperial Palace, is a short walk from Tokyo Station.

Wadakura at the Palace Hotel Tokyo

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 1-1-1

030-3211-5322

Marunouchi Raku Soba

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The guy sitting next to me said to his friend regarding the soba at Raku, “you’ll love it or hate it”. I had already started slurping away and I knew what he meant. It’s not your typical bowl of buckwheat noodles. These handmade noodles are thick cut and the densest soba I’ve ever had. The first bite I was caught off guard by the heartiness of the noodles. You wouldn’t take to bring your grandmother here. But I got into these chewy noodles as they are so different to the soba I am used to.

Early lunch diners are given the option of extra noodles at no charge. At first I said yes. Come on, who says “no” to free food, right? But then I looked one of the diner’s bowls and realized it might be too much for me to chew. I asked the cashier if the “oomori” was an extra large portion and maybe too much to finish and he said that it was. I asked for a regular bowl and even that I could not finish.

This is the tempura soba. Kabocha squash, eggplant, squid, and chikuwa tempura served on a bowl of noodles. Chikuwa is a fish cake that has been shaped into a log with a hole in it that has been grilled, not deep-fried, like many fish cakes. Chikuwa tempura is a classic topping for noodles in Japan, not only for soba but also for udon.

When placing your order you have to specify hot or cold. I almost always order cold noodles with a dipping sauce as it is a great way to enjoy the texture, aroma, and flavor of the buckwheat noodles. At Raku the dipping sauce and noodles are served in the same bowl. The waitress behind the counter generously tops each bowl of soba with two spoons of toasted sesame seeds and a nest of julienned nori. She has a rhythm down to topping each bowl and its done with speed in mind. On the counter are bowls of tenkasu, tempura bits that can also be used for topping the soba, highly recommended.

Raku has two long counters facing each other with staff in between the two counters. The frosted thermos is filled with cold soba tea that is slightly nutty and very refreshing. If you order the cold soba noodles a server will bring you a black thermos with sobayū, the hot water that has been boiling the soba noodles. Pour a bit of this into the bowl and you can drink the concentrated sauce.

My fellow diners were mostly salarymen eating a quick and affordable meal. No surprise as this is the Marunouchi business district. Most bowls are under 1,000 JPY ($10). The music was a surprisingly hip and upbeat salsa music. Not at all what one would expect to find at a soba shop, but this is not just any soba shop, what they are doing is definitely different. The shop was packed and I was there before the noon rush peak. I was impressed at the number of diners the restaurant squeezes into each counter. This would never pass in America, they would have taken at least two, if not three, seats away.

I would love to come back at night some time. The shop has a small selection of saké, umeshū, and shōchū and some small bites like lotus root stuffed with ground meat and deep-fried chicken cartilage. And, I would love to try the nikusoba, a generous serving of thin-sliced meat over the noodles. My only advice, avoid the peak lunch time, there is always a long line in front of this shop.

Suju Masayuki Raku 酢重正之 楽

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 1-5-1, Shin-Marunouchi Bldg. B1 千代田区丸の内1-5-1新丸ビルB1

Cafe Salvador in Marunouchi

 

I am very excited to hear about this new cafe that opened today in Marunouchi. Cafe Salvador will have magazines, both Japanese and foreign, for customers to peruse while drinking their java. Titles include Vanity Fair, GQ, The New Yorker, Conde Naste Traveller, and more. The cafe collaboration with Conde Naste and the Cafe Company is a brilliant idea. As it just opened today I haven’t been but look forward to going there soon.

Cafe Salvador

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 3-2-3, Fuji Building 1F

Monday – Friday 7:00〜23:00; Saturday 10:00〜23:00; Sunday and holidays 10:00〜20:00; open daily

03-5220-6466