Tokyo for the New Year: Ushigoro

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Ushigoro
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The best meal that I ate in Tokyo–and one of the best meals I ate in 2013–was at a yakiniku restaurant called Ushigoro. This restaurant was recommended to me by my friend Aimal who spent two months working in Tokyo earlier in 2013.

I don’t like making reservations in advance for fancy restaurants during short trips, as I’m never sure what my jet lag will be like and if I’ll want to eat a 2-hour meal at 7pm on the first day I’m in a new city. As a result, I didn’t make reservations for this restaurant until I arrived at the Park Hyatt. Luckily, when the concierge called, there was space available for me that same night at 5pm, provided that I finish my meal by 6:30pm, which I was happy to do.

The restaurant is located in Roppongi, roughly a 10 minute walk from the Roppongi metro station.

Restaurant facade

Restaurant facade

I was the first diner to be seated. At the table was a bib to wear instead of a napkin. I’m not sure if this is a traditional thing, but the food wasn’t messy at all so I’m not sure why they offered a bib.

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They have one waiter who speaks fluent English, and he was quite friendly and willing to explain to me how to eat each course (he also remembered Aimal from his numerous visits). My friend had recommended that I get the most expensive set menu (10,000 yen), which isn’t actually listed in the English menu, so that’s what I went with. As a result, I’m not 100% positive on what I ate at times, so I apologize for mislabeling in advance.

English menu (but not exactly what I ordered)

English menu (but not exactly what I ordered)

I was first served an assortment of kimchi and a small, simply dressed salad. The kimchi wasn’t overly spicy or overly sauced, and it was a great, crunchy, slightly sweet and spicy assortment of vegetables to get my mouth excited for what was to come.

Assorted kimchi and salad

Assorted kimchi and salad

The first three courses of beef were all served raw. From left-to-right, it seemed to be a take on carpaccio, tartare, and sushi. I don’t have much experience eating raw beef, but each of these bites was astounding, with the beef sushi being the best piece of sushi I had in Tokyo (better than the sushi I had at the Tsukiji fish market).

Raw beef three ways

Raw beef three ways

Next up were three different cuts of beef that were grilled by my server. Since each cut was relatively thick, this was done to make sure that I didn’t overcook or undercook the beef myself. There were a couple of garnishes as accompaniments, as well as a healthy serving of freshly grated wasabi. Unlike the fake stuff that’s endemic in the US, this wasabi tasted fresh and subtle. Each cut of meat was cooked perfectly, with a nice sear on the outside and the juiciest, most succulent red meat on the inside. The meat was also well-seasoned, highlighting the incredible flavor of the beef. While it’s clear that this meat had a lot of fat content to be so flavorful, nothing felt fatty.

Three cuts of beef to be grilled

Three cuts of beef to be grilled

Freshly grated wasabi

Freshly grated wasabi

Beef on the grill

Beef on the grill

I was then served a bowl of soup with a meatball. While I’m sure that people who enjoy soup would have liked this more, this was my least favorite course of the night.

Meatball soup

Meatball soup

The next course was a large, thin slice of sirloin grilled by my server and then rolled up and dipped into a delicious ponzu sauce with radish. The meat was tender and yielding to my teeth and yet so full of flavor, which is usually rare to find with beef.

Grilled and rolled sirloin

Grilled and rolled sirloin

The accompaniments for the next round of beef included a teriyaki-like sauce, an egg, and some rice. For this round of meat, I was to grill it myself, and each piece needed only a couple of second per side to be cooked. Again, each cut of meat was immensely flavorful without feeling fatty or too rich, and the accompaniments provided a nice slightly sweet and yolky contrast.

Dipping sauces for the next round of meats

Dipping sauces for the next round of meats

Three cuts of meat to be grilled on your own

Three cuts of meat to be grilled on your own

The last savory dish was a Japanese curry, which was the best Japanese curry I’ve ever had. The curry was complex and flavorful, and each bite made me want to eat another to unravel another layer of flavor.

Special Japanese curry

Special Ushigoro curry

Finally, I had the pudding for dessert, which was creamy and delightful and a great conclusion to the meal.

Pudding for dessert

Pudding for dessert

I have never had beef like I had at Ushigoro. Granted, I generally lean toward vegetarian tendencies, so it’s not like I’m hitting up steakhouses on a weekly basis in the US, but this was by far the best quality and best tasting beef I’ve ever eaten in my life. If all meat in the world tasted this good, I would finally understand why people eat so much meat.

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