Secchu Yokota Tempura Omakase

secchu yokota in east village

We live in a day and age where a restaurant’s fate is seemingly determined by its ability to garner press. Those who are lucky enough to be picked up in the New York Times or to be constantly featured in food bloggers’ Instagram feeds can add on a few years, whereas those who are ignored will soon die from irrelevance. Which is why it’s unusual to find Secchu Yokota, a Japanese tempura restaurant in the East Village that operates under the radar in soft-open mode and has never officially advertised its opening, thriving.Read More

Day 2 in Tokyo: Omakase at Sushi Nakamura

Our second day in Tokyo was a lazy one. The early morning sushi wake-up call and the jet lag were wearing on us a little. We decided to do as few planned activities as possible–a visit to the Meiji Temple, and then an open itinerary for the rest of the day.

After a peaceful walk through the Meiji Temple, in which we witnessed a traditional wedding ceremony take place, we made our way to Shibuya to check out potential sightings of crazy HarajukuĀ street fashions (of which there were none), as well as to eat gyoza at this highly popular place Harajuku Gyozaro. Unfortunately the restaurant was closed for renovations, so we decided to eat at a nearby Southeast AsianĀ restaurant called Chao Bamboo. Judging by the line of locals out the door, we figured that the food must be pretty good. Eating pho and papaya salad in Japan might sound a little weird, but our meal was very tasty, and that Indonesian fried rice was outstanding.

chao bamboo food stall
chao bamboo food stall
chao bamboo - pho
spicy pho noodles
chao bamboo - papaya salad
blue papaya salad
this mutton tasted like curried lamb
fried mutton with cumin and fennel (tasted like curried lamb)
indonesian fried rice was so good, we almost ordered another
indonesian fried rice was so good, we almost ordered another

After more window shopping, we went back to our hotel to freshen up and met up with some friends for pre-dinner cocktails at the historic Hotel Okura. It was pretty clear that this hotel was from another time, probably in the 1950s where well-dressed Japanese people would come here for cigars and a classy cocktail or two. I ordered a moscow mule, which was well mixed and very refreshing.

hotel okura lobby
hotel okura lobby
a well-stocked bar
a well-stocked bar
moscow mule with a side of japanese crackers
moscow mule with a side of japanese crackers

But really we were biding time until the real highlight of the evening, an omakase at Sushi Nakamura, a Michelin star establishment in Roppongi. As soon as 9 pm arrived, we took a taxi over to the restaurant, which was housed behind a set of non-descript wooden sliding doors. Once inside, we were seated around a small sushi bar managed by a very zen-like chef whose shaved head and simple robe enhanced the monastic vibe that he gave off.

Sometimes omakase dinners aren’t the most relaxing experiences, in which the sushi chefs call you out if you aren’t consuming the dish properly, and they sort of point-blank ask you if you liked each piece. This chef, on the other hand, was low key and non-confrontational, which I liked. He gave you something, you’d eat it, probably love it, and then move on. The only exchange of words needed is if you want extra pieces of the courses you especially enjoyed, which is an option at the end of the omakase, and something you’ll likely take him up on. The eel here is amazing, it’s nothing like the tough, salty, boney strands that are slapped on rice beds in your run-of-the-mill sushi place. You can’t taste any bones here, the meat dissolves in your mouth like foam, which is pretty unreal and fantastic. The toro of course was excellent, as was the Santa Barbara uni and the egg custard, which was very similar to the Jiro kind. Here are some pictures of each course in the omakase.

nakamura - 1 menu
the omakase menu – not sure what it says…
nakamura - 2 clam soup
clam soup
nakamura - 3 clams from the soup
clams used in the soup
nakamura - 4 octopus
nakamura - 5 abalone
nakamura - 6 seaweed salad
nakamura - 7 pike and radish
a very oily fish (i think pike mackerel) and radish
nakamura - 8 the requisite sake
the requisite sake bottle
nakamura - 9 white fish
some sort of white fish
nakamura - 10 squid
nakamura - 11 toro
nakamura - 12 shrimp
nakamura - 13 uni
santa barbara uni
nakamura - 14 fatty toro
fattier toro
nakamura - 15 roe and rice
roe and rice
nakamura - 16 seared toro
seared toro (delicious)
nakamura - 17 miso soup with meatballs
miso soup with meatballs
nakamura - 18 sea eel
this eel was like a dream
nakamura - 19 uni
uni roll, this time from japanese waters
nakamura - 20 tamago
egg custard

Rather than trying to follow up this grand finale with another epic meal and risk disappointment if it didn’t measure up, our last supper was a simple bowl of ramen noodles at Gogyo. Japan is obviously the ramen epicenter of the universe with endless varieties to choose from, many of which we’ve never had, including the burnt miso ramen, which Gogyo is known for.

burnt miso ramen
burnt miso ramen
pork over rice
pork over rice

The burnt miso gets its name from the charred bits of lard residue that are poured into a miso flavored broth, resulting in a thick and savory tar pit that is more sauce than soup. There’s no way you can actually slurp the broth, since it’s probably 100% fat and extremely dense. It’s meant to just coat the noodles like a tsukemen or mazemen, which was disappointing because the broth is one of my favorite parts of ramen. But I got over it, because there were many more epic meals to look forward to on the rest of the trip…onwards to Hakone

Sushi Nakamura
7-17-16 Roppongi, Minato-ku,
Tokyo, 106-0032, Japan

Chao Bamboo
6-7-12 Jingumae, Shibuya
Tokyo Prefecture, Japan

1-4-36 Nishiazabu, Minato-ku
Tokyo, 106-0031, Japan