Alongside his friend and fellow Japanophile, food photographer Luke Burgess, Michael Ryan, owner/ chef of Provenance in Victoria's Beechworth, has released a new book, Only in Tokyo (Hardie Grant, $39.99), a personal guide to the culinary life of Japan's compelling capital. See hardiegrantbooks.com
A full day spent eating and drinking calls for a light breakfast. One of my favourite places for breakfast in Tokyo is Path and one of my most favourite things to have there for breakfast is the croissant. They are made in-house twice a day and if you are there at the right time you will see one of the pastry chefs set up a table at the front window of the restaurant and carefully shape each croissant. There is a bit of luck involved in scoring one of these beauties as they are made in small volumes and the restaurant itself is a very popular destination.
There is some amazing coffee in Tokyo, but it is not like Melbourne, where no matter where you are, you can usually be guaranteed a great coffee. So, if you after a great coffee in Tokyo, you need to either plan your day around a coffee stop, or do your due diligence on the area you are going to. Switch Coffee, in Meguro and Yoyogi Hachiman, are two places definitely worth putting in your day's itinerary for perfectly crafted espresso and pour overs.
This ramen stop is going to cost you a greater than a normal lunch time-sized stop in your day. There are always queues, and sometimes these queues can easily be over an hour long. At the end of the queue is the Tori Paitan, a chicken based soup, rich and creamy from the chicken fat in the broth, with fine wheat noodles. It may sound heavy, but it is actually quite light with rich, complex flavour. You have to ask yourself if queuing this long is worth the effort to experience one of Tokyo's finest ramen. I say "yes".
Dinner at Yamamoto is what you have been working up to all day. The kaiseki menu is full of delicious and exquisitely prepared dishes, with a strong focus on seafood. If you are there in winter you may be fortunate enough to be presented with his dish of fried shirako, or cod's sperm, (small head's up here – if you are in Tokyo in winter you will see a lot of shirako) in a rich dashi, lightly thickened with kuzu, and garnished with fresh allium flowers and Okinawan sea salt. Yamamoto, staffed by just himself and his mother, located in a basement in a non-descript office building, is possibly the epitome of the small chef-run restaurant that Tokyo is famous for.
One of the best ways to finish an evening in Tokyo is a cocktail at one of its many fabulous bars. Bar Trench is one of my favourites. It is dark and moody, and its crystal light fittings, crystal glassware and a mezzanine set up as a library give the place the feel and look of a turn-of-the-century Paris bar. Its emphasis on absinthe heightens that illusion. But this emphasis is not an obsession – this is a bar with great diversity in its drinks line-up.