Save the Best for Last


That good huh?


These are sounds of our conversation during our last meal in Tokyo at Kaikaya. We’re using the term “conversation” loosely. It was a consistent chorus of expletives and grunts of joy.

This was hands down our favorite meal in Japan and possibly one of our best meals of the entire trip.

Yes. We said it.

Our dinner at Kaikaya was THAT GOOD.

So good that we had to save it for our last post about Japan.

We checked out of our hotel just before noon and attempted to eat at Kaikaya for lunch. The owner met us at the door and told us that he’d rather us go somewhere else for our midday meal and come back in the evening because dinner is where the magic happens.

Such honest advice could only be respected and we decided that we’d trudge around Tokyo for almost 8 hours to await this spectacular meal. All the lockers at the train station were taken, so packs in tow, we wandered and checked the clock incessantly until that glorious hour arrived.

We were the first ones at the restaurant when it opened and received some special attention from the head waiter as he advised us on the best options for the evening. He even detered us from ordering too much food. Good sign #2.

We will never tire of sashimi in Japan so we started with a sampler platter. Kaikaya did a masterful job preparing each marvelous slice of fish fresh from Tsukiji that morning.

The dish that ellicited the most jubilant emotion was the spare rib style tuna. Everything about the fish told us it was a rib, the shape of the “meat”, the way the fish fell off the bone, the succulent sauce. How is this even possible?! We were flabergasted.

One of the secrets behind this fishy/meaty masterpiece: tuna cheek. Pure fish ingenuity. If Einstein were a chef, he’d make this dish. Better yet. If TED stood for Tuna Edible Delicacies, the cook of this meal would be the inaugural speaker.

We rounded out our meal with a traditional grilled fish along with a plate of sizzling mushrooms. Nearly on the brink of fullness, we ordered a green tea “cake bar” for dessert. It was the perfect ender to our meal even though one of us (irrationally) thought we would be brought to a bar that served only cake.

Many thanks to our friend, Rie, for leading us to this fabulous spot. We’re not alone in our enthusiasm for Kaikaya. Various celebrities frequent the restaurant, particularly Nora Jones, who eats there each time she visits Tokyo.

This meal illustrates all the wonder that we’ve felt as we ate our way through Japan. The food manages to be simple but complex, indulgent but still fresh, and exudes a similar reverence for the ingredients that we’ve experienced at the holiest of shrines and temples. In a country that (humbly) prides themselves for respect from establishing Article 9 that renounces war to the omnipresent practice of bowing, the admiration for their own cuisine is clearly evident.

Someone once said that eating a country’s food is a way to look into its soul. Japan’s soul is peaceful, delicious and awe-inspiring. Our taste buds will never be the same.

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