Ukai Toriyama

3 05 2009

Way out in the mountains of western Tokyo is a restaurant called Ukai Toriyama. Getting there is not for the faint of heart (or for those who hate traveling long distances just for dinner). From where we used to live in the boonies, Musashi-Sakai, it took about an hour. From central Tokyo, we take 3 different trains and a private bus, or 2 hours, to get to the restaurant. We’re always glad we do.

The ambience is what really makes this place special.  Lanterns, traditional huts, koi ponds, and knowing that you are literally in the mountains, transports every visitor away from the frenetic nature of Tokyo.

lantern

ukai

room

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There are an abundance of private rooms, all sizes, for romantic meals for two or opulent dinners for companies.

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In our private room for four, we ordered the house sake in bamboo and Kirin lager.  There weren’t many options for sake–the house was decent but it may have been the bamboo playing tricks on us.

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We ordered the kaiseki menu because we wanted to try as many of them as possible during the trip.  The first dish was boiled daikon (radish) with mountain vegetables and a spot of mustard.  I liked the flavor but the texture was a bit too mushy.  Matt thought it was “meh” (exact words).

daikon

This was our second-favorite course.  All mountain vegetables: mushroom tempura (we think they were Hen of the Woods mushrooms) and greens with ground mustard and mayonnaise:

seasonal

Next up was broth with tsukune (ground chicken ball) and mountain vegetables, carrot and seaweed–the taste was bland and non-offensive.

tsukune soup

Sashimi–lovely tuna and chewy white fish:

sashimi

Chawanmushi: this version was egg custard with pieces of pork–good but not to everyone’s taste.

custard

Ayu: grilled sweet fish fish with salt and lemon (before):

fish before

Ayu after. The flesh is tender and delicious and since the bones are still attached to the spine, it’s easier to eat around them:

fish after

More tempura with shishitou (mini green peppers) on the side–our guess at the English translation was that this was a lily bulb–it resembled garlic cloves or onion but didn’t really taste like anything:

tempura

The best part of the meal was cook-your-own wagyu beef with miso paste.

meat

That stone was hot:

meat w miso

Cooked just the way I like it–the convenience of DIY meat:

cooked meat

The steamed rice was delicious, but it is served with a yam paste that I chose not to eat.  We can’t remember the rest of the dishes because it has taken us 2 months to write this review.

rice

Matt liked the flavor of the yam paste but the texture is unique because the starch in the ground-up mountain sweet potato creates a paste.  Matt’s words: “glutenous, goopy, and gooey.”

rice

Zenzai for dessert: sweet bean soup with roasted rice cake.  This is Matt’s favorite Japanese dessert.  I would eat it again but would rather have chocolate.

dessert

Overall thoughts:Ukai Toriyama is gorgeous.  The food was pretty good but nothing was incredible.  The total bill for drink and food for 4 people was $400 (no tipping in Japan).  Obviously this was more about the experience than the food, and they know that.  The non-fabulous menu total: $400.  The look on your husband’s face when he walks through the grounds for the first time: priceless.

Getting there: Keio Line from Shinjuku station to Takaosanguchi station. Private bus to restaurant. (We took the Chuo line to Takao station and then got on the Keio Line because our rail passes were only good on JR trains. Chuo is JR and Keio is not.)

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