First up, Tojo's "Omakase", where Hidekasu Tojo is doing miraculous things with local ingredients. Tojo has a reputation on par with Masa Takayama's eponomously named restauarnt in Manhattan. After this meal is was easy to see why. The key here is to grab some of the coveted seats at the sushi counter, which in a sign of the down economy we were able to do on short notice. When you sit at the counter you get served "omakase" style, where small courses come one after the other, according to the chef's whim, and limited only by your appetite (which when it comes to me is a slightly scary position to be put in, being that I'm a boy who has a terrible time saying no, especially to great food). All we had to do was answer two questions: Are we allergic to anything and are we adventurous eaters? After our "no" and "yes" answers, Tojo told us he would make us things we had never had before, and my anticipation ratcheted up about ten levels. With that, our first course....
Incredible bluefin sashimi, each slice is about a half inch thick. The best sashimi I have ever put in my mouth, so achingly tender. Tojo told us "Don't use your teeth, only tongue" (the first in a running set of instructions throughout dinner: "no soy sauce"; "use fingers, no chopsticks, no sauce"), which caused the flavors to explode all over our mouths. Amazing!
Since I forgot to take a picture of the second course, an earthy, pure tasting soup of shiitake mushrooms with a scallop puree that was as good as it sounds, I'll include a pic of Tojo (on the left) doing witchcraft behind the counter.
This was a succulent pile of octopus, lightly sauced, topped with flower blossoms. BTW-the sauce descriptions here are pretty non-existent, because I am unfamiliar with Japanese cooking, and I was too busy swooning and weeping to ask any questions. Suffice to say they were all perfectly matched to our dishes. The octopus again was super clean, with just the right chew to it according to w. For me maybe a little tough...slightly...maybe.....
A beautifully presented sea urchin "stew", with chunks of sea urchin and bits of unagi in an incredibly rich broth. This was my first experience with sea urchin, and if it is all this good I'd bathe in it. Another stellar composition. After this course, w already had her "I'm getting full" look going. Which of course meant I had to finish her last bite!
From a presentation standpoint my favorite dish of the night. A bowl of steaming hot fish soup is placed before you, covered in a light paper cloth that has been tied down. You untie the string, and lift the cloth to have this whoosh of ethereal, steamy fish essence assault your nostrils. An absolute sensual experience, and the soup itself was of course brilliant!
The next course...what is this, five, six courses in?....was two simply presented pieces of sushi, one toro, one shrimp, which of course was the perfect counterpoint to the previous course's rich broth.
These were the first of two courses of rolls. Honestly I can't remember what kind of fish was in them, but it was incredibly flavorful, and part of what made it so intriguing was the egg wrapper, which I had never experienced before (as Tojo promised at the beginning).
This was simply incredible. I saw the chef making it for someone earlier, and was praying it would be on our menu. Imagine a sheet of impossibly thin cucumber, stuffed with lobster, butternut squash tempura, avocado, and asparagus. The whole roll was sliced into 3/4" pieces, each of us got three pieces. Stunning to look at, the picture doesn't do justice to the vibrant color. The flavor was unbelievable, the textures of each ingredient playing off of each other like a perfectly tuned orchestra. My favorite dish of the night. Astonishingly good, and fabulously creative.
At this point w, in her wisdom, decided she was done. They asked me if I wanted another course, and like a horse who will keep eating until his stomach explodes, I just nodded my head "yes, just one more". Tojo, with a smile on his face, said it would be a few minutes. It was, and set before me was a stunning piece of halibut cheek sautéed with sesame seeds pressed into it atop some small greens with flower blossoms delicately set on top of a pile of daikon slivers. Again, so well composed, food as art if it ever was. The sauce surrounding it, again I have no idea what it was comprised of, was crazily rich, the whole dish telling you "If you weren't done before, you are now!" And I was..............until our waiter offered us dessert. We were both so full, and tried, really tried, to say no. but he insisted, saying "no, so small, so fresh". Alright, alright, bring it on. We picked up our spoons, and our palates were instantly shocked awake by the fresh heat of ginger sorbet, topped with a raspberry with a sesame cracker. The sorbet was sublime, and ending to a meal that couldn't have gone better. Tojo's is something special. Be forewarned you do pay...a lot...for your pleasure. Was it worth it? To experience Japanese food as good as it can possibly be from an insanely talented cooking savant, for me I'd have to say hell yes.