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Koju

8-5-25 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, Japan

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This is a tiny place in a side street in Ginza. There are just two small rooms, each with 6 tables. You sit on bar stools alongside a wooden counter where the chefs work. Chef Toro Okuda produces a kaiseki meal in traditional style.

An initial starter combined sea urchin and aubergine, a combination of ingredients that seemed odd to me, but my knowledgeable companion, a sea urchin fan, pronounced it excellent. Next was a pair of deep fried river trout, which were pleasant but not in the same league as those at Ryugin a couple of nights before (15/20). Bonito was good, served with a rice and shrimp cake with "water shield", an unusual herb that has the texture of tapioca (17/20).

A selection of sahsimi included a rather chewy snapper, good cuttlefish, and pleasant tuna in both the naguro and toro forms (16/20). Deep fried abalone was perhaps the most impressive dish in that it managed to minimise the inherent chewiness that abalone usually has. It was served with a cooked sea bass that was pleasant but in all honesty was no better than something I would cook at home. Mountain peach and sweet potato completed the dish (15/20 overall).

Sea eel in a soup with pumpkin was decent, but the flavour of the eel did not really come through that well due to the consomme, while I would have preferred my eel crisp (14/20). Not as crisp as what turned up next though.  Grilled eel was tragically burnt, the bottom having a charcoal layer, a real shame as this is one of my favourite things. This was a pretty basic technical error in my view. An almond jelly with fruit finished off the meal.

Overall I found this a great disappointment. I may not understand some of the subtleties of Japanese cuisine, but I know what roasted sea bass is supposed to taste like, and I can tell when eel has been charred to a crisp.  The 3 Michelin stars this gets make no sense to me whatsoever, though there are some people that i respect who rate this place; perhapsI went on an off night. Talking to a couple of locals later, I am not the only one to wonder why Michelin plucked this of all the Japanese restaurants in Tokyo for such an honour.

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