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Kitafuku

Akasaka, 3−13−6, Tokyo, 107-0052, Japan

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Kitafuku is a seafood restaurant specialising in crab. It is on the third floor of an office building in the Ginza. Take the lift from the street entrance to the building and the restaurant is immediately apparent as you exit. It actually has three private rooms, with two tatami rooms and a further one with regular seating. The individual crabs that you will be eating are brought in by the chef and shown to you, and it is worth saying at the outset that this not an experience for the squeamish, as the cooking is done on a little induction hob built into the dining table in front of you. There was a short wine list, with bottles such as Moët & Chandon NV champagne at ¥9,000 compared to its retail price of ¥5,125, and the sublime Salon 1999 champagne at ¥86,000 for a bottle whose current value is ¥44,463.

The meal began with an appetiser of grilled cutlass fish with cherry blossom served with a spinach sauce. This was very pleasant, the fish nicely cooked and having good flavour, the spinach taste being quite subtle (15/20). This was followed by hairy crab from Hokkaido, shown at the table and then removed and served as both sashimi and cooked. Sashimi of crab seems to me less enjoyable than when it is cooked, though the inherent sweetness is still there (14/20).

An intermediate course was sea bream with sansho flower and greens in a broth. The sea bream was of reasonable quality and the greens were excellent, while the sansho flower, though in a small quantity, added its subtle, numbing spiciness to the broth (15/20).

The main course was a huge king crab, displayed at the table and then prepared by the chef in front of us. This was the part where the squeamish may be uncomfortable, since the crab was dismembered in front of us by the chef, who showed considerable skill. The meat was expertly extracted from the crab, not just the leg and claw but also from the body, and served both grilled and as shabu shabu. The crab was certainly of good quality and undeniably fresh, though the quantity of meat was vast, and it was impossible to finish, greedy as I am (14/20). One issue I did have was that the pace of the dishes was absurdly fast. As we were eating one dish the next element was presented, so we ended up with a conveyor belt of unfinished crab in assorted ways, which seemed a waste.

At this point some rice and pickles arrived, the rice cooked with bamboo shoots and being very pleasant. Dessert was a blood orange with a little orange jelly, served in the hallowed out skin of the orange. This was refreshing, and served with a cherry blossom sweet in a rice paper casing (14/20).

Service was capable other than the sheer pace of the meal, which made it hard to keep up and felt very rushed. Despite this being a lunch sitting with no other diners obviously in attendance it was as if the staff were all rushing for a plane. The bill came to ¥73,418 , which works out at £265 a head with just a beer apiece. Of course you are in a private room, and the crab is doubtless very expensive, but this was an awful lot or money for what was basically one ingredient cooked in a few different ways, with very little variation in the meal. If you are a crab fanatic then I guess it would be a dream but, much as I like crab, this meal felt like some form of aversion therapy, as more and more crab meat was thrust upon us in rapid succession. Crab goes so well with other things (think of crab and avocado, crab cakes, crab curries and so many other combinations) but just eating piece after piece of crabmeat on its own somehow diminishes its appeal, at least to me. As a value for money experience it is hard to recommend.

 

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