It’s official: the UK loves Japanese food. Brits bought about £100m of algid sushi in 2016 – 12 per cent up on the antecedent year, according to analytics close IRI.
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The affair is, about agreeable that apricot nigiri or set of maki rolls is, you apperceive it’s not absolutely authentic. Japanese cuisine is amid the best admired and acclaimed in the world, and some chefs absorb their absolute careers acquirements to adapt or baker a distinct ingredient. Abounding will spent a year acquirements alone how to baker sushi rice. They’re amorous about precision, presentation and aloft all, flavour. Aliment is an art, and it should be celebrated.
Perhaps it’s for this acumen that Tokyo is generally heralded as the all-around comestible centre of excellence. The Japanese basic is home to 234 Michelin-starred restaurants (its abutting rival, Paris, has a bald 106), and attracts aliment obsessives from beyond the apple with its promises of immaculately cut fish, bright noodles and kobe beef.
It’s additionally one of few destinations accepting added affordable for Brits to appointment in these times of a abbreviating pound; although adaptation charcoal expensive, the Post Office afresh ranked Tokyo as the its additional cheapest continued booty destination, back demography into annual a bassinet of day-tripper staples including a meal out. Prices are 45 per cent cheaper than bristles years ago.
Hamashiba, the angle restaurant at the Prince Auberge Park Tower, proves the absolute acquittal from my crippling jetlag – as able-bodied as an addition to this comestible craft. A stone’s bandy from the Tokyo Tower in the axial Minato ward, the Prince is a bright 33-storey behemoth with amazing angle of the Shinjuku and Roppongi districts, decidedly at night. Here, eel, octopus, flounder, sea bream, Japanese prawn and candied baptize shrimp are served with Japanese radish, wasabi blade and rice in tiny parcels, advised to be eaten in a distinct bite.
The centrepiece is a bowl of blubbery slabs of otoro (fatty) and akami (lean) adolescent – coral-coloured and aphotic red respectively. Delicate and buttery, they’ve been cut from a 190lb angle bought at the world-famous Tsukiji Angle Market beforehand today, again served both raw and blistered by a blowtorch.
At 6am the abutting morning, I’m in Tsukiji itself – which confused to a new armpit in Toyosu in September. Six canicule a week, about 900 wholesalers set up boutique in this sprawling barn to advertise and bargain a advanced arrangement of angle and seafood to retailers and chefs, bartering abounding of the city’s finest restaurants.
Mini forklift trucks butt up and bottomward the attenuated walkways amid stalls, accustomed endless polystyrene boxes of alive clams, mussels, squid and prawns destined to sit alluringly on a bowl aural a few hours.
Sides of tuna, broken from a 300lb angle with 5ft blades by weary-looking but absolutely affable men, are so beautifully red and blotchy with white fat that they attending like beef. The alone betrayal is the accumulating of unblinking argent angle active neatly buried beneath the workbench. Absolute angle actuality consistently barter easily for £500,000.
Nearby restaurant Daiwa Sushi allowances from adjacency to the freshest produce, and the queues that anatomy at 3am anniversary morning (two hours afore the restaurant alike opens) mark it as one of the city’s prime sushi spots – the Park Tower’s arch chef, Mr Toshikazu Usami, says it’s his claimed favourite.
Expert chefs abode nigiri (fish on abounding of rice) and blubbery wafers of acid blush amber beeline assimilate board platters on a attenuated workbench, forth with active orange gold uni (sea urchin) on rice captivated in seaweed. Its solid, tongue-like actualization is deceiving: uni is the creature’s gonads and aftertaste like acrid mucus.
You don’t accept to be on a Prince-style account to eat well. Unassuming brainstorm shops action aliment every bit as acceptable as the best big-ticket restaurants. Udon Yamacho in Ebisu serves adorable brittle vegetable tempura (about £8), and Funamizaka in Ginza is acclaimed for its acrid ramen (under £7).
A 30-minute alternation ride from Shinjuku Station lies Kawagoe, a appealing celebrated boondocks that gives visitors a glimpse of 17th-century Japan. While the active streets accept no curtailment of oddities – shiba inu dogs dressed in nappies and wheeled about in prams, parrots accomplished to accomplish advanced rolls on appeal for tourists – there’s ataraxia at the adjacent Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine.
A altar to Shinto – Japan’s civic set of behavior and practices – it’s home to bristles deities. Four of them are depicted as affiliated couples, and the shrine’s acceptability for matchmaking abundance makes it a must-see for the cureless romantic. Little blush papier mache angle absolute affluence scrolls are accumulated aerial in board troughs for visitors to ‘catch’ with miniature fishing rods. My affluence declared my adventurous luck as “average”.
Back in avant-garde Tokyo, attitude rubs amateur with the futuristic, and the burghal is at its best amazing in the dark. The angle from the Skye Gallery Lounge Levita in the Park Tower’s affinity hotel, the Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho, advertise it at its Blade Runner-esque finest, from the 35th attic aloft the Nagatacho business district.
Nights out in Roppongi, Japan’s acknowledgment to Leicester Square, authenticate how partying is as abundant a allotment of the country’s cultural bolt as peaceful contemplation. Karaoke apartment are everywhere and amazing fun for groups. Be abiding to book advanced to defended a atom in the added beneficial establishments – or, booty a chance, as we did.
My adolescent travellers and I concluded up in a sticky-floored but awful accessible enactment which included absolute drinks delivered to our little allowance during our two-hour stay, about £35pp. If the agents bootless to adore our renditions of Wonderwall, Fast Car and Cleanin’ Out My Closet, they were too affable to let on. Just one chat of warning. Don’t be afraid to acquisition businessmen sleeping in the booths – they’re cheaper than hotels.
How to get there
Japan Airlines fly from Heathrow to Tokyo Haneda, with bounded access available, from £820 return. jal.com
Where to stay
The Prince Park Tower Tokyo has doubles from £181, allowance only. The Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho has doubles from £367, Allowance only. princehotels.com
Shinobu Momoi, arch babysitter at Prince Gallery Kioicho
Only got 48 hours in Tokyo? Appointment the garden of the Meiji Shrine, which contains about 100,000 copse and has its access apparent by an astronomic Torii gate. Follow it with a airing about the Yanaka Commune – Tokyo’s best acceptable area. In the Happō-en Garden you’ll acquisition a kaiseki restaurant (a acceptable blazon of multi-course Japanese meal which allows the chef to advertise a array of abilities and intricate techniques), overlooking the garden.
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