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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Two Michelin stars for lunch in Tokyo today. And how Tokyo is the new Hong Kong.



In a previous blog entry, I've already written about the ultra-secret list of Tokyo's truly great restaurants.

These are the kinds of places that foreign food reviewers and inspectors can never get into because of a couple of factors including the secrecy surrounding these places, the language barrier, and the fact that you need a regular customer to take you.

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NO ENGLISH. NO PUBLICITY.

So even if you're some foodie tourist from overseas who's flush with lots of cash, places like these are generally closed off. The chefs hate publicity and not a word of English is spoken or written.

In most cases, there's no menu and no price list.

Basically, you don't know how much lunch or dinner will eventually cost, or what you'll eat. And if you have to ask about the price, you're not supposed to be there -- or at least, this is how these places think.


THE SECRET LIST OF
TOKYO'S BEST RESTAURANTS

I like these places, of course, as these constitute the ultimate bragging rights in a city that knows its food inside out.

Lots of people can go to the places made famous by the Michelin Guide or the S. Pellegrino as long as they reserve with enough lead time or go through the proper channels.

But that's not at all the case for many of the places in the ultra-secret list created and constantly updated by some of the most serious foodies in Japan.


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I LIKE A COMBINATION OF BOTH

Personally, I like to mix both.

I so like the Michelin three-star and two-star restaurants because most of them do give you a truly great meal.




And I also look at the S. Pellegrino list when I travel because they tend to pick restaurants heavy on experimental and cutting-edge cuisine -- and sometimes, that's just great for an out-of-the-box experience.

So, depending on my mood and who I'm with, I tend to adjust my preferences and use the local favourites and the internationally famous restaurants in combination.

TOKYO IS THE NEW HONG KONG


Since the weekend, Tokyo has become the new Manila, which is also why I'm here, to play Ms. Hospitality to so many friends and family coming over for autumn holidays. T

he city is so overrun by people from Manila, in fact, that I can't walk through one luxury hotel without hearing Tagalog from every angle.

"Actually, Tokyo is the new Hong Kong," the Travel Companion said to me, before I left or Tokyo last weekend -- meaning that everyone is flying as frequently to Tokyo now as they used to do to Hong Kong. 

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The Travel Companion is flying out to Tokyo soon, too, for our holiday in Hokkaido coming up. We're going on a big food trip with a couple of things thrown in.

Yesterday, too, a couple of my Tokyo friends said they bumped into a couple of my Manila friends in central Tokyo, walking on the streets or sitting in coffee shops, taking a break.

That's how saturated Tokyo is this week with people from Manila.

AN UNDER-THE-RADAR TWO-STAR MICHELIN
FOR LUNCH TODAY

And today, I'm taking one of my visitors from Manila to a very Japanese lunch because this was the specific request.

If I had a choice, it would have been L'Osier or Chateau Restaurant Joel Robuchon, because I think these two restaurants in Tokyo serve some of the best French meals outside of France, with the exception of Caprice, the French restaurant of the Four Seasons Hong Kong.

Caprice of the Four Seasons Hong Kong has been my great favourite ever since it first opened many years ago, way before it became famous and received its Michelin stars. I was among the first people to eat here.

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NOTHING BUT JAPANESE

But as everyone from Manila wants nothing but Japanese, for today's lunch, I chose a little-known but very well-regarded (by the locals) two-star Michelin restaurant with nothing but a small counter.

No English, no credit cards, and pretty hard to find.

Let you know later how that goes, on just another wonderful day in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.   




The best beauty and skincare devices and gadgets from Japan



Upon arrival in Tokyo last Saturday, living a Travelife, a very nice gift wrapped box was waiting for me.

Someone said, when he gave it to me: "A little belated birthday present for the girl who has everything."

Of course, I don't have everything, just like about 99.99% of the world's population. But this guy always likes to say that I do.



And just thinking about it now, I can easily think of three things I really truly want and that I don't have.

And one of these things is something I will sadly never ever have.

But this is beside the point.

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WHAT A NICE SURPRISE

Anyway, when I opened the box, it was the latest model of a popular skincare device in Japan. This device is very famous in Japan and he'd gotten me the newest version.

How lucky.

Of course I'd heard of this machine, but I'd never actually tried one. So when I had a little time last weekend, I googled more about it in the Japanese-language websites.



I NOW OWN 
THE TOP 3 SKINCARE GADGETS 
IN JAPAN

First thing I realised is that I now own three of the top-selling skincare devices in Japan.

This birthday present last weekend is supposed to be the #3 top skincare device in Japan, and I already own two gadgets that made it to the #1 and #2 ranking.

I never looked at this ranking by the cosmeceuticals industry in Japan until last weekend. But when I finally did, I was surprised to learn that I owned all three of the all-time greatest hits.

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EVERYTHING BY COINCIDENCE

This was purely coincidental, too. I'd bought #2 last year after trying it out at a store, and then I'd bought #1 last month, on the last day of my last trip to Tokyo.

Just on a whim.


#1 actually surprised me as it just came out last month so I was one of the first to buy it. And within a matter of weeks, it made it to #1.

I'm not sure if they really work as I don't have time to use these two devices very religiously. But I guess I will from now on.

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I'M HOOKED ON THIS BIRTHDAY PRESENT

As for this birthday present last weekend, in Tokyo living a Travelife, I decided to try and use it from Sunday -- which was just three days ago -- as someone had taken the time to buy one for me, and it isn't cheap at all.

Wow. 72 hours into using this device and I'm completely hooked.

GOT TO USE MORE OF THE OTHERS



To think this device is only #3 in the rankings and it's so great. What more #1 and #2, which I already have?

Right then and there, I made up my mind to try and use #1 and #2 more -- that is, when I find time in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.





Monday, October 20, 2014

The secret list of Tokyo's truly best restaurants, compiled by serious foodies in Japan



So yesterday, in Tokyo, living a Travelife, one of Japan's biggest and most serious foodies showed me a list on paper of the best restaurants in Tokyo, as compiled by some of Japan's most serious gourmet diners.

Yes, it was a list on paper.

Not something emailed or written about on a blog with a link. No one who has access to the list is allowed to email it to anyone, lest it gets forwarded.

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AN ULTRA-SECRET DOCUMENT

And each printout is actually numbered and watermarked, plus signed by the recipient, so that any documents that get leaked around can be traced easily.

It sounds like a spy novel, don't you think?

But that's how serious this group of foodies are about keeping their list of best restaurants in Tokyo very confidential.

In fact, I was shown their most recently updated list -- they update this list every quarter -- on the condition that I can never write about it as a list. But at least I know which restaurants these are now, as of October 2014, so I can eat in them.



THE ANTI-MICHELIN
AND ANTI-S. PELLEGRINO LIST

"Call this list the anti-Michelin guide," said this guy. "Or perhaps the anti San Pellegrino list. Either way, we're tired of going to restaurants full of foreigners with books and lists of restaurants made famous in the English-speaking world."

He added: "So we've created our own list of Tokyo's best restaurants. Some of them are famous, but most aren't. They're so exclusive that you need to be in the know to go, and we don't want any of them made more famous on the Internet or in some guidebook."

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THE REALLY SERIOUS FOODIES

Wow. Talk about hard core talk and action from this group of very serious foodies.

For me, by the way, a real foodie is someone who loves food with a passion and who does not connect food with any kind of job or receive any kind of remuneration for it -- whether it is money or a free meal.

And the members of this exclusive group all fall into this category. They've all made their fortune elsewhere and they eat for the love of good food.

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SERIOUSLY CONFIDENTIAL

So, with the threat of excommunication from being a periphery member of this exclusive foodie group in Tokyo, now the greatest culinary capital in the world, over my head, I can't tell you any details about this list.

But I can tell you that it exists because I've seen it.



WHAT A DIFFERENCE A LIST MAKES

Some of the famous restaurants that are at the top of the Michelin guide or at the top of the S. Pellegrino list are on this list, of course. But ever so interestingly, they're not at the top of this secret list at all.

In other words, what a difference a list makes.



For example, a very highly-ranked restaurant on S. Pellegrino is only in the #30 to #50 range of this secret list of Tokyo's best restaurants, according to these serious eaters who eat for the love of it and not for a living.

Can you imagine that?

THE TOP 10 RESTAURANTS
OF SERIOUS FOODIES IN TOKYO



The top 10 restaurants too were truly a surprise, especially as I'd never heard of half of them. But I can tell you that I'm going to #7 sometime this week, #15 next weekend, and to #4 at the end of  this month.

I was, of course, completely intrigued by #1. If you read this blog regularly, you'll know that I always want #1.

SOMEONE'S TAKING ME TO #1



So I said to this foodie: "Take me to #1 while I'm in Tokyo. I've got to eat there and see it for myself."

I'd never even heard of it, you see. And apparently, the reason I've never heard of it is the fact that it's very exclusive and the details are passed around very quietly among people in the know.

The restaurant chef himself absolutely hates publicity.

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So, this foodie said: "Okay. I'll take you. But you can never, ever, ever write about it."

How's that for another delicious saga in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife?