Today was an extremely cold and rainy day in Tokyo, so instead of taking a walk, I jumped into a taxi and headed down the road to the Ristorante Aso, a Tokyo institution for good Italian food that has been around ever since I can remember.
And, as it's not very far from my home, I've considered the Ristorante Aso my neighborhood "kitchen" for a very long time.
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MEMORIES OF THE NEW YORK GRILL
Actually, my first real "kitchen" in Tokyo a very long time ago was the New York Grill of the Park Hyatt Tokyo.
It was such a wonderful restaurant when it first opened, and I ate here at least several times a week. I was one of the few people who could get a table at short notice at the New York Grill, and I never looked at the menu. The chefs knew my favorite foods, or else they would whip up something special for me.
MEMORIES OF L'OSIER
My other "kitchen" was L'Osier when Bruno Menard was chef.
In fact, I think I was there having lunch on the day that L'Osier first received its first three Michelin stars, on the very first year of the Michelin Guide in Tokyo.
TODAY AT RISTORANTE ASO
Ristorante Aso was another "kitchen," although not for a long time, as I don't live in Tokyo anymore, and I don't go often enough to be a regular.
But today, my friend Y and I were choosing between Chateau Restaurant Joel Robuchon and Ristorante Aso for lunch. Both are considered among Tokyo's top restaurants and they serve excellent food.
And, although they're not on the cheap side, these are two places I always feel are worth every yen.
FIVE COURSES AND LOTS OF FUN CATCHING UP
We had the five-course lunch, which began with a seafood appetizer and progressed to a terrine de foie gras.
The terrine de foie gras was served very innovatively in a glass, accompanied by some greens.
WE HAD TO MIX OUR OWN PASTA
The noodles with some cream sauce were actually served separately in a glass.
We were then asked to pour the contents of the glass into the bowl and mix the pasta ourselves.
This was fun and simply delicious.
JUICY AND TENDER PORK FOR LUNCH
Our main course was a pork dish, which was juicy and very tender.
It was served with a balsamic sauce, drizzled with a Parmesan cheese sauce, and placed on a bed of brown rice.
Again, I ate every single bit of it.
A MOST DELECTABLE CANNELONI
For dessert, we had the canneloni with strawberry cream.
I'm not a big fan of canneloni, but the Ristorante Aso version is always very nice and soft. The cream inside it was tasty but not sweet.
And over lunch, we discussed trends in Tokyo, caught up on industry news, and shared travel plans for the rest of the year.
FINALIZING SOUTH AFRICA
AND PLANNING FOR MOROCCO
We're finalizing our Travelife group for South Africa in May as I write this, and I'm in the middle of planning an amazing trip to Morocco with the Travel Companion.
So I talked about this -- and particularly about just how many beautiful and ever-so-interesting places there are to stay all over Morocco.
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I was in Morocco 15 years ago, and we'd stayed in fabulously exotic places at that time.
Now there are even more of these places, with the luxury factor upped just a notch higher.
COOKING LESSONS IN MOROCCO
I just booked a lovely and very luxurious riad in one of Morocco's Imperial Cities, and arranged for a private spice tour of the souk and a tagine cooking lesson with the chef while we're there.
I'm not sure what the Travel Companion will have to say about having to undergo a cooking lesson with me, but I'm sure he'll happily eat the product of our efforts, on a wonderful morning in Morocco, living a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.