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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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.
“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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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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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?