[Tokyo] Goryukubo (Nishi Azabu) 2 Michelin star kappo kaiseki heaven

Goryukubo came highly recommended from a friend, and right before going one of my other food friends had gone within a month before my visit. Was super excited and yes, the hype is real.

Bear in mind this visit was back in 2016, probably around the week of Thanksgiving in November 2016

The entrance is in the basement of what looks like a residential “non descript” building. Luckily not an LA style strip mall :slight_smile:

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Walk down the stairs and you will see the store signage, and a sliding door entrance.

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Not that many counter seats, but that is the place to be, so keep your party size small.

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“What do you want to drink”? For some reason tea skipped my mind and sake it was! This new aged looking label that is part Alien part religion is the famed Toyo Bijin Junmai Daiginjo from Yamaguchi prefecture, polished to 40%.

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Next up and first course: Japanese persimmons in sesame sauce, the theme of autumn begins here

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The gorgeous vessels for enjoying sake, many more to come…
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Next up, fried wild fugu, paired with fried ginko nuts on the side
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A restaurant will not think twice to show the provenance of its raw materials. For high end sushi omakase, there is always a piece of print that shows the lineage of bluefin tuna, especially if native Japanese, where it was caught, weight, and name of wholesaler. Here at GK it is no exception, although it’s not bluefin.

Prior to the crab course, I am shown an entire live crab from Kansai: Matsuba kani which is in season (and far more commonly seen in Osaka/Kyoto regions for high end cuisine). First timers might look alarmed at the circular mini spheres (popping boba for those jokesters out there) on its outer shell. These are symbiotic parasites that attach to the crab, and it is explained that the more parasites on the crab, the healthier and fattier, juicier, more delicious the crab, and thus the more prized and expensive.

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We then move onto the grilled crab leg course. The aromatic, texture, temperature, flavor is just tremendous fabulous. My only regret was not specifying their Daiginjo for this pairing, but Kubo san figured out what we needed later.
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We move on to the sashimi course, which was kawahagi and a side of sauce with the kawahagi liver. Time to remix, dip, and enjoy! This was another prime specimen.
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Kubo san surprises with a nice treat, a portion of warmed sake (I didn’t ask which was the base) where they took the shell of the crab leg from the finished course, quickly lit it to torch the surface, in order to infuse crab flav

or into the sake. A similar technique is employed with dried fugu fin normally, but this is with Matsuba crab. Absolutely ethereal, especially if you love umami rich shellfish and sake together. Here they literally become as one. Cannot be sufficiently described in words!
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Next up, Kamo Kinsho Junmai Ginjo, brewed with Omachi rice. A recommendation from okami-san who assisted with sake selections from the menu.
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A superb bowl of dashi with more Matsuba crab
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An extremely delicious grilled Hokkaido Kinki with broth made from the bones of the fish
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Seiko Gani (female Matsuba crab with lots of roe) with ginger infused crab vinegar gelee
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Grilled wild unagi with fresh sansho berries
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Hakkaisan Kouwa Kura Shikomi Junmai Daiginjo (now, this is available for export, soooo good)
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Wagyu
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At this point two Japanese customers to my left received a pour of an off menu sake. Being the geek that I am, I recognized what this was and immediately requested some. Kokuryu Kuzuryu (Black Dragon: Nine Headed Dragon) Daiginjo. The Junmai is exported to the US, but not this Daiginjo. It is also built to be served hot which is how it was served. Supremely delightful and one of the best hot sake (and Daiginjo grade too) for kaiseki!
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Nodoguro meshi
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Chef owner Kubo Takeshi
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House made soba
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Dessert: Yamagata pear with pear sauce
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Saw Aramasa on the menu and was soooo curious to try it because the Hong Kongers and Taiwanese can’t stop raving about it in their forums and social media threads on the other side of the world. This was truly excellent and it was the right choice…as a digestif! Paired supremely well with the pear, which in itself is somewhat out of the box. The pearl inlay on the label is a sight to behold

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Truly one of the more remarkable meals in Tokyo.

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holy crab. did you get that entire seiko gani?

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Hi @beefnoguy,

Great review and I’m drooling! :grin:

Yes, that Seiko Gani looks amazing! What was your favorite sake of the evening?

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Yeah whole crab and pretty huge!

Matsuba gani (male) leg was killer too.

Best sake? I’d say Kokuryu Daiginjo tie with Hakkiasan Kowa Kura Shikomi Junmai Daiginjo, at that time.

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Seiko Gani prep is awesome!

Funny about the parasites, thought it would be the opposite, as in sucking the life juices dry outta the krab :laughing:

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Wow.
Looks so great.

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Looks so great, I damn near fainted.

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Did you eat the whole crab? Your next photo is of a single crab leg. Are the little parasite balls edible?

Whoever paid for the higher priced course with fancier ingredients got one grilled crab leg and the crab “meatball” in the soup, plus the female crab whole with its leg meat removed and inserted into the shell above the roe as part of the course. The whole crab is shown as a show piece to the customer, there is a a bit of education as to the origins of the prime ingredients, and a chance for the 'Gram (or just a souvenir photo), as it adds to the overall experience of the dinner either way you approach it. Much like how people will slobber and become phone slaves seeing trays of uni, an 80 pound slab of wild bluefin otoro/toro/setoro/akami section.

Let me rephrase what I wrote about the symbiotes.

Matsuba crab tend to dwell in the depths of the sea, literally in the muddy floors of the ocean. And in this mud resides parasites called kani hiru かにヒル, that lay their eggs on top of the male matsuba crabs. Even if the crab sheds its soft shell, the eggs are still embedded in the exterior. These eggs do not impact the health of the crab in a negative way, and in fact the more eggs are on the crab, often is a sign of a strong (and super delicious) crab…building resistance and strength perhaps? @Sgee maybe you were thinking of Walking Dead: Kani edition…

Once the eggs hatch, the baby parasites will depart, but the shells remain. As the crab is steamed (or grilled), and if the head piece is cooked, heat will kill off any unborn parasites within the eggs. So no, one does not consume the eggs in any manner.

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This is incredibly fascinating. Thank you for generously sharing your knowledge in so many esoteric topics.

Wow amazing write up and meal! :heart_eyes: Thanks for sharing!

Chef Go told us last night that Kubo San came to LA last week to try Hayato.

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Always a good sign when the sempai visits the new restaurant to support the kohai…

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What did Kubo San think of Hayato?

Never got around to posting about my final kaiseki meal from our trip to Japan a year ago.

To repeat, this was in November, so we were on the cusp of the transition from matsutake season to crab season. I think many on this board (especially those frequenting this specific section) are already familiar with Goryukubo, either given its 2 Michelin stars and many other plaudits, or because of the connection with Chef Go at Hayato. Either way, I think all who have experienced it can attest to the quality of the ingredients, the skill of the cooking, and the serene setting. If anything, I feel this restaurant is underrated, because it’s relatively “easier” to reserve than many other restaurants with 2 or 3 stars.

This was my second time at Goryukubo, and Kubo-san was as friendly as ever. Also, this time around, he introduced all the dishes in English, whereas I seem to recall on my first trip, he was introducing the dishes in Japanese.

Sticky rice with chestnuts and green beans

Tempura maitake, taro and bachiko

Smoked katsuo - I’d had so many delectable pieces of this on this past trip

Owan with matsutake mushrooms and kegani

Grilled sanma

Amadai with daikon

Seiko gani with gelee I feel like this might be one of their signature dishes, if not their signature dish, since it’s been ‘grammed round the wrold


Soba with nameko mushrooms Goryukubo regularly shows up when one does a Tabelog search of top soba restaurants, and it’s easy to see why

Wagyu (from Iwate) with gingko and lotus roots

Buri daikon rice with sansho peppers

Fig dessert

Leftover buri daikon rice to go!

Drank 3 kinds of sake that night

Denshu Junmai Daiginjo (wow, I wish we could get this stateside) - this was my favorite of the 3 I had that night and probably my favorite of the trip

Kokuryu haven’t seen this specific bottle stateside either

Mimorosugi Junmai Daiginjo My next fave after the Denshu

At this point, posts like this are extremely aspirational, given the state of the world, but it did make me think back to better times.

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Patience…

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