Reading the recent n/naka posts about Michelin stars, kaiseki, and places less known, I came back to a Kaiseki meal I had earlier this year that blew my socks off (for various reasons). This is definitely more on the baller side of things but when on vacation…
When planning for my last trip to Tokyo, I really wanted to dive deeper into food, especially Kaiseki. Having gone to Hayato and being really impressed, I wanted to see more of what was on offer for this kind of dining in Tokyo. Kasumicho Yamagami was a bit of a wild card at first. They have no stars, a meh TripAdvisor score, and a similarly middling Tabelog score. I found only two write-ups (one big, one small) which inspired me to go for it anyways.
Kasumicho Yamagami, per Tableall and a small blurb in an article on the site TokyoTableTrip, is the successor to an, apparently, much more famous Kaiseki restaurant called Kasumicho Suetomi. To summarize what I found of Suetomi, while they didn’t have stars they had a sky high Tabelog rating. The chef may not have always been the best with foreign clientele and did not allow pictures. Suetomi also closed in March 2018.
Yamagami-san was his sous chef and worked there for 10 years. Suetomi-san apparently asked if he wanted to take over the space. And thus, Kasumicho Yamagami began in May 2018. There was little publicity beyond the places I noted above. TripAdvisor shows reviews from the predecessor. Tabelog has only 8 reviews as of this writing. While the reviews are good, Tabelog apparently has some weird weighting that pushes the score down below the simple calculated average. I went for it, and I’m extremely happy I did.
The Real Start
Kasumicho Yamagami is located on the 3rd floor of a somewhat random building in the Nishiazabu area. It’s easy to miss; the outside sign when I went still has the Japanese characters for Suetomi, the old restaurant. But once you go up the stairs, you’ll find that the sign at the restaurant has been updated and that you are in the right space.
The evening started out very quietly, only myself and a Japanese couple in our own little corner. The front-of-house, I presume Yamagami-san’s wife, unfortunately seems to know no English, but Yamagami-san himself does know some. After asking for a recommendation on sake, the meal began.
Asari and kinoko (clams and mushrooms)
Ainame (fat greenling) Owan
Sashimi - hirame and mirugai
Sashimi - hirame and mirugai (close-up)
Aomori murasaki uni
Chiayu (baby ayu) and kinomezu sauce for dipping sauce
Namakono (sea cucumber) over rice
The grilled course had multiple options of which I chose turtle, after having read about it elsewhere. Likewise, the rice course had multiple options of which the chef said bamboo was seasonal so I went with that. And wow. This meal had bamboo served 3 times and each time was better than the last! Especially the rice, which was surprisingly flavorful in a light and delicate way.
Suppon (turtle) with sudachi citrus to squeeze
Takenoko (bamboo) with salt and dashi condiments
Akagai, Sayori, Mirugai, and Urui (a sansai vegetable)
Rice course - bamboo rice with pickled vegetables and miso soup on the side
Bamboo Rice close-up
Dessert - Setoka
Honestly, everything was so amazing. My notes from before say the bamboo (probably rice the most of the 3), the Suppon, the Nodoguro, and the Akagai were the top of the top here.
Sentimental Story Time…
At some point towards the end of the course, the restaurant started to fill up. A couple came in and the remainder of the restaurant was seated with Asian foreigners, apparently a group of professionals from different fields that hold annual foodie meetups as part of keeping in touch. We started chatting, they shared some wine and even asked for some karasumi for me, pictured below. It was my first Kaiseki meal for this trip and this little bit extra turned it from an amazing experience into something truly memorable. The most enjoyable part about a counter-style meal, to me, is when you can have a good time not just by yourself but also with your fellow diners and this one was no exception. I’ll always have a warm spot in my heart for this restaurant and I will definitely be trying to go back next time.
Extra: sake and karasumi courtesy of my neighbors and the chef
By the way, the bamboo rice onigiri was off the charts! I had 4 Kaiseki meals and 4 sets of Onigiri, this was definitely tied for top place with the Clam Onigiri from Ishikawa.
Take home bamboo rice onigiri
3F Yahata Building, 4-2-13 Nishiazabu Minato-ku, Tokyo
Dinner Only; Reservations probably required.
Reservations did not seem particularly difficult as I got my first choice on the first try, one of the easiest reservations of the trip. While available through Tableall, I made mine through JPNEAZY, which was a 1K JPY fee at the time. I’m sure you could do it through a hotel as well if the option is available (I did not have that option for this leg of my trip).
I was offered the option of 20K JPY and 25K JPY courses, choosing the latter for this meal.
And that’s my first super wordy post I think! Just wanted to share this gem that I rarely hear anyone else talk about. Hope all who read this far enjoyed and sorry if I got too sentimental lol. Special thanks to a favorable USD/JPY exchange rate during that time period!