Teppanyaki Kamon, Tokyo

January 21, 2014

As much as we like staying at The Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, we do not usually have our dinners there, preferring the more Japanese ambience of restaurants outside hotels. But on April 7, 2013, we had spent the day on a trip to Kamakura and so were not very adventurous in the evening. Having enjoyed the other major styles of Japanese cuisine this trip, we chose the hotel’s teppanyaki restaurant, Kamon, on the top floor of the main building.

There are three horseshoe-shaped teppanyaki grills and counters in the large, somewhat formal, dining room. The ambience did not seem to call for drinking sake so we started with glasses of Taittinger Brut Reserve Champagne. There are several menu formulas at different prices; we chose the “Special Menu for Registered Hotel Guests Only.” The formally dressed sommelier presented the extensive wine list; we found a bottle of 2005 Camigliano Brunello di Montalcino at a very reasonable price. It was a good match with this cuisine.

Our chef presented himself and prepared the area in front of us.
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He then presented the major ingredients of our meal.
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The first course was prepared in the kitchen, not the grill.
Sakhalin Surf Clam with Iberico Pork and Tamurana Citrus, with Green Asparagus and Almond
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Pork and clams is a favorite combination of mine, but I don’t think I have ever had it in a Japanese context before. This was a good fresh, minimalist example.

The next course was obscurely described on the menu as
Seasonal Dish.
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The first items our chef had put on the hot grill were thick chunks of foie gras. They were heavily seared without melting very much. While we were finishing our clam and pork, the chef put them back on the grill to warm up, then on a plate and carefully added various garnishes from little bowls. They included raspberries, a reddish onion ring, rich meat glaze and a crisp wafer.  Despite considering the dish to be inappropriate and precious, we enjoyed it for what it was. (We love hot seared foie gras with a simple garnish in France.) I wonder if it is produced in Japan or is imported.

Galette of Sakura Shrimp, Sauteed Japanese Spanish Mackerel and Firefly Squid, with Japanese Pepper
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This course was just the opposite of the previous one. It used fresh Japanese ingredients which were well chosen for teppanyaki grilling. They were delicious and beautiful. The Spanish Mackerel had a good flavor and a crispy skin.

Japanese Sirloin (120 g)

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The high-quality steak was nicely seared on the outside and still almost raw on the inside bringing out its luscious flavor. Dipping the pieces in the mound of salt or pepper (on the right in the photo) enhanced it further. The seared shiitakes, potato and garlic chips went very well.

There was also soy sauce with daikon and wasabi for dipping. The fat trimmings had been cooked down and were served alongside as we were eating.
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Steamed Rice/Miso Soup/Japanese Pickles
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We skipped the rice and enjoyed the good soup and pickles.

We moved away from the teppanyaki counter to a comfortable little dessert room in the corner of the restaurant.
Dessert was a little sponge cake with strawberries, a chunk of pineapple and a little bowl of ice cream.
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We enjoyed the meal, but I was expecting more. That there would be excellent beef was a given. Beyond that, only the fish course really impressed me. Too much resource and effort had gone into the disappointing foie gras dish. Contrast this meal with the last teppanyaki meal we had, three years ago at Teppan Grill Icho in Nara. (Click here to see it.) There was a wider variety of vegetables; the beef was prepared in two different ways; the rendered fat had been imaginatively used to cook bean sprouts; etc. We will undoubtedly try another teppanyaki restaurant in future trips to Japan and will hope for more.


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