I thought I’d learnt the lessons of not booking early enough when it comes to Japan’s hottest restaurants. For the 2009 trip, with a few weeks to spare, I was miraculously given a lunch time table at L’Osier, after begging to fit us in during the brief window of opportunity to dine there during out Tokyo stay. I was not as lucky with Quintessence.
For the 2010 trip, I was going to start the booking process months ahead. For no particular reason but the human tendency to procrastinate, I got on the phone to Japan in the middle of October. The trip began in the end of November.
Since we were first arriving in Osaka, I had studied the fresh 2010 edition of Kyoto Osaka Micheline guide and narrowed down to the following three choices:
1. Fujiya 1935 – 2 stars, Japanese-Spanish fusion
2. Hajime – 3 stars, French
3. Kikunoi Roan – 2 stars, Japanese Kaiseki (Kyoto)
Basically, we wanted something somewhat molecular (Fujiya 1935), a great French and a taste of traditional kaiseki.
I was indeed able to book Fujiya and Kikunoi, but Hajime was booked out solid. Argh! A month and a half was just not long enough to book a table at Osaka’s then only 3 star restaurant. (Which also offered a great value lunch).
I searched through blogs and online articles for a worthy replacement. I wanted a great word of mouth and, well, great value! Michelin guide restaurants do not come cheap.
Thanks to a combination of NY articles and bloggers’ wisdom, I decided on a Kaiseki place Masuda – the guide photo showcasing a spectacular appetiser plate sealed the deal…or so I thought. Masuda was booked out too!
Then, the news broke. Osaka’s Taian was elevated to 3 stars for the 2011 edition. With set dinner menus starting at Y10,500, I was convinced this was the one. Alas, whether it was the reaction to the Michelin’s upgrade or the place’ regular popularity, a reservation weeks ahead was not possible, either!
I was getting somewhat frustrated and the correspondence with the hotel regarding bookings turned days into weeks.
I requested Swissotel (great service, by the way, and an awesome Osaka location) try a couple of other choices for us. The first on the list was Kaishoku Shumizu – a well-priced restaurant serving Kaiseki cuisine by the ‘intellectually inquisitive young chef’. Hallelujah, the place was available and the we were asked to select the menu beforehand. We settled on the Y10,500 course and so the Saturday night dinner was booked.
It’s just never too early!