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Tokyo: Ginza Ukai-tei

Ukai-tei is a chain of upmarket teppanyaki restaurant. I visited the one in Ginza and the restaurant was very posh indeed. Starting from the grand entrance with heavy doors, the floors had red carpet and there were gold trimmings splashed everywhere.

At the table in the private room seating 8 comfortably, the setting comprised of silver cutlery and beautiful Japanese lacquered place mat. We had champagne to start the evening and I kid you not that the champagne glass was so heavy I was having a mini workout just by lifting the cup up and down.

The feast started with a small, dainty bowl of chawanmushi topped with 3 seasonal fresh gingko nuts that had been grilled and salted, and a ginger-infused sauce.

Then it was generous shellfish (I suspect it was whelk) grilled to perfection, although it was slightly chewy. Alongside was seasonal nasu (eggplant) that had been grilled so soft and went really well with the slightly sweet sauce.

At this point, the Chef started to cook up some mushrooms at the teppan. There were shiitake, maitake and nameko, all looking fresh and huge.

Next up was another small serving of cream of mushroom soup, capped with a cappucino top. I thought it was an odd dish to serve but I was glad they did because it was so, so good. Trust me, it was better than Sage's version (which I already felt was very good) and I really did not care if there was a lot of cream or fat or whatever in it. I just wanted more.

The grilled mushrooms were ready and yuzu salt was tossed in at the last minute, lifting the flavours of the cepes. Each variety had its own texture and taste and I enjoyed all of them.

The main course was beef for the rest of the guests, and lobster for me. A fresh lobster was brought for my "inspection" before Chef started cooking it. It was served with a butter and white wine sauce that was prepared at the teppan as well. The lobster, expectedly, was fresh and crunchy. But I have to admit, the beef looked so damn good I was borderline tempted to break my vow against animal farming.

The last course was garlic fried rice. Finely diced garlic was expertly fried on the teppan first before a special type of rice was added. It was slightly glutinous so there was a mild mochi-effect. Pickles and a purple seaweed soup completed the last course. I was completely stuffed at this point.

After dinner, we went to the sitting area outside for dessert and drinks. Actually I wanted to pass on dessert but then, I did not want to be a party-pooper. I got their daily special, the Mont Blanc. Oh my gosh, I totally did not regret being greedy and overindulging. The chestnut paste seemed freshly piped and it was so saturated with intense chestnut flavours. Chestnut lovers alert! You would luurve this. Yums!

I had my first taste of port and loved it so much I got the waiter to bring the bottle to see what brand it was. It was Cockburn's and I got one at the duty free on my way back to Singapore.

Overall, it was a really memorable evening that was unbeatable when you combine good friends and great food. I don't know how much the dinner cost but reckoned it was at least 30,000 Yen without drinks. Hmm....

Ukai-tei
5-15-8 Ginza
Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 81-3-3544-5252

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