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In a state of hibernation. My backlog has long become unsustainable. Will probably tweet more and write less full-length stuff.


Ukai Toriyama - うかい鳥山

Sorry for the brief hiatus everybody. After arriving back in SF from Japan last week, I set myself up for exhaustion by going straight back to work and also buying tickets for back-to-back-to-back Giants games against the Rockies on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Then I got sick on Thursday night and spent the weekend recovering. I'm back now though, and reinvigorated - although the Giants season looks pretty much over with a loss to the Diamondbacks tonight, I'm ecstatic thanks to the 2-0 49ers start. I am after all just a bandwagon Giants fan... my heart lies truly with the Niners and the Warriors.

I'm going way too off topic now.... so back to food in Japan. The day after RyuGin, we took a culinary break of sorts to visit Ukai Toriyama, in the outskirts of western Tokyo (aka, the Tokyo boonies). Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of food to be eaten there, but the place is just as much about the scenery as the grub. We figured it would be good to have a light (well, relatively) lunch in the middle of our constant crazy meals. Nobrin was able to join us for this meal - always great to have a Japanese ally when eating in Japan!


Apparently, the Tokyo boonies are pretty damn nice. Ukai Toriyama sits in a foresty but developed area near Mount Takao, which for some reason has a high density of love hotels. It's fairly close to a train station, but as you can see, there is no lack of greenery. The place is more a huge compound than a restaurant, with a giant garden filled with trees, streams, and huts with private dining rooms. It's really quite a beautiful place, and apparently it's a popular nearby getaway for Tokyo residents who need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. What follows is rather unprecented in Arthur Hungry history - 5 food-less pictures in a row of scenery, tracing the little adventure between Ukai Toriyama's front entrance above, and our own personal dining hut.


Pretty nice place to eat lunch, isn't it? Apparently, a bunch of the trees here are Japanese maples, and the leaves turn a fiery red in the fall (not coincidentally the restaurant's most busy season). Every party gets their own little hut like the one in the last picture, with a private dining room and a gorgeous view of the garden outside. You can choose from a few different lunch menus, and we went with a ¥4,800 option centered around grilled chicken. Now on to the food...


GRILLED TARO - sweet misoFirst up were these two big balls of taro. It had a nice smooth texture, and wasn't as overwhelmingly starchy as I expected. Still, 1 probably would have been plenty.


GROUND CHICKEN "MEATBALL" - grilled eggplant, okraThe meat in this meatball was so finely-minced that it's worth a special mention. It gave the whole thing a wonderfully delicate texture.


MUSHROOM SOUP - eggplant, chicken brothThis piping hot chicken broth with a variety of Japanese mushrooms and grilled eggplant had a smokey, earthy flavor to it. Very nice.


GRILLED AYUGrilled ayu, called "sweetfish" in English according to Wikipedia, is a bit of a delicacy. The meat has a slightly sweet taste, while some of the parts inside have a strong bitter flavor. The crispy skin provides a nice char. Still, I find it a little more work than I like to deal with in the fishbone department, and I'm not too fond of the bitter bites. My dad loves this stuff though.


JAPANESE PEOPLE USE CHARCOAL TOOAt this point, they brought the charcoal in for our built-in table grill.


WAGYU RIBEYE - ¥4,400Ukai Toriyama does offer Wagyu for grilling, and we couldn't help but order a serving for the table to share... just to check it out.


WAGYU ON THE GRILLThe beef was very good, but not quite at the level of a true teppanyaki place like what we'd eaten a couple nights before.


CHICKEN SKEWERSThe main part of the lunch is the chicken, served in skewer form.


A LITTLE MORE CRISPY...Ukai Toriyama's English website describes these as "Succulent Chicken Skewer" and I must say it's an apt choice of words. Our server showed us a grill, dip in sauce, grill more, dip in more sauce, grill more method of cooking. On this first batch, we charred and overcooked them just slightly. Batch two was perfectly tender and drippingly juicy. There's nothing like simple, grilled, dark-meat chicken!


RICE, PICKLES, SMALL FISH, MISO SOUPAs usual, we finished with a set of rice and pickles. Normally, this comes with some of grated Japanese mountain potato (tororo), also known as my most dreaded food item. We asked to sub out for something else (anything else). Thanks to Nobrin's negotiating skills, we were able to get it swapped out for these little dried salted fish, which were a great flavoring item for the rice. Still, even with Nobrin's excellent English, the best translation we could buy was "small fish." Oh well.


MOUNTAIN GRAPE SORBETThey finished us off with a simple sorbet flavored with some local grape juice. Intense, powerful grape flavor, and quite refreshing actually.

So there we go. It was most definitely the least extravagant meal of our Tokyo stay, but it was a great breath of fresh air. The idyllic setting is beautiful and relaxing, and worth a trip to see. Looking at their website photos, the fall is even more impressive. If nothing else, it'd be a great place to impress a girl... :)

Next up is dinner from this day, at 3 star Sushi Mizutani (no pics unfortunately, but worth a post anyway).

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Reader Comments (4)

I so appreciate the photography on this site. It inspires me to want to create dishes as succulent as they look in the pictures. The on table charcoal grill is an excellent experience to behold.

Sunday, July 4, 2010 at 2:41PM | Unregistered Commenterhttp://restaurantslivermore-ca.com
I so what to go to Japan, it's at the top of the to-do list. Ukai Toriyama looks amazing :o) Just as well I like fish the Japanese do it so well.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 10:11AM | Unregistered CommenterEscape Lodges
A Japanese friend took our group to this restaurant. It was a ways out from Tokyo on the train. The train cars emptied out by the time we reached this semi-remote location, so we were a little skeptical until we arrived at the restaurant. The setting is incredibly serene, and the meal was very enjoyable. As it got dark, the fire flies came out for an incredible sight. If you get to Tokyo, a trip out to dine at Ukai Toriyama is well worth the effort and cost. I plan to make it back some day soon.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011 at 9:27PM | Unregistered CommenterGary T
Great Photos you really seems to have discovered what every foodie is looking for great food and atmosphere. Looks really enticing my mouth is watering already, makes me want to go to Japan too.
Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 11:19PM | Unregistered CommenterGrape Growing Information

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