It would be a very major mistake, Gentle Reader, to assume that the Ukai tofu restaurant nearby Tokyo Tower was ... well, a tofu restaurant. Because it is that, yet oh so much more. A refuge, an oasis, a quiet corner in this clattering city, a joy to enter and a savage anti-climax to leave. Its beautiful gardens are soothing and consoling, and the individual room layout always mean you and your guests get to concentrate on one another rather than the cacophony of the chattering classes.
Your Humble Correspondent is - obviously - quite taken with Ukai. One's week is not complete without manufacturing a reason to take in its serenity, beautifully accented by a course of washoku dishes that satisfy and transform a meal into an experience.
A note: Ukai - though quite good - is certainly not the height of Japanese cuisine, and one shouldn't be looking for the "best in Tokyo" in each of the courses. That said, Gentle Reader, there is no better place within walking distance of Your Humble Correspondent's daytime penitentiary to ... well, "zen" out.
The service is exemplary, discreet and individual. From the moment one arrives to the sad farewell, Ukai offers a reasonable (Y5,000), unique and fulfilling experience at visceral contrast with most other destinations. Very little indeed is difficult, and language is not an issue.
The Take course is the best option, with an appropriate balance of the number of courses with a sensible volume. It will start with a seasonal vegetable, and then launches immediately into the meibutsu dry-fried agedofu with freshly-chopped negi and a sweet miso sauce. Ukai calls this delight age-dentaku ... Your Humble Correspondent prefers "manna".
Next is the tsukuri, or seasonal sashimi, followed by the hassun (which actually refers to the size of the dish at 8 sun or 24cm). One moves on leisurely to Ukai's famous tofu soup, followed by the shokuji or rice dish signifying the end of the meal. Except for a delicate wagashi (Japanese sweet) and tea.
While reluctant to offer anything resembling advice, Your Humble Correspondent suggests you add this venue to your list of haunts. Your friends will thank you, and you'll really feel much better about the world afterwards.
Visit Ukai alone, with impressible clients, or with your superiors. And the shape-chaging tanuki-like denizen ... well, don't mind me!
The Japanese website is utterly better than the English one ...
Ukai: 4-4-13 Shiba-Koen, Minato-ku, Tokyo t:03-3436-1028
Rating: Food: 7/10; Everyday-ness: 7/10; Service: 7/10; Ambiance: 7/10; Price-Performance: 7/10. Total: 36550 (3 Forks)