Captain obvious here… but Tokyo is a pretty great destination for food.
Weird food, Michelin starred food, comfort food, cheap food, street food, you can’t go anywhere with a plethora of options confronting you.
Everyone has a recommendation for their favourite restaurant in Tokyo. However, one that kept coming up was Gonpachi, specifically in Roppongi. This is the original version and one that has achieved a certain cult fame status from appearing in a very famous movie that rhymes with Bill Schmill.
You know the movie… where a boss ass lady in a yellow jumpsuit destroys an army of bad guys with samurai swords, and one teenage girl wielding a wrecking ball.
So… with a few nights for dinner in Tokyo, Gonpachi was added to the list of restaurants to reserve prior, as they tend to hit capacity nightly.
It was pretty easy to email the team and secure a table, going along with the 9 course “Gokuraku” set that I was assured is the most popular option. The emails were most friendly and even sounded excited that we were coming.
Love that Japanese hospitality.
It’s a fairly easy place to get to, a short stroll from Roppongi station (about 10 minutes) and you’re confronted by an impressive white building on the corner, it’s impossible to miss.
It’s inside the restaurant that resulted in the most oohs and aahs. It’s pretty speshtacular. An izakaya restaurant, with a large yakitori bar dominating the centre of the room, tiered private booths around the edges and upstairs, the lanterns and architecture in a very traditional Japanese styling.
It’s hard not to look around and compare Gonpachi now, with the Gonpachi from the famous movie. Either way, there’s a wow factor to the place.
We were greeted with an umeshu on arrival, taken to our table and since we already had a set menu, only had to decide upon drinks, from an extensive and delicious drinks menu.
The service was friendly if a little sporadic and hard to get hold of at times. Definitely speak up and ask what each dish is, as some were placed in front of us without ceremony or explanation (depending on the waiter), so I had to be “That Guy” and keep asking. Otherwise writing this would have been near impossible.
Ok, that’s WAY too much preamble… onto the food:
Unfortunately, my piece of tuna had a bit of chewiness due to a tougher muscle running through it, but I was assured by my companion that hers was melting in the mouth incredible. All the fish was obviously fresh, but it’s Japan so… it should be.
My lack of ability to tell you exactly what was in this dish was due to a “lost in translation” moment. However, I do know that the seared tuna was AH-Mazeing and definitely made up for my awkward sashimi moment. The others were refreshing and that “something made out of soy milk” was bloody yummy, sweet and salty and firm.
I will remember this prawn dumpling probably longer than I’ll remember some relatives. That’s how crunchy, spongey, citrus-soaked and fried it was. If I went back I’d order a bucket of these and sit in a corner.
Dishes 4 and 5:
Black Cod and Tempura squid, crab and pumpkin.
The black cod was so deliciously fatty, smoky and salty. I’ve never had a fish quite so oily that didn’t make me feel like I was eating something very fishy, until now. The radish on the side is a great taste refresher, so it never became “too much” fish.
The Tempura was solid. Really upped by the matcha salt over the side, I was underwhelmed by the pumpkin, but I think that’s just me. The squid is the highlight of this dish due to being cooked to perfection. Still springy but oh so crispy on the outside.
I’m going to call this one mystery meat on a stick. And like all mystery meats on sticks, it was very tasty. Was it pork? I think so… but it may have also been any white meat. If only I was told when it was thrust in front of me. 10/10 for keeping me on my toes though!
This was a lovely piece of beef. The Japanese really cook beef well, and by that I mean barely cooking it at all of course. Marbled and juicy. The sweetness of the sauce really balanced with the salt and fat. I was pleased.
You can’t really stuff up a soba noodle, can you? If you can, well they didn’t. This was a nice little palate cleanser before dessert.
It’s surprising to myself that I found the dessert to be one of the best (if not the best) of the meal. That vanilla ice cream was so creamy and covered in what I think was a caramel. With soft and light mochi to bring it up from being too sweet. This was paired with a green tea and was truly enjoyable.
So is Gonpachi worth it?
These are the 3 questions I’d probably ask to help to decide…
- Will GonPachi break the bank?
- No: It’s not expensive, especially not by large Tokyo dining standards. We spent about $110 AUD each for all those courses and a couple of great drinks. I’d say mid-range but fun enough to justify it. Plus it was plenty of food.
- Does it look like the movie?
- Not really. Don’t go if that’s all you’re going for. Go cos it has a cool (if somewhat cheesy) vibe and excellent decor.
- Is the food good quality?
- Yep: It’s not what I would call “mind-blowing” food, but I think the set menu offered a nice range of solidly prepared dishes with quality ingredients. I would ask to sit at the bar next time to watch the prep.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and slaughter some guy named William…