Ginza Okuda is in Toru Okuda’s basement. Literally located underneath his flagship Kojyu in Ginza, the restaurant serves a menu virtually identical to the one a couple of floors above it.
And yet the difference between the two is palpable. The prices are not the same, as a meal at Kojyu is more expensive than one at Ginza Okuda. At lunch, the latter offers surprisingly affordable menus for a restaurant of its kind, making it accessible for a much broader customer base. Given that it is less famous, it is also easier to book a place here than at Kojyu.
Another difference is in the atmosphere at Ginza Okuda. More relaxed, less formal, and perhaps also a touch more jovial, this is a restaurant where people come to have great food, and spend an enjoyable time. During our last meal there, there was a mix of local guests, and tourists; something we cannot say of all top-restaurants in Tokyo.
When it comes to the food, the difference is less obvious. The signature of the chef is clearly visible, and the dishes could equally be served at Koyju a few floors higher. Given the price difference, there are, however, some slight changes in the menu here, making it a fun exercise to visit both to see the various menus.
One dish that really stands out is raw sole wrapped around ankimo (monkfish liver), and sauced with a thick, sweet miso vinaigrette. This is a remarkably intense appetizer that sets the tone for a meal to follow. The textures, temperatures, seasoning, all are immaculately balanced, making it a stunning plate of food.
To show that the produce here is no worse than at Kojyu, and of astonishingly high quality, a piece of squid sashimi has an almost surreal texture: both crunchy, and meltingly tender, its flavour is pure, and hardly needs any seasoning. This piece of squid alone will redefine your concept of the product, and demonstrate why it is so important to visit Japan.
That Okuda’s restaurants stick to the traditional progression of a kaiseki meal is evidenced by the rice course that concludes the savoury part of it. The rice is presented topped with eel, and then portioned. Atop the eel, the chefs place delicately cooked eggs that you are instructed to mix into the rice and eel. This results in a bowl of rice that is addictive. The flavours are pure, layered, and so concentrated that you wonder how it is possible. This is another dish that shows the restraint, and precision that goes into every single dish coming out of this small kitchen.
Were Ginza Okuda in any other city in the world, it would be the best restaurant bar none. In Tokyo, however, it is “only” one of the best. It delivers superb food, in a relaxed, warm atmosphere, which is why we cannot recommend it enough.