Japan- Kanda- ✪✪✪

Nestled in a beautiful Tokyo neighborhood known as an enclave for wealthy expats, Kanda is a gorgeous 8-counter-seat restaurant serving traditional Japanese fare with a French flourish. Most of that flourish is likely thanks to head chef Hiroyuki Kanda's 5-year stint as a chef in Paris when he moved there at the tender age of 23. 

Opened in 2004, Kanda is located in something that feels a lot like a residential apartment building, because that's exactly what it is. Though finding restaurants using Google Maps in Japan is always a struggle, this one was particularly vexing since the address on the restaurant's website takes you to what is, in fact, either a gas station or a bread factory several blocks away. Seriously couldn't tell which. Give yourself an extra few minutes if you visit. 

 Kanda's Sign

Kanda's Sign

 Kanda Main Entrance

Kanda Main Entrance

 Kanda Interior Hallway

Kanda Interior Hallway

Kanda's interior style is what you get when you cross a Japanese restaurant with an Apple store. A huge amount of blond wood and bold lighting. Lots of plain surfaces with minimal decoration.

 Kanda Chef's Counter

Kanda Chef's Counter

TOKYO, JAPAN

SERVICE: 8.0/10

FOOD: 8.5/10

PRICE PAID: $255 PP (LIST PRICE- PRE-CHALLENGE)

VALUE/MONEY: 7.0/10

FINAL SCORE: 7.5/10

Kanda himself is warm and friendly- he offers an aperitif of champagne immediately upon seating, asks about any preferences or allergies, and inquires where we are from. This might seem like fairly common courtesy, but it's relatively rare for high-end Japanese restaurants. 

 First Bites: Turnip + Yuzu + Vegetable Soup, 9/10

First Bites: Turnip + Yuzu + Vegetable Soup, 9/10

First out of the gate is a lovely, warm turnip-yuzu-vegetable soup. White fish at the base; the texture goes perfectly with the starchy dumpling. The green vegetables have been braised and are extremely crunchy, a nice play off the soft comfort food texture of the dumpling and fish. 9/10.

 Course 1: Lobster + Sea Urchin, 8/10

Course 1: Lobster + Sea Urchin, 8/10

A lovely, small bite of lobster and sea urchin served cold. The sea urchin has that awesome earthy mouthfeel and rich taste. 8/10.

 Course 2: Otoro Tuna, 9/10

Course 2: Otoro Tuna, 9/10

This fatty tuna - "otoro" - was literally as soft as a stick of melted butter, and almost as rich. Cut from the fattiest part of the tuna belly, this fish was exquisitely presented and incredibly delicious. 9/10.

 Full-Salt Soy and Salt

Full-Salt Soy and Salt

In case the fish itself wasn't ungodly savory enough on its own, the restaurant served a pretty healthy helping of full-salt soy and, of course, a plate of just plain salt. Caveat emptor

 Course 3: Monkfish Liver, 10/10

Course 3: Monkfish Liver, 10/10

Next, some monkfish liver- soft and delicate, almost like a pâté. Not at all fishy. Notes of strawberry at the very back. Outstanding. 10/10.

 Course 4: Crab Meat Dumpling Soup, 8/10

Course 4: Crab Meat Dumpling Soup, 8/10

The chef then gave us a clear-broth soup with a large crab meat dumpling in a beautiful, black-lacquered ceramic dish. Great crab texture. The radish was painstakingly cut into a star shape; an extra but welcome touch, the flavors contrast the crab perfectly. 8/10.

 Course 5: Sea Urchin, 8/10

Course 5: Sea Urchin, 8/10

Next, a few short courses of sushi. First, some sea urchin, which was a bit of a surprise since we had just enjoyed some a few courses ago, but a welcome difference with the strong notes of dried seaweed. 8/10.

 Course 6: Prawn + Egg Powder, 8/10

Course 6: Prawn + Egg Powder, 8/10

Next, sushi of prawn with a heavy dose of egg powder on top, which added some fun color. 8/10.

 Course 7: Blowfish + Black Turnip, 9/10

Course 7: Blowfish + Black Turnip, 9/10

And the last of the three sushi bites- blowfish with black turnip and pine nuts. The pine nuts were an awesome idea- they brought out a lot of flavors in the normally-neutral blowfish. 9/10.

 Course 8: Miyazaki Beef, 10/10

Course 8: Miyazaki Beef, 10/10

Of the many sub-varieties of Japanese Wagyu beef, Miyazaki is my absolute favorite. They are regarded within the Japanese Black Cattle industry as the best of the best- for example, did you know that champion sumo wrestlers are presented with a Miyazaki cow when they win?

Anyways, the tenderloin is insanely soft and delicious. The taste is practically caramel on the outside, and the strong wasabi-based mustard on the right adds a lot. 10/10. 

 Course 9: Sake Potage + Clam, 8/10

Course 9: Sake Potage + Clam, 8/10

Then, a sake potage with clam; hot and starchy. The dumpling is extremely stretchy, and the clam is fresh and delightful. 8/10.

 Course 10: Pickled Vegetables, 8/10

Course 10: Pickled Vegetables, 8/10

Next, as a cool-down dish to begin relaxing the palate, some salty pickled vegetables. 8/10.

 Course 11: Deep-Fried Prawns, 8/10

Course 11: Deep-Fried Prawns, 8/10

And the very last non-dessert; a cake of deep-fried prawns, more of a final snack than a real course. Salty and fun comfort food. 8/10. 

 Course 12: Apricots, 8/10

Course 12: Apricots, 8/10

Japanese high-end restaurants are renowned for their simple desserts, and Kanda is no exception- a bowlful of sliced apricots. End of story. Fresh and refreshing, but it's just a bowl of apricots. 8/10. 

 Course 13: Strawberry Sorbet, 9/10

Course 13: Strawberry Sorbet, 9/10

Lastly, a solitary scoop of strawberry sorbet. Also fresh, and quite sugary. 9/10. A great end to one of the better meals in Japan.