Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Rangetsu

In June 2011, Rangetsu celebrated its 65th anniversary of operations in the heart of the Ginza district of Tokyo, Japan where it began in 1947 as a family operation founded by Mr. Masanori Konaka. In Japanese Rangetsu means "Orchid Moon" and thus defines the soft and romantic spirit of the restaurant.  We arrived in Tokyo on a Tuesday afternoon and after getting settled in to our hotel, we freshened up and went to the Ginza district to walk around.  This area is next to the financial district and is filled with many high-end stores and restaurants. Keith had done all the dining research before our trip and picked Rangetsu for us to try.

There is a sake lounge located upstairs with the main dining restaurant on the lower level.  We did not have reservations and I was slightly worried when we arrived as the host asked us if we did with a perplexed look on his face. When we said no, he simply smiled, spoke into his ear piece/walky talky thing and then turned to us and said "just a moment, please."  Immediately, a lady in traditional Japanese attire peeped out and escorted us to a private booth.  We had two servers - a male and female - who took care of us all night.


Known for their Japanese premium beefs at a much more reasonable price than other popular restaurants in the area, Keith knew right away what we wanted to try.  He ordered the Japanese premium beef option B menu in sukiyaki-style for 7000 JPY. Sukiyaki consists of meat (usually thinly sliced beef) which is slowly cooked or simmered at the table, alongside vegetables and other ingredients, in a shallow iron pot in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin. Before being eaten, the ingredients are usually dipped in a small bowl of raw, beaten eggs.

The meat soon arrived and Keith was practically drooling, as he commented that the marbling was gorgeous and really showed the high quality of the thinly sliced beef.  Our female server placed the cube of fat in the hot plate to coat the pan before delicately placing one slice of meat. She then added one scallion slice and poured some of the soy sauce mixture over to let it all cook for a bit.


After the meat was cooked, she placed it in a bowl of beaten raw egg and presented to Keith to eat.  He was shocked by the raw egg, but gave it a go and I could tell he really enjoyed it.  The egg gave a luxurious creaminess to the meat.  It was a little awkward as the server stood there watching Keith eat, and would ask afterward if he enjoyed it.  I think this is just their customary service, in an effort to please the customer, but it is very different from our American culture.  We don't usually have the servers stand by the table and watch us eat the meal they just brought out to us.  Next, the server added some of the vegetables to the pan to cook in the same sukiyaki manner.  She alternated between meat and vegetables, dipping each in the egg for Keith, until there was none left.


Earlier on when we place our orders, I had chosen an interesting seafood dish that caught my eye called Crab Meat Houroku Kama Gohan for 4500 JPY.  The server informed me the dish would take at least 45 minutes to prepare, but I did not mind as I was excited to pay attention to the sukiyaki show of Keith's meal.

When it was ready, a large pot of steamed rice cooked with fresh crab, seasonal mushrooms, and gingko nuts, garnished with edible Mitsuba leaf arrived.  It was a beautiful presentation of a whole snow crab steamed in this clay pot with the rice and vegetables. To accompany, we were given a small dish of various pickled vegetables and a bowl of miso soup.  The male server removed all the crab pieces, removed all the vegetables one-by-one, and then mixed up the remaining rice in the pot.  Some of the bottom had begun to crust up and get crunchy. He then served us each a bowl of rice, then topped with some of the vegetables, and added the crab legs on top.  He instructed us to begin with the legs - crack them open using the tools provided - and enjoy the sweet meat. He left the room and allowed us to eat in private.  The crab was very delicate and I loved the gingko nuts and mushrooms in the rice - a very feminine dish compared to Keith's beef.

Soon after, the male server returned and proceeded to de-shell the rest of the crab and added it all back to the main pot with the rice and vegetables.  He would refill our bowls with more of the mixture to ensure we ate it all.  Eventually, he left again to let us finish the meal on our own.

Overall, the service was incredible and a bit too much at times, yet I was extremely satisfied with my crab dish. The presentation was unlike anything I've seen before and the portion was more than enough for two people to share.  I was concerned at first - since we were going to a restaurant specializing in beef - if there would be anything for me to eat. So it was a pleasant surprise.  The price is a bit high, yet is fair for Japanese standards.  Keith also was very happy to have real high quality Japanese beef. The traditional sukiyaki presentation was another first experience that added to our first dinner in Tokyo being a most memorable one.

Total Rating: 4.23
Food: 4.5, Price: 3.5, Service: 4.5, Ambience: 4, Accessibility: 5

What I ate:
Crab Meat Houroku Kama Gohan
steamed rice cooked with fresh crab, seasonal mushrooms, and gingko nuts, 
garnished with edible Mitsuba leaf

Plus Keith ate:
Japanese Premium Beef Sukiyaki

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