After six visits to Japan over the last 15 years I was ready to try a five star hotel, and when the Chanzanso Hotel Travelzoo deal showed up in September of 2012 we jumped on the offer. Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo is set on a hillside that was called Camelia Hill until 1878 when prince Aritomo Yamagata purchased it and named it Chinzanso. The gardens that he and later owners established are there for all to see and enjoy, not just hotel guests. This is one of the nicest gardens attached to a hotel that I have ever seen! The camellias and cherry trees were in full bloom for our visit. The rest of the garden sights like the three story pagoda that is around 500-600 years old, are worth noting too. The garden lists the “Ten Scenic Spots at Chinzanso” that are all worth seeing. I loved the little statues found along the garden path that I called “Japanese garden gnomes”. The sacred tree of the garden is about 500 years old and stands magnificently towards the bottom end of the garden close to the soba restaurant. They also have a stone lantern from around the 12th century.
As if the garden isn’t enough of a reason to stay at Chinzanso we found the room, restaurants, and staff to be excellent. Our room was large by Japanese standards, and in excellent condition. The large bathroom had a tub and separate shower as well as L’Occitane toiletries. We were given room number 1001 which had great views of both the gardens and the city of Tokyo. We found the location of the hotel to be much quieter than any other we had stayed at in Tokyo. I had read in previous reviews online that the hotel is kind of far from restaurants and shopping, but we found that the restaurants in the hotel and nearby were very good and many to choose from. The concierge told us about a nearby 175 year old Unagi restaurant the was Michelin rated and quite good. The train station is a 15 minute walk and the Metro is 10 minutes walk from the hotel. Or you can take a taxi for 710 Yen. The hotel is serviced by the Friendly Airport Limousine bus from Narita Airport, and is a good way to and from the hotel.
All in all I can’t think of any other place I could recommend more than this hotel for comfort, and service. We will never forget the service from the concierge desk just hours before we checked out. We had lost our camera two days before, but when we were packing up to leave the room my wife found a taxi reciept from the ride we had taken the day the camera was lost. On a whim we had the concierge call the taxi company to see if the camera had been turned in. It had, but they had sent it to the police lost and found. The concierge called the police, but they couldn’t find it so the concierge called the taxi company back, found the camera and got it to us an hour before we left for the airport. Now that is great service.
The foodie part of the trip was great as usual. We started out by having lunch at the Unagi (eel) restaurant near Chinzanso. For about $40 each we had a great lunch in a Michelin starred restaurant that seemed to be a small mom and pop type place.
The next morning we went to the Tsukiji Fish Market and had sushi for breakfast at Sushi Zanmai. I had a great Tuna Sampler for just $30 that was as good as it gets. For dinner that night we went to a fancy sukiyaki restaurant called Asakusa Imahan to meet friends. It was a lovely traditional sit around the table and eat a big Japanese meal. It was fun during the part of the meal where we got to do a bit of the cooking in the frying pan at the table conveniently placed in front of us.
The next evening we ate dinner at the soba restaurant on the Chinzanso Hotel grounds. This was one of the best soba meals I have ever had! It was enhanced by the view of the gardens lit up at night just in front of our table. The soba itself was cooked just right and the sauce was excellent.
The best meal of the trip was at the Japanese restaurant in Chinzanso Hotel. They called it a buffet, but what it was is a menu of about 35 items that you ordered from at will. There was sushi, hot pots, appetizers, desserts and more. We couldn’t believe it was all you can eat. The quality of the food was superb, with the exception of the hot pot that was a bit weak on flavor. The appetizers were great, the sushi was great, and the cherry ice cream at the end was great! Apparently they have this deal all year, but the menu varies with the season. For about $100 you get an amazing meal. Next trip to Tokyo I would definitely go back to this restaurant.
For a quick and affordable lunch it’s hard to beat the Sekiguchi french style bakery chain that has been around Japan since 1888. The baked goods are quite yummy, and at lunch you can get soups and sandwiches too. For about $10 each we had a very good lunch there. Their croissants are very good as well as the curry bread, and salads.
For a Japanese style salad dressing to commemorate the trip I made up this dressing today in the Fast and Furious Test kitchen.
Sesame Oil and Cider Vinegar Dressing
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sesame oil
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1-2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger, optional
Mix all ingredients in a bowl then pour into a salad dressing bottle. Best if you can refrigerate it over night, but plenty good just after it’s made too.
Try this pouring this dressing over bite sized fresh broccoli, cauliflower, red bell pepper and carrots. Put in refrigerator for 2-3 hours for best tasting salad.
14 oz firm or extra firm tofu cut into 1 inch cubes
2/3 cup of low fat plain yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
6-8 ribs of celery sliced diagonally
2 carrots shredded
1 red or green bell pepper chopped
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons Spike seasoning salt
2-4 pickled jalapenos sliced
1 cup walnuts
4 teaspoons garlic infused olive oil
Optional: 1/4 cup green onions sliced
In a medium mixing bowl combine yogurt, mayonnaise, curry powder, turmeric, and Spike. Gently mix in tofu. In a large mixing bowl combine celery, carrots, bell pepper and jalapenos and mix well. Gently toss in the tofu mixture to the large bowl then chill for 30 minutes.
In a saute pan heat the oil on medium heat for a minute or two then add the walnuts. Lower heat to medium low and stir for 3-5 minutes being carful not to burn the walnuts. Sprinkle a bit of Spike or salt then set aside. When serving the salad top with walnuts, and green onions.
Can be served on a bed of lettuce. Suitable for a main dish, salad or appetizer.
1 cup of quinoa
2 cups of water
1/2 cup of diced or sliced celery
1/2 cup of frozen peas
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1 carrot diced or cut in half lengthwise and sliced
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1 medium fresh tomato
salt and pepper to taste
optional, 1 jalapeno pepper diced
optional, 1/4 cup of sliced green onions
2 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons of olive oil or salad oil
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
I like to cook the quinoa the night before by cooking more than what I need for dinner and using the rest for the salad the next day. That way it’s chilled and ready to go into this recipe. Just follow the cooking directions on the quinoa package, and chill it until you are ready to make the salad.
Bring 3 cups of water to a boil and add the peas. Cook for just 2 minutes, drain and rinse with cold water to cool off the peas. Drain well before adding to the quinoa.
In a large mixing bowl stir the quinoa to break it up before adding all vegetables, except peas as they are fragile.
in a small mixing bowl add the lemon juice, vinegar, and herbs. Mix well with a whisk to moisten the dried herbs. Add the oil and mix well. Pour over quinoa and mix well. Add peas, salt and pepper to taste, and mix gently. Garnish with sliced tomatoes and jalapenos. Serves 4-6.
2 cup fresh cauliflower cut in bite size florets
2 cups fresh broccoli cut in bite size florets
1 carrot peeled and sliced diagonally into 1/4 inch slices
1 small red or green bell pepper diced
1/2 cup prepared Italian salad dressing
Mix all ingredients well and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Can be served immediately, but will have a fuller flavor if allowed some time to chill.
Note: I like a jalapeno or some other hot pepper to spice this up.
3 cups bow tie or shell pasta
1 1/2 cups flaked salmon, about 8-10 oz
1 cup diced or sliced celery
1/2 cup diced dill pickles
1-2 fresh jalapenos diced or sliced thin
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1-2 tablespoons of the pickle brine
1 tablespoon of Spike
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
Optional; 2 tablespoons of sliced green onions
Cook salmon the night before and chill in the fridge.
Cook pasta according to directions on package. Rinse well with cold water and drain.
In a large mixing bowl combine mayonnaise,yogurt, 1 tablespoon pickle brine, and Spike. Mix in pasta, celery pickles, jalapenos, and parsley. Carefully mix in the salmon being careful to leave some visible pieces for visual effect. Add more pickle brine if it looks at all thick. This type of pasta salad tends to soak up the dressing making it a bit dry if served hours after preparation. Chill for 30 minutes or more and serve with a bit of parsley on top if you like.
1 medium red ripe tomato
1 ripe but not too soft avocado
1/2 fresh lime
1 fresh jalapeno optional
salt to taste
Core tomato and cut into 1 inch size pieces.
Cut avocado in half and remove seed. Scoop out avocado with a spoon and cut into 1 inch pieces. Slice jalapeno in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Then slice jalapeno halves in thin half moon slices. Put avocado, tomato and jalapeno in mixing bowl and squeeze lime over it. Stir well but gently. Ready to eat with your favorite bread or tortilla chips.
In a large mixing bowl mix cabbage,carrots, bell peppers, and green onions if using. Add salad dressing and mix well. Best when chilled for 30 minutes or more, but plenty good right away.