Sunghee Kim
''Charisma Food Analyst''
By: Youmi Park | Jul 22, 2010 | Issue: 852 | One Comment | 8,906 views

Dal Matto Photo by Sarah Noorbakhsh


How passionate about food is Sunghee Kim? “For my college thesis, I analyzed pasta in terms of applied economics,” says the third-generation Zainichi Korean. Kim followed her undergraduate work with a stint at the Tokyo Chorishi Senmon Gakko culinary school, where she became licensed as both a cook and a “food analyst”—essentially, an expert on creating and enjoying cuisine. She now oversees special projects for the Japan Food Analyst Association, as well as covering the Tokyo dining scene via her blog, magazine columns, and guest appearances on TV and radio.

What are some of your favorite places to eat in Tokyo?

Merveille is an exquisite French restaurant managed by Kazumi Okabe, a professional waiter who owns four other places in the city. Everything from the quality of the dishes to the unmatched hospitality of the service makes you want to return for more. Dal Matto is a reservation-only Italian restaurant in Nishi-Azabu with a dinner course for about ¥5,000. It comes with four appetizers, two pasta dishes and an entree, and for an extra ¥1,500 you can enjoy as much house wine (red or white) as you like. Bottaya-San is a two-story restaurant that offers okonomiyaki and monja-yaki on a teppan grill. Keep an eye out for the special “botta-yaki” performance!

What are some of your favorite places to drink in Tokyo?

Takahashi-san is a cozy eatery that sits on a side street lined by a cluster of small restaurants, serving a simple menu of vegetables and wine. The owner, Mr. Takahashi, warmly welcomes each guest at the counter, and I like to drop in just to see his smile. In an area where armies of izakaya battle viciously to fill their tables, Uo-kin in Shimbashi has an especially spirited air. Highlighting the menu is the daily sashimi platter—plentiful servings for a reasonable price. As an oyster lover, I always make sure to order the raw oysters when they come in fresh. Diverta opened on May 17, but I already find myself going there often. It’s in a convenient location near Shibuya station, and offers a variety of tapas from ¥300-¥500, and exquisite, selected boutique wines for around ¥2,000-¥2,500 per bottle. You can stop by on a whim without having to worry about burning a hole in your pockets.

What is your favorite place to shop for food or sake?

From fresh groceries to cosmetics, everything at Natural House is organic. I have a member’s card and shop there regularly to pick up bread made from rice flour, and sugarless candies. Lawson Store 100 is a chain of ¥100 shops opened by the convenience store giant. As an avid soymilk consumer, I was surprised to find that they sell 500ml of PB brand soymilk for just ¥100!

What is your favorite restaurant in the world?

This is such a difficult question: there are so many restaurants that offer great quality in terms of taste, atmosphere, service and price. Ultimately, the best restaurant is one that’s filled with memories and friendships, and makes you want to return again. I love traveling abroad and have taken about 50 trips overseas. On one occasion, I made reservations at Steirereck, which placed 21st on S. Pellegrino’s list of the world’s 50 best restaurants in 2010. In a musical metropolis like Vienna, this restaurant serves cuisine with a rhythmical element. You can even enjoy a sense of harmony with nature, as the seats are in a park. Everything about the discreet, delicate world created by this restaurant still reverberates with me today.

  • Bottaya San
    1-25-5 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-5447-2634. Open Wed-Mon 5pm-midnight, closed Tue. Nearest stn: Ebisu, east exit.

  • Dal-Matto
    B1, 1-10-8 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-3470-9899. Open Tue-Sun 6pm-4am, closed Mon. Nearest stn: Nishi-Azabu.

  • Diverta
    3-26-25 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-5468-0055. Open daily 11:30am-midnight. Nearest stn: Shibuya, south exit.

  • Lawson Store 100

  • Merveille
    3-8-13 Nihombashi, Chuo-ku. Tel: 03-6202-1991. Open Thu-Tue 11am-1:30pm (LO) & 6-9:30pm (LO), closed Wed. Nearest stn: Nihombashi.

  • Natural House
    3-6-18 Kita-Aoyama, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-3498-2277. Open daily 10am-10pm. Nearest stn: Omotesando, exit B4.

  • Steirereck

  • Takahashi-San
    1-7-4 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 080-5527-1117. Open daily 6pm-1am. Nearest stn: Ebisu, east exit.

  • Uo-kin
    3-18-3 Shimbashi, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-3431-1785. Open Mon-Fri 5-11:30pm, Sat 4:30-11:30pm, Sun & hols 4:30-11pm. Nearest stn: Shimbashi, Karasumon exit.



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  • someexpat

    Woody Allen has a wonderful short satire called, “Fabrizio’s: Criticism and Response,” which I’m reminded of when reading that Sunghee Kim “analyzed pasta in terms of applied economics” for her thesis.
    A more seductive title might have read “How passionate is Sunghee Kim about food? She spends her pre-dawn hours in the quiet of the kitchen with nothing but the singing of fresh loaves to wake her.” Or something like that.
    Analyzing pasta in terms of “applied economics” and “passionate” seems as odd as pairing osso buco and cup-sake, but to each her own.

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