Kani Doraku

Kani Doraku
Multiple locations throughout Tokyo & Japan

Kani Doraku was a place recommended to me for its fantastic crab.  After some research, I concluded “Well, it’s just crab.  How good could it be?”  It didn’t help that every restaurant in the chain can be identified by the giant eyesore of an electronic crab stuck to the outside of each store.  It seemed too gimmicky and cheesey for a restaurant of high caliber.  I’m glad my snobbish and judgmental nature did not get the best of me.  Eventually, we did make it to this restaurant and I am certainly glad we dined here because it turned out to be one of the best meals of the entire trip.  The place isn’t exactly cheap, but for the amount and quality of food you get it is well worth it.  There were multiple kaiseki courses to choose from ranging from 4900 to 10200 yen.  The menu we were given was not in English so thank goodness we had our pocket wifi for access to the online one.  We choose 2 sets (yukari and shiori) with some overlapping courses, but enough variety to get a good sampling of everything.

Boiled crab
This was pretty simple and allowed the natural sweet freshness of crab meat to shine.
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 Raw Crab Sashimi
This was definitely one of the highlights of the whole trip. One, I never had raw crab like this before. Two, I was simply floored by how delicious it tasted. Yes, it was kinda slimy and gooey so texture-wise it might not jive with everyone. If you can appreciate it this far, you’ll just be impressed at how delicious something so unadultered can be so perfect. Just a light dip in some soy sauce and a dab of wasabi. I can only say WOW and triple YUMS!! This cannot be missed if you visit Japan!  Honestly, one of the best things I’ve eaten in my life.
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Crab Chawanmushi
It must be hard to mess up chawanmushi because I rarely come across one I do not like. I am always impressed at the smooth and silky texture that always makes me think I’m eating a silken tofu pudding when it fact it’s just eggs and dashi.
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Crab Paste
This dreary grey scoop of ugliness was actually pretty tasty. I was really wary of it at first because when do humans ever pay to eat anything that is this color? It turned out to be comprised of the innards and brains of the crab, which I normally turn my nose at.  This had all that essence minus the strong unpleasant seafood taste.  I would liken it to a crab pate. It was so good!
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Grilled Crab

This was my first taste of grilled seafood in Japan and I was in love. There’s a wonderful smokey char imparted by the coals that made the crab even more delicious and sweet. DSC08280

A quick 3 minutes on each side resulted in crab meat that was bursting with juicy sweetness.DSC08282

Who knew there was so much liquid in cooked crab like that. I had to be careful to slurp up all of the juice so as not to spill and waste any of it on the plate. DSC08284

Kani Suki Crab Hot Pot in Paper Pot
The Annoyer was puzzled how a paper pot could be heated on an open flame without catching on fire or melt, assuming it’s coated with something. Leave it to the Japanese to engineer anything. The dashi stock was a great base to cook the crab and veggies. The result was a rich stock with so many dimensions of flavor.

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Those rectangles were not fish cakes, but in fact thin slices of mochi.DSC08292DSC08293


Crab Karage
A bit greasy but did channel the essence of karage with the seasoning.
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Crab Tempura
Also a bit a greasy but the tempura batter wasn’t too heavy and bready.
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Crab Sushi
The roll had more rice than what I would have liked but it was still good. Mayo, crab, and tamago really worked together. The nigiri was more simple and delivered more unadultered crab. I liked the nigiri better.
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Claypot Rice with Crab
This was probably my least favorite of 10 crab courses. Maybe we left the lid on too long but the crab and rice was kinda dry and not all that flavorful.
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Japanese Pickles
It’s interesting how Japanese serve pickles at the end of the meal, while Koreans have it at the beginning and through a meal. In any case, these were fairly standard. I didn’t care too much for the burdock root. Not my favorite veg in general.
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Red Miso
It’s quite the popular choice of miso rather than the white miso that I’m used to back home. Red miso is more fermented and therefore saltier and more pungent. It reminds me of strong flavor found in Korean doengjang jigae. The Annoyer prefers white miso instead.
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Crab Soup
Pretty simple broth with crab essence.DSC08302
Ice Cream with Matcha
The matcha was like a syrup but it wasn’t really sweet or thick. It added a delicious dimension to what would have been a ho hum scoop of vanilla ice cream.
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Mochi Ice Cream
Don’t be fooled. The coloring did not indicate different flavors. They were both filled with vanilla ice cream.
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All in all, a FANTASTIC meal.  They take one perfect ingredient and prepared it in many different ways.  It both highlighted the many varying nuances in crab, but it also brought me to the same conclusion.  Crab is some damn delicious little critter!  I’ve always been a shrimp and lobster person, but now I see crab differently.  It’s just wonderful how so little was done to it in many of the courses, but it tasted boatloads better than any of the other more complicated seafood dish I’ve had in my lifetime.  The Annoyer and I unanimously agreed that this was one of the BEST meals of the entire trip.   You’re not gonna get anything like this in America, so for that reason I recommend this as my top Tokyo pick.  Imagine such delights from a chain restaurant of all places.  Don’t be fooled!  It’s not just crab!
10 – You NEED to eat here
9 – Awesome 
8 – Very good
7 – Good
6 – OK
5 – Average
4 – Not bad
3 – Not good
2 – Terrible
1 – Do NOT eat here

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