In February we ate at Ukai Tofuya in Shiba and cannot say I was overly impressed with either their food or service. It seemed to be a purely tourist operation with the aim of turning over the numbers and as a result the quality of the meal suffered. They seem to have pretensions to kaiseki style dining & service but lack in both these areas. If you are new to Japan and used to perfunctory service back home in your own country then you may think the service here is ok but we found the service at Ukai is quite poor by Japanese standards. Everyday service at kissaten coffee shops is far superior to what we received here.
I guess my expectations of Ukai were high as it had a good reputation but I was actually very disappointed. Rarely in Japan are you treated as just a 'number' when it comes to hospitality & dining out but we really felt that at Ukai. I just would not consider taking guests here despite it being adjacent to Tokyo Tower.
Service at Ukai was below standard - from the lack of greeting on arrival, right through to our departure it showed. In the main shared dining room the waitress did not even pause to place dishes & drinks on the table properly, placing them out of reach on the edge as she walked past, or dumping them on the table without any explanation as to what the dish was (this was not a lack of English on the part of the staff as Japanese was being spoken at our table) - I called this 'drive by service'. It was quite unprofessional. We also had to make a point to tell them to slow down as they seemed in too much of hurry piling dishes upon our table before we had finished the previous ones - all arriving within about 15 mins. I felt they wanted to move us on quickly & be ready for the next group of customers. You simply cannot eat a multi-course meal in 30 mins.
The food was 'just ok'. It was a let down because I'd been eating great meals all over Japan and also tofu did really not star in the meal, it was incidental to it. I've eaten at many tofu restaurants in Japan over the years and this restaurant missed the mark & did not take the opportunity to use tofu creatively in each part of the course. Moreover, their kaiseki style is subpar. If you really would like to eat good tofu cuisine consider an alternative restaurant as I have had much better tofu cuisine elsewhere. Yes, their garden is pretty but that did't make up for the mediocre food & service. If you'd like excellent food in garden surroundings when in Tokyo consider somewhere like the Hotel New Otani's historic garden with it's top quality restaurants or visit Chinzanso.
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