A young master prepares genuinely ‘good’ Japanese cuisine in his 1-star lair
A hole-in-a-wall kaiseki restaurant serving authentic Japanese cuisine, Yamazaki received a star in the newest edition. The kitchen’s specialty is charcoal-grilled soft-shelled turtle, but from soup to final rice dish, each of chef Yamazaki’s creations are made with meticulous attention to subtlety.
Fresh from opening in 2018, Yamazaki is a head above the class of its peers with an esteemed starred status proving its mettle. Chef Yamazaki earned his badges with Akasaka Morikawa as well as the renowned CHIUnE and aca1°, combining his learnings to produce a unique and sublime Japanese cuisine. From his specialty, the charcoal-grilled soft-shelled turtle, to the final course of classic fresh egg-on-rice, his menu sparkles with ingenious touches of creativity. The cellar too is one to note, with a selection of wines and sakes that wow. With seats becoming increasingly harder to book, this is one restaurant to start thinking of now!
The craft of father and son; sushi and a pursuit of ‘dashi’, ingredients, and sources
Chef Karashima is relentless in knowing his sources; as often as he can, he visits them directly at their farms and ports, making sure of their thoughts and craft before making any decision of what to procure. With these fine-grade ingredients of his native Kyushu and beyond, he creates the ‘Dashi’, broth, which then translates into the very essence of his cooking.
Yet another restaurant to keep tabs on; go now, and you’ll still enchanted a decade ahead.
30 years old, a rising star; chef Karashima, eyes set on a career in sushi-making since high school, decided to take the long route and began his apprentice-hood in Japanese cuisine. Through Kobe Japanese cuisine stalwart Kimoto and the Fukuoka Sushi Yasukichi, he honed his skills to the point of perfection. Karashima’s kitchen is further made special with the support of the chef’s father, a sushi master of his own whose presence gives the newly opened shop a reassuring backbone. Do book seats while you can, as this too is a restaurant quickly joining the ranks of the un-bookable.
Experience the extraordinary; the refined flavors of nature-rich Kamakura
The sister restaurant of the popular Tsukiji Tokyo Chinese - Rin, Ichirin Hanare brings modern Chinese cuisine to the medieval capital Kamakura. See, taste, enjoy, and feel the layered richness of Sichuan-style cuisine close at heart.
Worth the trek to Kamakura; a Modern Chinese kitchen hidden inside a renovated traditional Japanese home.
Chef Saito, of the popular Tsukiji Tokyo Chinese - Rin, spins his magic here as well. His specialties of chicken in spicy oils paired with gyoza, or the famous ma-po tofu with soft roe are a given, but new additions utilizing Kamakura’s wealth of ingredients from sea and mountain alike too are marvelous. The venue, a classy renovated traditional Japanese home, was formerly the vacation home of a family of French diplomats, and provides a comfortable and gentle backdrop to the menu. Ichirin’s private rooms are great for those who prefer to dine quietly, but sitting in the main hall, set with a long and broad counter passing through what was three separate rooms, is definitely the recommended style. Do ask for the Shaoxing rice wine, of which the venue has aplenty; their Chinese pairing is quite a novelty, and makes for some interesting conversation with the amiable chef.
Restaurant La Cime
For a haute-French beyond your wildest dreams
Chef Takada composes with an thinking-outside-the-box originality that keeps guests coming for more, regardless of space or time; his 2-star establishment shines in service as well, oftentimes remaking a course for repeating guests so as to provide a completely new experience. No wonder foodies cannot get enough, with the chef himself doing his utmost to keep them guessing.
Chef Yusuke Takada, the culinary genius.
Chef Takada grew up in Amami Oshima, a southern island just north of Okinawa, before moving to Paris to learn to cook. Trained at many an esteemed kitchen, including that of legendary 3-star Le Meurice Alain Ducasse, his own La Cime today, as the sole 2-star holder in Osaka, is one of the pinnacles of Kansai-region gourmet. An approachable man despite his heavy frame, he gives of an amiable air that gives no clues of the fiery passion for cooking he contains; only when creating, breathing life into his delicate, artful masterpieces, do guests truly realize the incredible capabilities of this master. Infusing an islander’s heart into authentic French cuisine learnt from the best in the world, chef Takada and his one-of-a-kind menu alone is more than enough to convince one to travel out west.
Sumibi Yakiniku Nakahara
The fabled ‘mythical tongue’, a specialty only available pre-ordered
Just 2 menu items, of which only one is available to those who don’t reserve prior; Nakahara serves their chef’s course, with only the ‘mythical tongue’ being the exception, a specialty that must be pre-ordered. The kitchen sources only the finest of Japanese Black Cattle, ignoring brand names and other labels to go straight to looking at the quality of meat itself; furthermore, to serve, Nakahara selects only the best of cuts available from their select meats. No questions asked, the best establishment, period, to invite friends that enjoy a hearty meal of meat!
Lavish on the Selections of Chef Kentaro Nakahara, a Man Who Knows All When it Comes to Wagyu.
Unrelenting; the chef, Kentaro Nakahara, considers every last detail regarding the meats he serves. From cattle to cut to firing and the order of courses, he is a master of sublimating meat in its simplest forms, of optimizing all processes in order to realized the potential of each individual slice. His restaurant, more a charcoal-grill barbeque from a different dimension than a traditional yakiniku-japanese cuisine restaurant, is known for its sirloin, the ‘mythical tongue’, and as the originator of the popular ‘fillet-katsu’ sandwich. Nakahara also is a convenient destination for those with foreign guests, as the chef himself speaks fluent English; for a sure-fire night of incredibly succulent meats, do not miss this spot.
The dignified grace of 2-star Japanese cuisine
This recipient of 2 stars awaits underneath the quiet residential streets of Minami-Aoyama, nearby the renowned Nezu Art Museum. Its essence? Quality; the finest ingredients of the season, and authentic culinary methods passed down through the generations. Miyasaka excels in drawing out the full flavors of the season’s fruits, down to the most subtle hints and nuances. For those who are keen to feel the breath of nature in their bites, do take the time to visit.
Chef Nobuhisa Miyasaka, a veteran artisan, perfected his craft sous-chef-ing at Kyoto’s renowned 3-star Mizai for a decade; now, with his mastery complete, he is lord of his own universe in the 2-star Miyasaka, a Japanese cuisine heavyweight standing quietly in the midst of Minami-Aoyama’s serene residential district. Especially recommended is the counter seating, a tiny 8-seat affair that allows guests to watch in awe as chef Miyasaka weaves his craft. With photography banned and location opaque, the restaurant has the shady silhouette of a gem yet to be discovered, making the culinary experience, for the lucky few that are able to reserve, even more of a wonder.
Be one with nature; stunning wood-stove concoctions, family style
The entrance to Maruta, a refurbished home, is stacked with firewood, the hallmark of this restaurant. Inside is a large island-style kitchen, where the signature wood-burning grill is located. The kitchen’s magnificent creations arrive on giant platters straight to the 5.5 meter family table adorning the main hall; guests are invited to share everything, a la family style, for a warm and relaxing dinner.
A newcomer to the gourmet scene but a location to remember, despite its being removed from central Tokyo.
In the middle of a residential district a good distance out from Tokyo’s busy center, Chofu’s Shindaiji Garden area, Maruta awaits in its refurbished home akin more to restaurants as we know them in the western world than anything in Japan. Their delivery, a family style serving regardless of group where guests share from large platters arriving from the grill, features greens and herbs grown locally or in the backyard, in addition to seafood flown in from the Izu Isles. While still new, this restaurant’s capacity for surprise is one that heightens anticipation for the future, and is certainly worth the trip out westward to try.
Margotto e Baciare
Pure luxury; French cuisine infused with the world’s finest truffles, whole
Just a few minutes’ walk from Hiroo station, beside the refined airs of Nishi-Azabu crossing, is Margotto e Baciare, a Modern French restaurant boasting a dreamy menu chock-full of the world’s favorite truffles. Guests are invited to select, on their own volition, out of a variety of wondrously aromatic funghi the piece they find most pleasing; they then are allowed to keep said piece, to slice to their please on the succession of courses that arrive their way.
The intense pleasures of calling Japan’s finest truffles your own.
As a truffle avid, I myself visit Alba, Italy’s so-called ‘white-truffle capital of the world’, every year during peak season; the one thing I had found incredibly disheartening was the lack of top-notch white-truffles available back home, here in Japan. But here, at Margotto e Baciare, there is no such questioning; guests can enjoy world-class truffle to their hearts content, and at incredulous bare-minimum prices no less!
Of course, the skills of chef Kenta Kayama, formerly of Japanese Cuisine Kanda and French Quintessance, both of 3-star fame, are not to be counted out. His consommé, concocted with hints of ‘kombu’ kelp broth, or the specialty Caviar ‘Monaka’, served within a light rice-cracker shell, are frighteningly good standalone, as are his seafood and meats, cooked to perfection. Regardless of whether truffles are in season or not, this restaurant is a cannot-miss for professed gourmands.
Cuisine[s] Michel Troisgros
An ever-evolving 2-star French restaurant, and infusions of Japanese culinary culture
Produced by Michel Troisgros, the 3rd generation of a family of chefs that have kept the 3 stars of Troisgros in Roanne and then Ouches for a whopping 50 years, Shinjuku’s Cuisine[s] Michel Troisgros is the Troisgros group’s sole franchise outside of France.
My favorite of 3-star French destinations, Cuisine[s] is a special hall that makes guests feel as if they were, nullifying both space and time, in the heart of France.
The sole location for getting the ‘Troisgros’ experience outside of France, the esteemed culinary lineage’s Japanese outlet has netted them 2 further stars to add to their many back home. Cuisine[s] is staffed by executive chef Guillaume, a veteran of many a 3-star hall back in France, and serves a constantly evolving ‘Modern French’ fare infusing the traditional cuisine’s techniques with Japanese ingredients and essences. The restaurant interior, leaning heavily on wooden tones, makes for a soft glow that heals and refreshes; once done recharging on the wonderful experience, guests will almost surely long for a vacation to France.
Cuisine[s] Michel Troisgros
Pizzeria Da Gaetano
The world’s only officially certified branch of the legendary Neapolitan pizza outlet Gaetano
Owner-chef TOMMY (Tomohide Shitama) spent 6 years learning from the pizza-making legend Gaetano Fazio himself before receiving the master’s goodwill in opening a branch of the esteemed name in his native Fukuoka; ever since, his pizzeria has been a magnet for pizza lovers all across Japan.
Lauded as ‘Naples in Fukuoka’ and selected to the list of the world’s 70 best pizza restaurants, Gaetano is a destination that represents authentic Neapolitan pizza in japan, to the world.
Pizzeria Da Gaetano is the world’s sole branch of Ischia Island’s fabled pizzeria Da Gaetano, and its owner-chef TOMMY the only apprentice to which legend Gaetano Fazio himself allowed his name shared. His Neapolitan-style pizza is a fare that represents not only Fukuoka but all of Japan on the world stage, and his location in Yakuin, Fukuoka a condensed trip to Naples from flavor and aroma to airs and service. Worth special notice is the ‘pizza Gaetano’, with Ruccola and smoked cheese. Take one bite, and… squisito!