Takazawa, Tokyo

April 23, 2013

Yoshiaki Takazawa grew up in a family of Japanese chefs. After French culinary school, he trained at the Park Hyatt in Tokyo. Then, after working at a variety of restaurants, including a yakitori shop and a wedding banquet hall, he and his wife Akiko opened Aronia de Takazawa in 2005. They served Japanese-influenced French cuisine to only two tables each evening. In May 2012 they reopened as Takazawa, with more emphasis on Japanese products and three tables for up to ten guests. They keep the restaurant small so that they can give close personal attention to each guest, the traditional style of a Japanese tea ceremony.

Linda and I went to Takazawa for dinner on April 5, 2013.

The entry is a barely marked door in an alley near a busy intersection by the Prudential Tower in Akasaka. Fortunately our cab driver could use the map from Takazawa’s website, which I had printed.
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We were warmly welcomed by Akiko, who speaks good English. She seated us and proposed a glass of champagne.

We received a printed menu for our meal in English and Japanese entitled “Enjoy Your Imagination.” 

There were four amuse-bouches:

An oyster that had been lightly cooked and dressed with lemon.
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It went beautifully with our Champagne, but was not easy to eat with chopsticks.

Two lightly pickled firefly squid.
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Elegant flavor.

Shirouo no Odorigui 「シロウオの踊り食い」(Dancing Icefish) newborn fish of the sardine or anchovy families swimming vigorously in a glass of dashi.
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Akiko told us to drink this in one mouthful. The flavor of the dashi was excellent, no doubt enhanced by the shirasu, which didn’t have a distinct flavor for me. They are supposed to be somewhat sweet when chewed. 

Vegetables under the snow.
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This is designed to evoke the melting of the snow in Hokkaido. On the left is a tempura wild leek; on the right is a piece of tempura fukinotou, a spring butterbur bud with a distinctive bitter flavor. Underneath is a chunk of carrot evoking the farmers who preserve carrots under the snow until spring.


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After the oyster, we were served glasses of 2012 Aruga Branca Issehara, made in Yamanashi prefecture from the indigineous Japanese white grape variety, Koshu. It was very nice, somewhat like an aromatic sauvignon blanc.  This was followed by a Japanese Chardonnay, which we thought had a somewhat musty, unpleasant flavor.

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The first menu course was
Ratatouille
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This is Takazawa‘s signature dish, the only one dating from the restaurant’s opening in 2005 and still being served.  It is a slice of a multicolored mosaic terrine   Each of the vegetables is prepared in a different style: steamed, simmered, sautéed, raw or pressed. The outside wrapping is red cabbage, blanched and lightly vinegared to hold the color. On its left you can see a salted black bean and a crystal of salt. Akiko instructed us to eat the ratatouille in one mouthful; I chewed it slowly to appreciate the mosaic of lovely flavors.

At this point a square of hot sesame black bread was put on a plate beside us with a spread of Okinawa pork.
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Interesting and good.

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Vegetables Parfait
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This was a difficult dish to photograph. In fact, the whole meal presented problems of photography (and sometimes to eat gracefully) due to its playful creativity and unusual forms. The parfait was topped with a mixture of chopped vegetables and petals. On top, which you cannot see, was a scoop of good caviar and a crisp black cabbage leaf. The next layer down was a parmesan cream.  Below that were sort of a gazpacho and clear tomato water at the bottom. Long spoons and straws for the last drops were provided. Excellent dish.
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Spring Roll
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I really missed the good photo for this one. When the bowl was presented, a sheet of rice paper was stretched over it. A just-cooked, long shrimp was lying on top of it to one side; the rest was covered with pretty flowers and herbs. As both of the Takazawas were at our table serving and explaining, I didn’t want to interrupt with my camera. Suddenly he rolled up the rice paper creating the spring roll you see above and revealing the sesame dipping sauce, with a bit of chili, below. The enhanced shrimp flavor was lovely.

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Harvest from Takazawa’s Farm
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Early season spears of white and purple asparagus from Hokkaido were served in a mixture of breadcrumbs and spices which lightly coated and flavored them. Like the previous course, we ate this one with our hands. In the tube was a truffled homemade mayonnaise. Very good.
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Breakfast at Takazawa
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A generous portion of black truffles were shaved over a poached egg. Alongside was a small bowl of “cornflakes” made from potatoes. Akiko instructed us to eat some along with the egg and truffles. They are a classic combination and the flakes added needed texture. Nice.

At this point Akiko served us glasses of 1980 Château Soulard, Saint Emilion, cru classé.  It was rich and mellow.
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Hot Balloon
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Black-throated sea perch, clams, sugar snap peas and another green had been enclosed in a cellophane papillote and steamed. This was a good preparation of flavors of the sea.
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Akiko served us a glass of 2007 Château Mars, a Japanese Syrah.
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It was interesting, but a bit harsh. 

The scene of Winter to Spring
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This dish is meant to evoke spring in Hokkaido, dairy cattle country, which is unusual in Japan. The chunk of veal was served on top of a mushroom sauce. Around and about are dabs of milk foam. There are two very good, crisp veal sweetbreads and a purée of lily bulb, also typical of Hokkaido.
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Wind Dried Citrus
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A real miniature  bonzai cherry tree in full blossom was hung with kumquat rinds, small orange wedges and green marshmallows shaped like little birds. Lovely.
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Strawberry Short Cake
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Slices of sweet strawberries lined the box which gave off fog when opened. The fog hid whatever elements on the bottom created the effect of cake. 


This was served with a thin glass of Japanese ice wine.
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Very good.

We finished with a plate of mignardises. Note the cocoa-cookie cats and the white chocolate pigs.
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The three tables in the dining room are well spaced. At the far side of the room is a well-equipped counter where the chef works during the entire meal, except when he is presenting a dish at a table. The sous-chefs emerge from a curtain behind him with ingredients etc. He wears an earpiece and microphone and so is in constant communication with Akiko and the others, assuring good timing etc. The pace of our meal was always right.

Here he is assembling ingredients and cutting wagyu beef for one of the other tables.
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Here he is opening oysters at a neighboring table. They had been presented to the guests in the covered bowl in which they were steamed.
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A dinner at Takazawa is an unforgettable experience. Only a few people will be able to enjoy it. We were fortunate to be among them. 

http://www.takazawa-y.co.jp/home.html

For a very interesting article written in 2007 on Yoshiaki Takazawa’s career until then click here.

12 Responses to “Takazawa, Tokyo”

  1. Rich Says:

    This looks like a sensational meal. Is there a good reason why this place isn’t Michelin rated?

    • Michael Says:

      Two things I can think of:
      The chef isn’t interested, although that doesn’t necessarily dissuade Michelin. I’ve heard that he isn’t in any guide.
      With only ten seats and one seating a day, it might be below Michelin’s threshold, although I think they rate even smaller sushi places in Tokyo. If they were to rate him, they would have to consider three stars and it might be hard to get enough inspector meals to meet their criteria for that.


  2. Gosh, I am so envious. What a great little restaurant. But I am not sure I would have wanted to gulp down live fish. I like raw fish, but the idea of having it live and fighting to survive in my stomach does not appeal to me.

    • Michael Says:

      Rolf,
      Well, you need to chew them to release their flavor. Thus they will not still be alive. I think you do eat live oysters and clams, although the one above had been poached.

  3. ojile Says:

    The food looks great but taste enhanced most assuredly by the elegant artistry (artful elegance?)-would have loved to have been there.
    -timothy

  4. john howell Says:

    This looks like a Japanese Arabian nights of gourmet ecstatics.
    Wondrous to behold; a door well opened and never to be forgotten


  5. asparagus with truffles, oh yes! This place looks fantastic, you were lucky to have heard about it and have managed to get a table!

  6. Blair Says:

    How did you find this jewel?

    Looks to be the ideal meal.

    Were there other wine options? Not sure restricting to Japanese wine for a meal of this caliber is the best idea.

    • Michael Says:

      I’m not sure what the other beverage options were. In my reservation email exchanges, I said we would be drinking sake, but Akiko was strong on the idea that we should try her pairings. After all, we were there to explore and enjoy what they served us. Two of the four Japanese wines were very good and the other two okay. And there was an exquisite, well-aged French red wine and real Champagne to start. Actually, Akiko did offer us sake with the veal course, but we were into wine by then and tried the syrah.

  7. Stefan Says:

    Thank you for your wonderful report. The Saint-Emilion Château is probably called Soutard.


  8. Good to see the ‘wind dried citrus’ with the cherry blossoms in full bloom. When we went there in February, the cherry bonsai plant was still a twiggy branch! Thanks for the pic!


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