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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
The first menu course was
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.
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.
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.
Harvest from Takazawa’s Farm
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.
Breakfast at Takazawa
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.
Akiko served us a glass of 2007 Château Mars, a Japanese Syrah.
It was interesting, but a bit harsh.
The scene of Winter to Spring
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.
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.
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.
For a very interesting article written in 2007 on Yoshiaki Takazawa’s career until then click here.