Travel

Where to eat in Tokyo right now

The Japanese capital is buzzing with new restaurants to check out.

Maz

Maz brings a taste of Peru to Tokyo. PHOTO: MAZ

Maz marks the Japanese debut of Peruvian chef Virgilio Martinez from the acclaimed Central restaurant in Lima. Working with Amazonian farmers, Martinez shares the rich food culture of his homeland, showcasing indigenous ingredients such as blue spirulina and cacao in a kaiseki-style, 9-course menu that also includes Japanese produce. 

Just open in July 2022, the idea is not so much to cook Peruvian cuisine, but to connect diners with nature, so they can appreciate, say, cacao, in its real form, and not just "chocolate in a bag", says Martinez. 

Not all the ingredients are imported from Peru. Head chef Santiago Fernandez says: "We found Japanese farmers who grow Peruvian varieties of potatoes and even huacatay, an Andean herb". Expect an eye-opening meal that literally shows how much more there is to see in the world of food.

SÉZANNE

SEZANNE in Four Seasons Tokyo Maronouchi. PHOTO: SEZANNE

Chef Daniel Calvert made his name in the Hong Kong restaurant Belon, but didn't think twice about starting afresh in Japan when the opportunity came about. He now helms the newly minted one Michelin-starred SÉZANNE - an Andre Fu-designed restaurant in the Four Seasons Tokyo Marunouchi. 

Fascinated with Japanese ingredients and the "craftsmanship behind them", Calvert also incorporates Japanese cooking techniques in this otherwise quintessential French restaurant.

Open since July 2021, SÉZANNE has earned buzz for dishes such as roast Hokkaido venison and his own version of Shanghainese drunken chicken made with vin jaune. Sezanne ranked 17 in the 2022 Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list, making it a restaurant to watch.

Sushi Yoshida

Sushi Yoshida is housed in a 3-storey Japanese house. PHOTO: SUSHI YOSHIDA

Housed in a classic 3-storey Japanese house filled with artefacts, dining in this restaurant in Hatagaya is like being in an art gallery. Its owner operates a luxury jewellery and watch business in Hatagaya as well, which explains why the restaurant serves "jewels" from the sea. Open since June 2021, expect huge abalones and top-quality bluefin tuna from famous tuna monger Yamayuki served by sushi chef Daiki Fujimoto, who has trained chefs in both Japan and Hong Kong. 

Check out their appetisers such as the cute cat-shaped monaka wafers filled with monkfish liver and cashew nuts, and sushi made with rice seasoned with red vinegar to counter the richness of oily fish. Wine and sake lovers will be right at home here with the restaurant's range of rare brews and vintages.

Nihonryori Hakuun

Hakuun brings out the best of natural ingredients. PHOTO: HAKUUN

Open since January 2021, Hakuun is helmed by Shingo Sakamoto, who spent 12 years as the disciple of Seiji Yamamoto, of 3-Michelin-starred Ryugin fame. 

Located an 8-minute walk from Omotesando station, the 1-Michelin-starred Hakuun is an 8-seater intimate dining experience that showcases seasonal ingredients and Sakamoto's personal cooking style that brings out the best natural flavours and textures. Bonito, for example, is cut in slightly larger pieces, "so when diners bite into it, they can appreciate the difference in texture between the soft meat and crisp (broiled) skin," says the chef. "It's a small restaurant, which is why we focus on the different senses of taste.. We hope it will appeal to our customers' hearts."

Izuku 

Izuku chef Fuma Saki punches well above his weight and age. PHOTO: IZUKU

Heading a restaurant in Ginza at the tender age of 23 is an exceptional achievement for Fuma Saki, who trained in the 3-Michelin-starred Kyoto institution, Kitcho Arashiyama. 

But he started young as the captain of the culinary club in Kyoto's Ouka High School, which was famous for its restaurant run by the students. He was also sent to Milan on a student attachment, and then apprenticed for 2 and a half years at Kitcho, which formed the foundation for Izuku.

While deeply rooted in traditional kaiseki cuisine, Saki doesn't believe in chasing premium ingredients such as matsutake mushrooms or crab. "There are many more things you can appreciate from nature," he says. "For example, shishamo (smelt) is a humble fish, but if you get a good-quality one and cook it properly, it can be as good as crab." 

Now, the 8-month-old Izuku is highly sought after for its talented chef who punches above his weight, and his age.

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