Aronia de Takazawa
Sanyo Akasaka Building 2F
After reading a blog about this restaurant I was dying to check it out. We were lucky enough to get a reservation for Friday night (Nov 4th). They are only open for dinner and the space seats a maximum of 10 guests. I highly doubt they turn tables, meaning they only serve a maximum of 10 guests per night. You have a choice of three different courses with 7,9, or 11 dishes (16,000, 20,000 and 24,000 yen respectively) and since the Chef purchases his ingredients based on reservations, you will incur a cancellation fee within three days of the intended date (60% for three days before to be exact). So I asked for the 9 course meal and told the Chef that my mother doesn’t like gamey meats or offals.
It didn’t help that the building in which the restaurant is located was under construction because the entrance is quite obscure and hard to spot. We pulled the door open, walked up the stairs and the first thing we saw was the Chef’s stainless steel work station. The room was decorated tastefully and it had a very clean look. In the bathroom was the collection of “The Modernist Cuisine” books and cute tenugui (Japanese cloths) to wipe your hands with.
The Chef cooked some of the items on the work station but it was mostly used for plating. He had two cooks helping him in the back kitchen and his wife took care of the service. I had seen plenty of photos of his dishes but didn’t know how the food would taste. I would say that this was one of the top five fine dining experiences I’ve had in my life. Aronia de Takazawa did not disappoint, and the Chef’s humbleness definitely added weight to the experience.
The interesting thing about Chef Takazawa is that he never worked at a Molecular Gastronomy restaurant. After graduating from culinary school, he worked at a high end restaurant at a hotel, at a yakitori restaurant and also did wedding banquets. I read that his parents have been running a traditional Japanese restaurant in Tokyo for the past thirty years or so and his attention to detail and meticulous plating skills clearly reflect his connection to traditional Japanese cuisine. He not only presents aesthetically beautiful food but also cares immensely about the ingredients he uses, and he apparently maintains good relationships with most of his purveyors (who are for the most part the actual farmers themselves).
This is a detailed article about the Chef
I had four glasses of wine, three of which were Japanese wines. The first was a Chardonnay from Yamanashi (melon in the nose with minimal malolactic fermentation. Not as crisp as Chablis type Chardonnays but not as buttery and full like typical Cali Chardonnays either). The second was a light bodied Muscat Bailey (red wine)- low acidity, rose syrup in the nose- very aromatic but I was not a big fan. The last was a 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend also from Yamanashi (Chateau Mars), which was my favorite.
After we were done with our meal and paid the bill, the Chef and his wife came downstairs and outside with us to make small talk, thank us and say goodbye. This is what I love about the fine restaurants in Japan. The interaction guests can have with the Chef. Most chefs of fine restaurant establishments will come greet the guest at the end of a meal, which is something I have never experienced at restaurants in New York. When I went to Quintessence in Tokyo (three Michelin star), the Chef (very young and humble) came to say goodbye and ask how our meal was. Aronia de Takazawa does not have any stars but the experience I had was comparable to that of places like Quintessence and Arzak. It’s hard enough to get a reservation so it’s probably a good thing that it has no Michelin stars. The Chef probably doesn’t want to sell out either so I’ll hope that he can get by with the way he has been doing things for the past six years. Will definitely go back again one day.