November 26, 2009: Tokyo Travel Day #2 – Aronia de Takazawa, Chikuyo-tei Honten, and more strolls and sweets.
So, what better way to include a day of eating than eating some more? After a memorable lunch at Chez Matsuo, a late afternoon snack at Pierre Herme, and a pre-dinner appetizer at the Pierre Marcolini Cafe, we headed off to Akasaka and dinner at Aronia de Takazawa.
According to the direction I got from the hotel, the restaurant is located “on the backside of the building next to an oyster bar. Look for the white door with two large potted plants on either side.” We stopped to ask for directions and still nearly missed it. The entrance to the place is thoroughly non-descript, hidden away in a back alley. Fortunately, the guy we asked for directions was kind enough to walk us over –
The door opened onto a stairwell leading up to…parts unknown…
The stairwell brought us up to the dining area, a gorgeous little room looking into the chef’s station, a sleek metallic cooking island decked out with multi-colored rock salt and an enormous leg of dry-aged venison prosciutto.
The stage-like setting is no accident – the chef’s station sparse and brightly lit, the dining room softly illuminated and surrounded by wood paneling.
As we took our seats, we watched as one of our servers pressed her hand to one of the wall panels. It sprang back to reveal a hidden compartment. This, I immediately realized, was a magic show. From the hidden entrance to the set-up to the concealed access points, it all hinted at illusion, sleight of hand, and surprises.
We settled in and chatted with our two servers, both of whom spoke flawless English, both of whom sported hands-free ear pieces that had them synced with the man in the back. As for the magician himself, I was amazed to discover that Takazawa is only thirty-three – and he looks even younger.
On the one hand, it’s surprising given how accomplished many of his dishes are, with their subtle balances of flavors and textures. On the other hand, leave it to a young chef to come up with such audaciously imaginative creations. According to our server, Chef Takazawa changes his menu regularly, heading down to the Tsukiji Fish Market every morning and building the night’s menu on the inspiration provided by the freshest offerings.
Moving on to the meal…
To be honest, the photos don’t do justice to the meal, or the experience. It was a night full of surprises and laughter, an utterly delightful dinner through and through.
After we were done, Chef Takazawa and one of the servers actually escorted us downstairs. Moro and I thanked them profusely for a truly wonderful time and then headed off. As we walked back down the alleyway, we reflected on the meal’s many highlights. And, just as we were about to take a corner, we happened to glance back and there stood Chef Takazawa and the server, still at the entrance, waving goodbye.
Next time I’m in town, I am coming back.
They say the first day is the hardest and I’ll vouch for that. My jet lag started to catch up with me halfway through our meal. At one point, I asked Moro what time it was, imagining it was about 11:00 p.m. Turns out it was a little after 8:00 p.m.
I got back to the hotel at around ten, then spent the next two hours or so uploading pics and posting my blog entry. By the time I crawled into bed, it was 1:00 a.m.
I intended to sleep in this morning but, for some reason, I can’t sleep past 8:00 a.m. Could be because eight a.m. Tokyo time is one p.m. Vancouver time. Damn, am I going to feel it tonight.
I uploaded more pics, had the foie gras and truffle macarons I bought at Pierre Herme, then headed out. Today’s lunch was a little more traditional. I went to Chikuyo-tei, an unagi (eel) restaurant that has been in business since Japan’s Edo Period, over a hundred and fifty years ago. My dining companion on this occasion was the salsa-rific Sachi who took the one hour subway ride into town to have lunch with me. And a lovely lunch it was…
Following our meal, I spoke with one of the owners of the family-run restaurant, an older woman who smoke excellent English. She informed me that the establishment has been in her family for seven generations. Might damn impressive.
After our chat, she spotted my camera and offered to take a picture of us in the restaurant’s garden…
From there, we headed to Roppogni where we strolled through Midtown and snacked on some ice cream –
We then took a stroll and checked out some of the sights –
At which point it was over to the Ritz Carlton for some much-needed sustenance…
Some more walking through Roppongi Hills to close out the day and I was finally ready for bed.
Unfortunately for me, it was only 5:00 p.m. and I had dinner reservations in two and a half hours.