A CULINARY MASTER who displays meticulous attention to detail, chef Yoshiaki Takazawa provides all the guests at his eponymously-named bijou restaurant in central Tokyo with a 10-course meal that is both complex and imaginative.
The menu is seasonal, and is never the same for a repeat customer. The only constant you’ll find is Takazawa’s signature ratatouille dish, which graced his opening menu in 2005.
Says Takazawa, “I used to make a regular vegetable terrine, but noticed that customers would try the ingredients separately.”
“I wanted them to appreciate the dish as something whole, so I decided to shrink (the terrine) and turn it into a Japanese-style ratatouille that could be eaten in one bite.”
A colourful mosaic reconstruction of the French Provençal dish, Takazawa’s ratatouille is a delightfully artistic creation of 15 different vegetables, including red peppers, shiitake mushrooms, asparagus, carrots, and pickled radish.
Despite being small enough to fit snugly on your palm, the dish itself takes two days to make.
“It needs to be marinated a day in advance,” says Takazawa. “The vegetables are cut precisely and cooked individually, to ensure each one achieves the ideal level of tenderness before they are assembled.” The same colors are never paired next to each other.
A Reflection Of The Seasons
The ratatouille is always the first dish to be served after some initial snacks. The dishes that follow depend on when you visit. In Spring, Takazawa likes food with vivid colours, while his Summer menu boasts bright, sunny flavours.
A perfectionist by nature, Takazawa spares no expense sourcing the best ingredients from around the world. A single wild tiger prawn, for instance, costs in excess of ¥2,000 (US$19). The plump crustacean is favoured for its high umami content and subtle sweetness, used in Takazawa’s spring roll dish that is available only in Spring.
One Of A Kind
More than just a meal, customers are also paying for the unique experience. With only three tables seating a maximum of 10 in total, it’s an intimate and exclusive restaurant with a homely vibe. The chef’s amiable wife, Akiko, is on hand to make sure the guests all feel welcome.
“People compare (eating at Takazawa) to dining at the chef’s house. The open kitchen is like (Takazawa)’s stage. I’m a bridge in between.”
Akiko leaves the cooking and menu-planning to her husband, whose career in the industry began when he was just five years old, helping out at his parents’ restaurant. He worked at a few yakitori eateries, as well as the Park Hyatt Hotel, before opening his own shop at the age of 29.
“I didn’t have a mentor and have always insisted on developing my own style,” says Takazawa. “People have described my food as a fusion of French and Japanese, but I don’t think it should be categorised. While there are Spanish, French, Japanese, and other influences, ultimately the creations are unique.”
2nd Floor, Sanyo Akasaka Bldg, 3-5-2 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 107-0052
More on Takazawa here.