Welcome To Akasaka
Akasaka is next to Roppongi and used to have to a lot of kaiseki restaurants but most of them have closed. In the last five years, however, lots of good new restaurants have opened here. Shirosaka is the kind of Japanese restaurant I want to eat at. I don’t like formal places and always go to casual places where people are friendly and there’s a warm welcome. My restaurant is small so I can talk to all of my customers about what they want to eat and create an omakase menu especially for them. We specialise in charcoal-grilled dishes and also offer wine and sake pairings.
Late-Night French Comfort
Bistro Ma Cuisine is a French bistro that’s casual and opens late (till 3am) so we go there a lot after service. The chef Ryosuke Ikejiri cooks classic French food like potato potage and also makes his own sausage. I really like his pâté de campagne (country pate) and the restaurant serves sake as well as mostly French wine.
Oysters And Wine
Vinoble is another place I like to go after service. It’s a late-night wine bar that serves really good oysters from Daikokushima Island in Hiroshima prefecture. The waters are clean and the oysters are shucked gently, never washed and served with their liquor. The kitchen also smokes its own oysters and serves other dishes like oyster omelette and charcuterie. The wine selection is really good too and the cellar features French and New World wines. They also pour natural wines, too.
If friends are visiting, I take them to Kabun-Chika for yakiniku (grilled meat). There’s no seasoning on the meat, just salt so you can really taste the quality of the wagyu. The kitchen buys whole cows and uses every part of the animal including lots of offal. They also serve some creative, tasty side dishes. I love the white oxtail soup. There’s also a fresh kimchi that they marinate just before serving.
In The Mood For Pasta
Before opening Shirosaka, I worked at Union Square Tokyo for six months with Michael Romano who was the chef at the original Union Square Café in New York. The restaurant does burgers, pastas and steaks. Over the past 20 years, there’s been an explosion of American cuisine in Tokyo, especially craft burgers which Japanese people are crazy for. I like the burger at Union Square. Yoshichika Matsuda, the head chef here, is very talented. He makes a really good aglio, olio e pepperoncino (garlic, olive oil and chilli) pasta using capellini. I also like sitting at the counter at Melograno. Chef Yuji Goto gives everyone a warm welcome and I always tell him to cook me whatever he wants. I love his pasta. When I was there in October, he served me this black truffle pasta that was really, really good. It’s not a big restaurant, but it’s casual and very friendly.
Watershed is a new cocktail bar that’s two minutes from Shirosaka and hidden on the second floor of a building. The owner Gohei Tsunoda learned under mixologist Tomoyuki Kitazoe at Bar Rage and is also a qualified sommelier. I often get inspiration for my desserts from his seasonal fruit cocktails.
My Favourite Sushi
Sushi Mizukami is a new sushi restaurant that’s been open for a couple of years. Michinobu Mizukami, the chef, used to work at Jiro. He also does Edomae-style (marinated fish) sushi but uses white vinegar in his rice rather than red vinegar. All of his nigiri is really good. Personally I prefer hikarimono (shiny fish) like aji (horse mackerel) and kohada (gizzard shad) that show off the chef’s skills. His otsumami (snack dishes) like smoked monkfish liver are really good too. Mizukami isn’t too formal and, unlike some of Tokyo’s famous sushi restaurants, it’s still possible to get a booking. Kentarou Imamura, the chef at Sushi Imamura learned how to cook kaiseki but isn’t a sushi chef. His otsumami are also really good. I had some squid eggs that were served with dashi, soy, mirin and sake. He doesn’t talk too much, but it’s a good amount. His wife is the sommelier and she can recommend both wine and sake. More places are serving wine with sushi. I like to match pinot gris with sushi.
Craving Chinese Food
When I lived in Sydney, I used to eat at so many good Cantonese restaurants. I miss them. Sun Kee in my hometown of Setagaya is the only restaurant that does real deal Cantonese, not like Japanese-Chinese food. You can get Japanese gyoza everywhere, but the gyoza here tastes Chinese. It reminds me of the food that I’d get in Sydney at places like Golden Century. I always get the xiaolongbao, too. I go to Sun Kee a lot: every weekend, actually. It’s also kid-friendly so I bring my family there.