Humorous Message and Inventive Hospitality by Zaiyu Hasegawa
(Translated from my Wallpaper* Thailand article, originally published in Thai).
DEN is hidden in a small alley in Tokyo’s printing district Jimbōchō and with nothing but a tiny sticker for its sign. The restaurant was opened by chef Zaiyu Hasegawa when he was only 29 years old. A few years later, DEN was awarded stars by the Michelin Guide and constantly enjoys a top rank on Japan’s restaurant rating website Tabelog. The reputation of DEN gathers accordingly. Now many of world’s most respected chefs and food journalists fly across the globe to Japan to sample Hasegawa’s playful and edible visions “Den Kaiseki”.
The start of something (utterly) exciting..
Where do I begin? The word “supper club” has been a distant memory, and being subjected to a communal table in the middle of an unpopulated dining room daunted me. The glimmering kitchen was my hope. So was the name Leandro Carreira, a chef who held senior positions at two of the world’s most inspiring kitchens Mugaritz and Viajante.
Leandro or Leo is at One Leicester Street for 3 months (until mid-June, I guess), doing what seems an understatement, a “supper club”. This is an 8-course menu with beverage pairings (by Talented Mr Fox) at £88. Chefs are keen to exchange thoughts and diners are encouraged to nose around in the kitchen. The cuisine is innovative – an epiphany both of taste and of thought process.
A bit of Dabbous..
It is a truth universally acknowledged by food critics that Dabbous is a restaurant worthy of month-long reservation attempts. For me, I have found tastier solace at its downstairs bar. You’ll find bar nibble quickies (BBQ beef buns, etc.), some Dabbous signature dishes, awesome desserts and funky cocktails. And, in my opinion, Barnyard – a walk-in only restaurant by Ollie Dabbous – is precisely that.
There were rumours that a certain Michelin star chef has quietly moved in at an existing restaurant address around Carnaby Street. He shunned the aids of PR. I was also further teased, “you had his food before and you liked it”. That’s about it. My two clues: the “Carnaby” location and that the chef is a “he”.
My brain labour started, no doubt. Social media network didn’t help much. The “no PR” works most effectively to obscure, when a lot of restaurants these days (especially in Central London) rely on PR bombs. Luckily, I was able to single out a couple of possible sites that had recently been refurbished. My foot work followed. I looked through the menus of my narrowed-down restaurant list.
What I say:
Noryangjin Seafood Market is the “Tsukiji” of Seoul, South Korea, and a great attraction if.. well.. you are into fish. There are many endless rows of fish and shellfish. Some are live; some frozen; others fermented and kimchi-ed.
The Lockhart isn’t a new restaurant but one that nobody talked about. It wasn’t until its recent acquisition of chef Bradford McDonald that The Lockhart got my attention. The fare here is Southern American with backflippingly cool and refined twists.
Before that. Bradford. He is American and Southern. He grew up in a farm and mobilised across the world’s best kitchens (including Per Se and Noma). His former restaurant Governor in Brooklyn, NY was lauded by chefs, critics and food enthusiasts. Sadly, it was swept away by Sandy. A year or so after, I feel privileged to have Brad cooking in London.