Jimbocho Den (神保町傳)

We recently visited Jimbocho Den, one of our very favorite restaurants in Tokyo.  It only has one Michelin star, but deserves at least one more. The young owner/chef, Zaiyu Hasegawa, uses traditional Japanese kaiseki as a base for his menu while adding copious amounts of flair and personal creativity.  Speaking of menus, there aren’t any.  You are seated at a counter facing the kitchen, the chef asks about any food allergies, they say “yoroshiku onegaishimasu” (a Japanese greeting), and the cooking begins.  All the while, the always gracious Noriko takes great care in providing amazing service, excellent drink recommendations, and helping you feel welcome as you enjoy every dish.  Indeed, one of the best things about Jimbocho Den is the atmosphere.  Though the food is top-quality and prepared with skilled technique, there is never an air of stiffness, and it feels like everyone is your friend. For the price, taste, and fun that this restaurant provides, it is one of Tokyo’s finest restaurants.  Budget around 20,000 yen a head for the course and several drinks.

Let’s eat Jimbocho Den!


Koshi-abura and tara-no-me tempura with a salt powder.


Thinly-sliced white asparagus with onsen tamago egg and crumbled dashi cookie.  The first time I’ve heard of dashi and butter being used together.


The first “teiban” (dish that is always served, regardless of season) is a humorous one – Dentucky Fried Chicken


While Den always serves the DFC, the stuffing is different every time.  During this visit, the chicken was stuffed with green peas and soft mochi rice.


Otsukuri course- grouper (hata) sashimi dry-aged for one week with fresh wasabi.


Kinka pork from Yamagata prefecture with spring onions, soramame beans, and wild rucola.  One of the best pieces of meat I’ve ever tasted.  The fatty parts were juicy and sweet.


Den’s 2nd “teiban,” a 20-ingredient salad.  Every vegetable is prepared in its own way and there is no dressing, but an explosion of flavor thanks to kombu, salt, crushed tea leaves, and other ingredients.


We were doing a good amount of drinking and talking with Noriko for a while, so Zaiyu gave us this “otsumami” to enjoy (otsumami is meant to be enjoyed with alcohol) – hotaru ika (squid).


The suimono (soup course) featured tons of mountain vegetables (sansai) and a thickened broth to combine both bitter and savory flavors.  Zaiyu made sure to tell me that while the taste may be bitter, it’s very good for your health.  I thought it was delicious.


Kamameshi – the final dish of the course is a rice dish that changes regularly.  Tonight’s featured shirasu (dried baby anchovy) and baby squid.  The rice was creamy and delicious.  I had seconds.


Dessert tonight was kuzu-mochi in a kiwi sorbet garnished with rhubarb.  An amazing dessert blending textures while the kiwi brought a great tartness to the sweet mochi.


The main man, Zaiyu, posing with our extra dessert.  I mentioned to Noriko that I had seen this dish on various blogs and wondered what it was.  She started explaining it to me and then just went ahead and requested “two coffees” for us.  It was actually a pudding and ice cream mixed with black truffles and topped with a foamy cream.  A truly decadent finish and a really kind gesture from the staff.  These people are awesome!


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