It’s already been one (amazing) year since I started this blog. To celebrate (but really just because it’s one of our favorite restaurants), we booked a table at the always entertaining Den in Jimbocho.
This was our fourth visit, and you can see my first blog entry about Den here.
Though it’s been pretty famous for a while, Den has really taken off in the past year. It won a spot on the prestigious Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, has consistently maintained its one Michelin star, and is a must-visit for any chef, blogger, or food lover in Tokyo. Indeed, the walls of the entrance are a testament of Den’s worth, with heartfelt messages and signatures from the likes of local stars like Ivan Orkin to famed Noma super-chef Rene Redzpi.
While the food is always fun, innovative, and astoundingly delicious, what really makes Den is the interaction between staff and customer. Head server Noriko, the owner-chef Zaiyu, and his support chefs always assure each and every customer is treated like a best friend. Everyone in the intimate restaurant seems to love engaging in lively conversation about the food, the restaurant, and anything in general. When I congratulated Zaiyu on making the Asia’s 50 Best, he was quick to explain that while Michelin stars are granted for the cuisine, the 50 Best award is granted to the entire restaurant, and that includes the customer. Thus, he congratulated Midori and me, as well. A truly humble, yet masterful chef making waves in Japan and around the world.
As usual, expect to pay around 20,000 yen per person including plenty of drinks. No need to worry about menus for food or drinks, as there is one course only and Noriko will choose the right wine, sake, or beer to match your preferences.
Let’s eat Den!
Thet humor starts from the first course with this angry face composed of aori ika (squid) with soramame beans, sudachi citrus, and home-made salt. The salt is made of sea salt and konbu seaweed that is crushed by hand into a fine powder, and it is amazing. Midori’s plate was a cute, smiley face.
Junsai (brasenia, or water shield) with an onsen tamago egg served in a katsuo (bonito) broth. The junsai has a soft, gelatinous texture that has a pleasant popping sensation.
The always-amzuing Dentucky Fried Chicken box.
Our two servings of chicken, garnished with momiji leaves.
Today’s chicken was stuffed with black rice, kuko no mi (wolf berry), matsu no mi (pine nuts), and chosen ninjin carrot. Finger lickin’ good, indeed.
The sashimi course was Hatsugatsuo, the season’s first katsuo (bonito) served with a dash of salt and wasabi.
A beautiful main course consisting of kinmedai (golden eye snapper) served with a fiddleneck fern miso and various fried mountain vegetables. The roasted onions between were roasted to a sweet, soft-yet-still-crunchy perfection. The fish was cooked on the outside and pink on the inside, having been cooked only with a hot dashi made from clams.
Otsumami to go with our alcohol between courses- karasumi (salted and dried mullet roe). Noriko explained that this is homemade, repeatedly brushed with sake and dried, over a period of 6 months.
Den’s 2nd signature dish- a salad with over 20 natural ingredients. There is no dressing, but instead gets its flavor from kombu seaweed and naturally-pressed sesame oil.
Under the greens, one finds many individually prepared ingredients, such as these fun little carrots.
A dashi made with sansho (Japanese pepper), myoga (Japanese ginger), and duck meat. Savory, umami flavor that warms the soul.
Today’s donabe rice was served with a hearty portion of hotaru ika (firefly squid).
The rice as served with pickled vegetables and miso soup. I asked for an omori (large) portion as seen above.
Dessert was a refreshing and light finish- yogurt sherbet with a tomato jelly and dekopon (Japanese sweet mandarin).