Last weekend, Justin and I, together with our dear friends and next-door neighbors, decided to indulge in another weekend of staycation in Tokyo. After checking into the hotel, we met up at The Lounge of Aman Tokyo for the pre-dinner cocktails for ladies and cigar & whiskey pairing for gentlemen, before heading out for dinner.
As the taxi dropped us off on a side street of Akasaka and we walked up the lantern-lit stone pathway to Shirosaka, it was obvious that we were in for a treat. The ambiance of this cozy and intimate restaurant will teleport you directly to Kyoto: L-shaped nine-seat blond counter seats, floor-to-ceiling windows with a view of a miniature Japanese garden and the master chef charcoal-grilling the mackerel which he had just threaded onto skewers.
I immediately felt at home. I am sure it has had something to do with the charismatic and cheerful master sommelier Kota-san who ushered us to our seats (in perfect English) and offered hot towels and drinks. Entire night, he worked effortlessly front-of-house making sure glasses were filled and customers were happy.
Shirosaka is helmed by Hideki Ii, a Tokyo native, who worked at uber-popular Tetsuya in Sydney and then New York, as the cook for Japan’s ambassador to the United Nations, before moving to Japan and opening his own restaurant in November 2014.
While Shirosaka is, without doubt, a Japanese restaurant, it cannot be clichéd by any particular dining style or rules (even though, kaiseki is the closest thing that comes to my mind). Instead, chef Ii’s omakase menu – constantly improvised – offers great food served in an old-world yet more relaxed environment. Each plate, skillfully and beautifully prepared by Chef Ii, is a nod to traditional Japanese cuisine while being its own unique awesome thing. The menu focuses on showcasing seasonal Japanese flavors with a creative contemporary twist. Courses are delicious, inventive and served in an aesthetically pleasing style. Most importantly, Shirosaka is known for its sake pairing, and must I say, every recommendation made by Kota-san was spot on and coupled wonderfully with the courses we had.
After savouring the first gulp of the seasonal authumn sake from Saga prefecture in Kyushu, we proceeded to our first appetizer – the said grilled mackerel topped with grated daikon radish. The fish was cooked perfectly and had a beautiful smokey flavor. Accents like sour cream and bonito flakes enhanced the umami flavor and added a touch of contrasting acidity to create a perfect bite.
The next course – Shirosaka’s signature dish presented in a handcrafted wooden adorned with maple leaves – was an artistic arrangement of an egg-shaped rice cracker which, when opened, contains a beautiful quail egg, chutoro (medium fatty tuna) sashimi, dashi jelly, sea urchin, herring eggs, micro-greens, and scallions. The texture and taste of the dish is an explosion for the palate.
Next, tender and flavorful roasted pork form Iwate further excited our palates. It was complimented a touch of piquant mustard seeds and sweet potato puree.
Perfectly grilled Kamasu white fish was generously topped with truffles and floated atop wonderfully flavorful fish stock and white miso soup. Earthiness of the mushrooms and sweetness from the baby green sprouts in the soup were a beautiful compliment to the fish.
Next course was a pure umami heaven – thin somen noodles cooked in shrimp oil was topped with sakura shrimp. It was a sumptuous dish I have never tried before.
Our final main course was a wagyu beef from Yamagata prefecture cooked two ways – slow-cooked in dashi at low temperature and later char-grilled to perfection. Japanese eggplants on the side were as sweet as ever, and the meat just melted in the mouth packing tons of flavor.
In the tradition of Japanese meal, we finished the savory course with a bowl of rice topped with grilled Santa bowel served alongside miso soup and pickles.
We finished off the dinner with two light and delightful desserts: apple sorbet with 12-year-old Yamazaki, and the cream cheese ice cream served with fig.
Dining at Shirosaka is like a breath of fresh air: making reservation was effortless (simply message them on their Facebook page), atmosphere is traditional yet laid-back, service is top, above and beyond in the homeliest welcoming way, while food and drinks are nothing short of amazing. To top it all off, dinner is quite reasonably priced compared to other restaurants of similar caliber in Tokyo.
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