While picking a restaurant for our Valentine’s dinner date, the choice fell on the new kid on the block – Eneko Tokyo. The news of the starry chef Eneko Atxa opening his restaurant in Tokyo (after a successful launch of his London outpost) spread fast and was quite welcomed. His restaurant Azurmendi, opened in Bilbao in 2005, earned the young chef three Michelin stars and put his name on the list of the World’s Top 50 Restaurants. Since we do not have plans of traveling to Spain anytime soon, we were quite excited to taste the creations of the renowned chef in the Japanese capital.
Chef Axta is known to marry traditional Basque cuisine with modern cooking techniques resulting in inventive and creative dishes that do not compromise on flavor. Relying on sustainable practices, he is a true master at creating food that defines elegance, refinement, and manifests an utmost respect for nature.
His restaurant in Tokyo is located in the cosmopolitan Azabu-Juban area inside a spacious venue which features minimalist yet inviting interior. The dining experience starts with a “picnic” in the courtyard which is adorned with plants. We were served a complimentary glass of Txacoli and enjoyed a selection of amuse-bouches served in the basket: eel brioche, cheesecake and kaipiritxa which featured all five tastes and aimed to awaken the palate.
We were then escorted upstairs to our table where we enjoyed the rest of our 8-course tasting menu.
The first starter presented chef Atxa’s signature dish: truffled egg. Prepared at our table side, the fresh egg yolk is carefully removed and hot truffle broth is injected back in to cook the remaining yolk inside. The precision and the technique was phenomenal, and the taste didn’t disappoint either, creating a burst of umami flavor in the mouth.
I absolutely loved the second appetizer which featured one of my favorite vegetables – cauliflower. It was served as a deliciously savory and creamy puree, its smooth texture contrasted well with tapioca, cauliflower chips and ham crumbs. Both the flavors and textures in this dish were excellent.
The second set of dishes featured warm starters. A perfectly cooked lobster with scrumptious smokey flavor was expertly paired with green onion emulsion and oil, as well as rice wrap with lobster tartar inside.
Next, an oxtail cheek meat ravioli was served with chickpea sauce. The meat melted in the mouth and was very flavorful having a satisfying crunch from the wrap outside, but we both agreed that the concept itself seemed misleading because the dish was not really a ravioli, but resembled a spring roll, in my opinion.
The fish course of the day was an elevated version of fish and chips. Breaded hake was fried perfectly and served with red pepper sauce and parsley emulsion.
For the meat course, I opted for the pigeon, which was served in a few separate components: beautifully seared pigeon breast was plated on a platter and complimented with pigeon sauce, kinoko mousse, and a millefeuille of potatoes and ham as a side. The pigeon consommé mixed with sherry was served quite inventively in a dessert wine glass, while foie gras came in the form of a bite-sized roll on a side. I thoroughly enjoyed every component of this dish since all the flavors came together beautifully and the chef did an outstanding job cooking the pigeon.
Eneko Tokyo didn’t disappoint on the dessert front either. First and foremost, the presentation was spectacular. In celebration of Valentine’s day, the main dessert was served alongside a bouquet of roses. Liquid nitrogen poured into the vase created an illusion of a fog flowing out of the vase onto the table. Most importantly, the dessert tasted as good as it looked incorporating my favorites: fresh strawberries, yogurt sorbet, sponge cake, meringue and a strawberry mousse served on the side.
We finished off the dinner with petite fours presented in a beautiful box which opened up into layers of drawers revealing chocolate basil & yogurt lollipop, raspberry macaron and mango jelly (the latter was our absolute favorite).
Experiencing chef Atxa’s cooking so far away from his original restaurant was a real pleasure. I truly appreciated our dinner at Eneko Tokyo for one main reason: the chef stayed true to his style without adapting too much to the local palate. It is so often that foreign restaurants in Japan tend to use local ingredients and “Japanise” their cuisine. At some point, it becomes hard to distinguish whether you are at a French or Japanese restaurant because of the similarity of ingredients and consequently flavors. It was refreshing to go to a Basque restaurant and taste something genuinely new and unique that no other restaurant in the city offers. I think It would make a wonderful restaurant for lunch or dinner date, as they offer both options. Let me know what you think if you give it a try.
PIN FOR LATER: