Arriving at Den, you step through that carefully illuminated entrance, away from the back streets of Jimbocho. It looks serious and imposing, as discreet and refined as a high-end kaiseki restaurant in Kagurazaka.
The greeting is formal, the interior precise and proper. Whether you're sitting at the counter or in one of the upstairs rooms, everything is just as it should be in Japan.
That is, until the first course is served. Most likely it will be a monaka wafer stuffed with rich foie gras, accompanied by a glass of Franciacorta Berlucchi '61 Brut... This is not what you expect – for a lot of different reasons:
And d) it's not just foie gras inside that monaka: there's a fruit jam, prepared from semi-dried kaki persimmons. There's also a slightly salty crunch, which could be fine-cut shoyu-zuke cucumber pickles.
More recently, though, Chef Hasegawa has been chopping up iburigakko, those distinctively smoky-flavoured daikon pickles that are a speciality of Akita.
It's a stroke of left-field inventiveness. And this is just the first course of many in a meal that unfolds with a series of unothodoxies, visual puns, witticisms and even conjuring tricks.
As I write in my Japan Times review... Whether it’s your first visit or your 30th, there is only one way to approach it: expect the unexpected.
In a previous post I introduced the Dentucky Fried Chicken...
Over the next few days, I'll be dropping a few more photos of other inventive dishes by Chef Zaiyu Hasegawa.
Here's the full info box, complete with address and opening times: