The more intimate Eat Play Works dining hall in residential Hiroo is home to Sushidan, a family-owned sushi restaurant owned by Hiroyuki Sato – from the exclusive Hakkoku restaurant – as well as the Taratata pasta house, an outpost of the popular Melograno restaurant. Sincere Blue, the notoriously hard-to-book younger brother of Sincere, focuses on fine bistro cuisine made with sustainable seafood inside Jingumae Comichi, a sleek cluster of small eateries that recreate the feeling of ‘wander the labyrinthine alleys of Tokyo.
The trend to get laid back – without sacrificing quality or finesse on the plate – has spread beyond food halls. More and more, Michelin-starred chefs are embracing high-comfort food in new stand-alone restaurants, from high-end wagyu beef burgers to Burger Police, a new venture by Daisuke Takubo from Italian restaurant Tacubo, to tasting menus at base of oden, a traditional dish of seafood and vegetables simmered in dashi broth, at Heichan. Supported by a crowdfunding campaign, Heichan is both a break with French cuisine for which chef Ippei Matsumoto is known at La Paix, and a nod to his roots: he grew up in the boutique’s kitchen. oden of his family in Wakayama Prefecture.
The new form of gastronomy
Glamor, however, is far from dead. Restaurant owners who anticipated an increase in tourism around the Olympics have invested in several gourmet dining venues slated to open this year, even without the expected visitors.
Chez Sezanne, which opens in July at the Four Seasons Marunouchi, former Per Se Daniel Calvert (formerly of Belon in Hong Kong) yearns for “a sense of timelessness” in meticulous dishes like avocado mousse at dashi garnished with Petrossian caviar. The dining room is sumptuously furnished with supple leather trays, Baccarat crystal and Christofle cutlery.
“There will still be room for haute cuisine, although there may be less demand than before,” says Calvert. “I would like people to come here with the same anticipation that they will be looked after as they would in a place like Le Bristol in Paris.
More significant projects are still to come. Massimo Bottura’s Gucci Osteria, run by Michelin-starred chef Karime Lopez, plans to open in August. Virgilio Martinez, of Lima, of Central, says he is ready to roll out contemporary Peruvian restaurant Maz as soon as the Japanese borders reopen so that chef Santiago Fernandez can run the kitchen. The stylish Burnside art and food space is slated to launch later this year with menus curated by New York’s Ghetto Gastro.
Zero-proof cocktails get serious
With the increase in the number of abstainers and sober and curious drinkers in Japan, as in other countries, bars specializing in alcohol-free and low-alcohol cocktails are finally making their appearance in traditionally drinking Tokyo. Low-Non Bar captures the look and feel of a classic drinking trough, with its dark wood interior and bartenders in white suits. Cocktails like mock-Negroni, made from zero-proof Nema gin, are just as serious as their alcoholic counterparts. At the 0% bar, the vibe turns into a futuristic funhouse – with silver pearl chairs, shiny surfaces and drinks like Icelandic cotton candy in purple hues.