Tokyo | Esaki 青山えさき
Held three Michelin stars continuously for 6 years, Esaki in Aoyama area is one of the most famous Japanese restaurants in town. The Tokyo-born chef-owner, Shintaro Esaki, did his apprenticeship working in kaiseki restaurants in Tokyo and Kyoto before he opened Esaki in 1994. Shintaro's defined his food 'innovative kaiseki', which keeps the original and at the same time, be inspiring. Chef Shintaro uses only organic vegetables in his food, in larger portions compare to most traditional kaiseki restaurants.
Visited: Sep.9th.2015 (Dinner)
Address:3 39-9 Jingumae, Shibuya 150-0001, Tokyo (〒150-0001 東京都渋谷区神宮前3-39-9 ヒルズ青山 地下1階)
Hours:18:00～23:00 daily, Saturday lunch 12:00-14:00
Esaki serves two different dinner omakase menu, both included 7 dishes, while the only difference betweern cthe 11k menu and 14k menu is the second course, the soup. The more expensive one uses the best seasonal produce, Matsutake in the soup. While the cheaper one uses daily fish only. As Japanese food strongly focuses on seasonal produce, i went with the 14k menu.
The first dish was sea urchin and ebi, side with seasonal vegetables on a bed of tomato jelly. Ebi was tender and bouncy, while itself was not fragrance enough. Uni was fresh and creamy. It was a very refreshing starter but didn't impress me a lot.
The second course was interesting - steamed perch with Matsutake in a bag, served with a scissor for you to cut the bag by yourself. I had the similar dish at Mr & Mrs Bund in Shanghai, what i knew is that the plastic bag best keeps the original of the ingredients in the bag.
The fragrance of Matsutake soon spread over the table, the soup was simple but very umami. Matsutake was bouncy and aromatic. However, the sea perch was quite disappointing. Although the skin was rich in oils, the white flesh was too old for my liking - somehow like dead fish. (I know it was not dead fish, but the texture really....)
Followed by the sashimi course, Hirame with passionfruit sauce and ponzu vinegar. This was my first time having sashimi with passionfruit, the sourness of passionfruit nicely enhanced the clean flavor of hirame. A very creative and refreshing dish.
Next was grilled Kamasu from Chiba, topped with white sesame sauce, on the side was a grape coared with Japanese tofu. No surprise with the fish, while the combination of tofu and grape was quite unique.
The braised Kinki fish is probably the most signature dish at Esaki. The flesh was melt-in-mouth tenderness and high in oil contents, very umami and delcious. But in short, it somehow reminds me of Cantonese steamed fish with soy sauce. It was good but didn't surprised me anyway.
Esaki's miso soup with aged tofu (deep-friend) was really satisfying, better than any animal proteins we had of the night. For the Ikura rice on the left, the lovley salmon roe with umami juices perfectly exploded in my mouth, the rice was round and fat, but we found it was too soft (which means they put too much water during cooking) and a bit weak in rice flavor (Japanese rice are usually very fragrant).
Dessert was stewed figs with ginger vanilla ice cream. It is high season for fig in Japan, the entire dish was refreshing and brought a nice ending. My partner was 120% stuffed at the point while he protion is just okay for me.
Esaki didn't impressed me a lot. I can feel chef's creative concepts, while the flavor of the dishes don't really works for me. As it categorized itself as 'innovation/modern kaiseki', i personally think RyuGin is more innovation and modern, Ishikawa is more kaiseki-style and the food is more delicious. The service is good but could be better. In short, there are much more better choice to go in Tokyo, at least Easaki is not my cup of tea.