Tokyo | 神保町 傳 Jimbocho Den
This is definitely the happiest dining experience ever. Den, a 1-Michelin-starred modern Kaiseki restaurant in Jimbocho, is currently one of the hottest table in Tokyo. Den is also a top rank restaurant on Tabelog. The man behind the kitchen, the chef-owner Zaiyu Hasegawa is a really genius. He started his culinary Journey when he was eighteen; 11 years later (2008), he opened is own restaurant Den; only three years after its opening, Den receives his first Michelin star.I have heard about a lot of good things about this place and i was so eager to eat at Den. Luckily and finally, i got a chance to try out the place.
Visited: Sep.20.2015 (Dinner)
Address: 2 Chome-2-32 Kanda Jinbocho, Chiyoda, Tokyo 101-0051, Japan
Hours: Mon.-Fri 5pm-11:30pm; Sat 5 pm-10:30pm; Closed on Sunday & PH
Damage: JPY 15,000+
Den is a small restaurant, there are 8 seats at the counter, 3 tables for 10 people totally and a private room for 4. Counter is always the best place to seat. Different from some other kaiseki restaurants which give guest a very deserted feeling, i feel a homey feeling once i stepped into the restaurant. Zaiyu san as well as his staff are extremely passionate and smiley all the time.
Den serves only one pre-fixed menu based on seasonal ingredients and what's available on the day. Chef Zaiyu always serves the best to his guests, every dish is freshely made by him so...just be passionate and looking forward :D A glass of welcome champagne is included in the menu.
Kicked off with Den's famous foie gras monaka. Monaka (最中) is a traditional Japanese dessert, made of Azuki bean (red bean) paste filling between two thin crispy waffles. Den's monaka is made of miso crisps. Apart from the foie gras which is a fixed ingredient - very smooth and fragrant; other components in the monaka changed by season or daily available. Mine was with plum sauce, its sourness and refreshness perfectly matches the foie gras.
Followed by a soup made of porcini mushroom Zaiyu-san freshly picked from Mt.Fuji this morning. All the vegetables served at Den are sourced from Zaiyu-san's friends', sisters', or brothers' farms. The soup was very delicious and has a very deep flavor. The aged-sesame tofu (deep-fried) was incredibly sticky and chewy, but won't stick on your teeth, beautiful. Konnyaku jelly is usally grey, brown or white while Den serves a purple one made of natural ingredient, look at its lovely shape!
Here we go, Den's famous fried chicken. The design of the box is so creative, although i have read a lot reviews about this, i still cannot wait to open this treasure box.
The first thing appeared in front of my eyes were a 'Thank you for coming' card, then i saw a Singapore flag and a cute 'chicken', and the main character - chicken wing. Zaiyu-san is so thoughtful and i was kind of moved, really impressive by far.
Like most other classic dishes such as the monaka and salad later on, the main concepts are the same while the ingredients changed frequently. The chicken wing is usually stuffed with rice and other seasonal ingredients. The one i had was stuffed with white rice mixed with a bit sticky rice, and trutle meat with its collagen. Zaiyu-san is quite good at deep-frying, the chicken wing was deep-fried and baked, which made its skin incredibly aromatic and crispy, and not oily nor greasy at all. The rice was perfectly cooked and paired well with the crispy skin, the flavorful turtle lifted the taste of the entire wing. DFC is definitely 100x better than KFC!
Autumn is the high season for sanma. Zaiyu-san made this dish very special - mixed sanma sashimi with its liver paste dressing, and some miso and a pinch of fine scallions for a milder taste. It was still a bit bitter but has a very deep falvor. The rice on the bottom was mixed sesame and shisho, which balanced the savory fish. Eat the ginger at the end to cleanse the palate and get ready for next dish.
Chef Zaiyu-san was preparing the next dish, carefully picking mushrooms he picked this from Mt.Fuji this morning.
It smells so good when Zaiyu-san was cooking the porcini mushroom back at the counter, he fried them with butter and tastes incredibley juicy and delicious. It have been a while since i had amasai with crispy scale in Singapore in some French restaurants, quite miss the country when i saw amadai at Den. Zaiyu-san deep-fried the fish skin and its scale, and pan-fried the white flesh. It is very important to control the time and temperature when preparing the amadai, and he did a pretty job. The scale was so crispy, even better than those i had before. The flesh was juicy and umami.
There was a small cube of deep-fried potato underneath the mushroom on the back, which was really good. By the point i found Zaiyu-san is really good at deep-frying. The chicken wing, Amadai's skin and this sweet potato were all very lovely.
I am a quite slower drink - just finished the champagne and ordered another glass of plum wine.
Another classic at Den, a bowl of nourishing greens in different ways of cooking and textures - made of 20 kinds of vegetables from Zaiyu-san's friends' farms. Ingredients includes rocket, green leaves, raw sweet potato, pink and purple radish, seared gobo, carrot, pickled carrot, edible flowers, deep-fried potatoes, boiled beetroot, etc. The salad was well-mixed with kelp dressing, very refreshing flavor with a hint of sourness and sweetness. The happiest salad ever.
If you notice the change of the servingware, it used to be the china ones but now its made of wood. They are made of trees from Mt.Fuji that cutted by a friend of Zaiyu-san. The trees were over 43 years old, and the design of on the bowl was made by nature.
Rice dish is always another enoyable part of a kaiseki meal. Although i am not a (white) rice lover, i always expected a lot on the rice dishes. Those Hokkaido ikura is really drooling. Ikura is usually served raw with soy, but Zaiyu-san slightly heated them with the steam of the rice, and served with dashi for a refreshing flavor.The rice was certainly perfectly cooked, I really enjoyed the ikura boosted in my mouth with incredibly umami and sweet juices, very rich and creamy texture. Much better than the ikura rice i had at 3* Esaki few days ago.
The pickles were 'light pickles', which keep the orginal of the ingredients: very juicy eggplant, crunchy cucumbers and smooth radish.
Before served the dessert, i was shown a newspaper and asked to find a 'message' that they want to the express. From left to right, the highlighted characters formed a line of "Thank You".
The dessert was inspired by the moss in the garden in the backyard. Made of cream cheese mousse with charcoal powder, topped with matcha powder and baked tea leaves, the texture and flavor were so good. The baked buckwheat on the side nicely added more texture to the dish.
The meal ended with a cup of 'Star Comebacks'. It is so lovely....see the figure of Den on the cup, haha. Actually, its not a cup of coffee and it didn't contain any caffine. It is actually made of baked cane sugar jelly with a hint of black truffle. The reason why Zaiyu-san didn't use caffine is simply because Den is a Japanese kaiseki restaurant.
It was a great experience at Den, seriously the happiest and most playful meal ever. Den is a genius in creating innovative dishes and combine different ingredients, he is also an expert in catching people's eyes and taste buds. Every dish i had of the night was very enjoyable. Thanks Zaiyu-san for such a lovely meal. Now i can see why Den is getting much more regilar customers, and seems i am already in.