Matsukawa 松川 (2015 Winter)
Matsukawa, an introduce-only Kaiseki restaurant in Akasaka in Tokyo, is always mentioned as the best Kaiseki restaurant in Tokyo, or even in Japan, by a lot of foodies. It is also ranked No.1 in kaiseki category in Japan according to Tabelog. As its introduce-only policy, this anti-Michelin restaurant has become a lot of foodies' dreaming place to eat at. Finally, i am here.
Where's the best Kaiseki restaurant in Tokyo? or in Japan? Well, different people may have different answers, but according to Tabelog, Matsukawa, an introduce-only Kaiseki restaurant in Akasaka is considered No.1 in Japan. I read a lot reviews written by both locals and foreigners say that it is the best (Japanese) meal ever. As its introduce-only policy, this anti-Michelin restaurant has become a lot of foodies' dreaming place to eat at. Luckily, i was introduced by a friend who is a chef in Japan.
Matsukawa only accept first-timers and solo-diners for lunch, but they actually run a same menu for both lunch and dinner. They accept cash only and usually a meal here costs you 35000 to 40000 yen, unless in Matstake season which will probably cost you over 45000 yen. So make sure your wallet is full enough.
The interior of the restaurant is in a tradtional Japanese style, neat and confortable. There are 7 seats at the counter and 3 private rooms. I was seated at the counter, with Matsukawa-san standing behind the counter with his 2 assistants. Chef Matsukawa-san looks a bit serious as he was preparing the food when i arrived, and probably bacause people who eat here usually have powderful backings (i mean the local Japanese), this place actually gives me a cool and formal feeling.
Once bring seated, i was greeted with hotel towls and a small cup of Shisho (Perilla) tea. It taste very clean and have a savory hint.
Now it is the best time to eat crab. Taiza crab, considered the king of crab in Japan, is no doubt the best feast in early winter. In the crab shell, there were chock full of fresh crab meat, crab roes and crab meat. In the front was grilled crab leg, and Matsukawa-san took out the meat inside for us. The quality of the crab was no doubt the best of the best - fresh and juicy, the crab roe were crunchy, and the entire dish left a incredible sweet and umami aftertaste.
Two of my favorite ingredients in one dish, drooling. The glutinous rice was perfect steamed to a soft and smooth texture, sea urchin was slightly grilled on surface to better match the warm rice underneath, and the caviar gives a hint of mild salinity and creamy maritime aftertaste.
Japan's king of fish, Tai, or seabream was served as sashimi. Loved the clean flavor and chewy texture of it, the special part about this dish was the sided marinated sea cucumber. Chef M-san told me to roll up the sea cucumber with Tai, with some wasabi and soy sauce. The bursted oceanic flavors of marinated sea cucumber matches very well with Tai, with a sync chewy texture. Great. (But in general Ishikawa's Tai is still the best for my liking)
Dashi (soup stock) is the spirit of Kaiseki, the quality of soup stock or soup base decides the quality of the dishes. Most of the soup dishes i had in Kaiseki restaurant in Japan were pretty pleasant (probably because i usually only eat fine Japanese food) - very clean and delicious. If you ask me what's the best soup i have ever had, here it is. The soup was out of world, clean and incredible umami, the crab inside was amazingly juicy and sweet. Yeah, the best soup ever.
Freshly sliced Fugu was served with shirako sauce, the creamy and delicious sauce makes the clean sashimi very delcious. With a pinch of Japanese pice and some scallions to enhance the fragrance and flavor. While in general, this dish didn't surprised me much.
Most Karasumi (dried and salted mullet roe) i had was powdered, bacause of the high flavors of the salted fish roe, few chefs have the confidence to serve them in sliced like this, and fewers chefs can make a good dish with sliced Karasumi. Matsukawa-san uses a warm soup made of grated radish to balance the deep flavor of Karasumi, paired with a cube of grilled Mochi (glutinous rice cake) to give the dish a twist of sweetness and chewy texture. Well-done.
The duck dish was also the best grilled-duck i have had among all the Japanese restaurants i have been to. It was perfectly grilled, extremely succulent and flavorful by itself. It was served with yellow wasabi ponzu, and grated radish ponzu, but i found the duck itself was delicious enough.
I don't know why the fish dish comes after meat dish, but anyway, it was delicous. But the fish itself didnt't suprised me, while i pretty liked the walnut sauce on top with persimmon, aromatic and flavorful.
Haven't had a satisfying bowl of soba after a long while. Last week i went to a one-Michelin-starred soba place in Ginza and i swear i won't go back twice. Thanks Matsukawa-san to settled my (oiishi) soba craving. The homemade new soba was really chewy and delcious, i was surprised by the seriously chewy texture of grated yam, the dried seaweed also added a umami flavor to the cold soup soba. Again, the dashi (soup) here was awesome, the entire bowl was pretty refreshing and cleanse my palate.
Boiled yam with some yuzu, the soup was very delicious, yam was smooth.
I don't like white or plain rice at all, last season i had the white rice with minced sea bream at Ishikawa which was an exception, and Matsukawa is the second exception, and it becomes the BEST white rice dish i have ever had. The rice was extremely soft, every single grain was perfectly cooked, aromatic and sweet. Althought it was served with 4 drolling toppings that you can add on by yourself, i had the first bowl without adding anything in.
I am a Chinese girl who don't even eat rice at home, even when my mom cooks a lot of dishes, for 99% of the time, i don't eat rice even at any Chinese restaurants. Yes, Matsukawa's rice is just that good.
For the second bowl of rice, i added in four kinds of DIY toppings served on the side - fresh Ikura (salmon roe), raw Karasumi, Jyako fish and seaweed. The Ikura was super fresh, each egg perfect bursted in my mouth. The small fish Jyako with Shansho pepper as well as Karasumi were very umami, the seaweeed gives a crispy texture. The enitre bowl of rice was incredible.
The Ikura was so fresh and delicious and i couldn't help myself to refill my bowl twice. Feeling my pants was getting tigher :(
The Yokan was simply soft like water, sweet ending.
Every ingredient, every combination...the plating, aroma, flavors and aftertastes....
At Matsukawa, i had one of the best grilled Japanese duck, crab, and soba; the best dashi and soup, the best rice ever. I was so surprised that how come they can get all these georgeous ingredients, and how can their rice be so soft, moist, and juicy... Chef is very shy and quite, but the food makes me forget about everything. Cannot wait for my next visit.