Matsukawa 松川 (2016 Spring)
Matsukawa has been the No.1 Japanese restaurant in Japan on Tabelog for a very long while, it is also considered the best Kaiseki restaurant by a lot of locals and foreign foodies. Here, you can find a wonderful explaination of 'simple is the best'.
To be honest, i didn't like Matsukawa that much. It was way too simple than i expected that i can rarely 'see' Chef Matsukawa's work. However, after 1-2 months of food feasting in Tokyo, i finally realized that Matsukawa is at another level - it is hard to be reached. It is simple, but the depth of dishes were so memorable.
The first dish was Hamami-gani (Japanese Helmet crab), or Togekuri-gani (とげくり蟹), which is a seasonal crab only available during cherry blossom period. The crab was served grilled meat and its miso (ovaries) on a bed of steamed mochi (glutinous) rice, and topped with caviar. This was indeed an incredibly enjoyable starter: juicy and sweet crab meat with indulgent umami crab miso, the caviar gives more texture and flavor. The rice itself was perfectly steamed, so smooth and slight chewy. I wish i can have this everyday.
Matsukawa also serves one of the best abalone dishes I have ever had.
The abalone itself was aromatic, rubbery but more on the tender side. Very simple umami flavors at its best. On the side was Hokkaido sea urchin, creamy and has a sweet aftertaste. The jelly made of dashi is very clean but paired very well with abalone and uni.
The abalone liver sauce was also served on the side. Very creamy and has a deep flavor, great with abalone.
The top 3 Tai sashimi on my list: Matsukawa, Kagurazaka Ishikawa and Kyoaji. No doubt very high quality, clean and chewy to demonstrate the line of 'simple is the best'. Side with a flavorful bite of Tai's shirako with refreshing ponzu vinegar to contrast the simplicity. Normally Shirako is served in winter and this is almost the last few days to eat shirako.
Even I didn't quite understand Matsukawa's food right after my first meal here, but i did admit the Owan (Dashi) was out-of-world. As a key factor in Japanese cooking, quality of dashi decides most of the other dishes at this restaurant. And Matsukawa is certainly the king of Owan.
The soup itself was so clean and umami, with Hotate scallop dumpling to bring more flavors, loved its creamy textures with scallops chunks to contrast. Paired with grilled Kuchiko (sea cucumber ovaries) lift the savory umami tastes.
Spring is a high season to have clams in Japan. The next three dishes featured different types of clams: Akagai on a bed of spring vegetables, Torigai and grilled Mirugai with Sudachi (Japanese lime). So far so good.
Chef Matsukawa then showed us the entire grilled Kyoto bamboo shoots and prepare it in front of us. It comes with a mouth-watering grilled smell. The bamboo shoots was very tender, served with a pinch of salted to bring out the sweet hint.
Before grilling our next course, chef Matsukawa displayed the living Moroko fish from Biwako Lake - tiny but so nimble. It looks as pretty as Ayu fish while grilling. Each of us was served two grilled Moroko fish, loved their clight burnt and crispy skin (especially the tail and head!) and tender white flesh inside.
Next arrived simmered grilled Amadai with spring broccoli rabe. It is not hard to tell how fatty the fish is from the picture - underneath its grilled golden skin was a layer of rich fish oils, the flesh was melt-in-mouth tenderness. The entire bite was not greasy at all but very enjoyable.
Last time i really enjoyed the grilled Japanese duck at Matsukawa, i believe it was so far the best duck dish. This time the Japanese Omi beef fillet was also marvelous. Moderate in fat contents, indredibly succulent and juicy, you don't even need to really chewy it... Not your normal beef fillet comes with heavy and creamy sauces, this fillet is honestly flavorful by itself.
I thought beef is the last course and next comes soba and then rice dish... so stuffed at this point. But the followed grilled soft shell turtle surprisingly 'wow'ed me. But i don't mind to have any extra dishes at Matsukawa. With a layer of soy sauce outside which gives some sweetness, the meat inside is really tender and flavorful.
A bowl of cold soba noodle to clean the palate. Matsukawa's homemade soba is possibly my favorite in town, it was made of 100% pure buckwheat powder, all hand-made without processing with any machine. The soba is quite chewy and a bit rustic as the real soba particles in it.
Next was abalone shabu-shabu with fresh seaweed. Each of us was served a small hot bot with the clear dashi. I tried the dashi before put the fresh seaweed and abalone into it, it was very clean but really delicious. The soup base becomes much tastier after putting the abalone and seaweed into it for few seconds.
A warm and healing bowl of congee with abalone liver and spring scallions. The umami and deep flavors of the abalone liver went through the entire bowl, with the spring scallions brings more fragrance.
By far the best white rice i have ever had, each grain was so 'fat' and juicy like pearls from the land. I am not a white rice person but i can finish this bowl of white rice without any compliments. Well, whats happens here is this rice is always served with his best 4 friends: Karasumi (mullet roe), Chirimen Jyako (white baits with Japanese pepper) , Ikura (salmon roe) and seaweed - all at the top quality, the entire combination is out-of-world, out-of word.
My favorite part beside the rice is Ikura, each roe is packed of super creamy and umami juices. Once its thin skin broke and all the juices goes into the rice, the entire bowl tastes incredible. What i usually do here: 3 bowl of rice - firstly plain rice, secondly ikura rice, thirdly, rice with all four compliments. Oh, i need this everyday.
Finish with the signature dessert at Matsukawa - Mitzuyokan. Yokan is a jelly made of red bean, Mitzu means 'water' in Japanese, and Mitzuyokan is a type of Yokan that is higher in water contents. This one is so silky and melts in my mouth into water in seconds. Served with a warm bowl of fresh Matcha, wonderful ending.
Again sincerely thanks Chef Matsukawa-san for the amazing food. Simple is the best....I'm stuffed with incredible dishes and almost speechless here. Always the most happiest to be back at Matsukawa. What else should I ask for?
A lovely gift - jar of Chirimen to take home, definitely the best treat to a foodie.
Date: March.2016 (Lunch) | Last visit Dec.2015
Address:東京都港区赤坂1-11-6 赤坂テラスハウス １階
Cost: Same menu for lunch and dinner at $35,000JPY, Matsutake season (late Autumn) $45,000~