On my recent tour of Japan, I was fortunate to experience a Sushi/Sashimi meal at ICHIJO in the Chou-Ku area of Tokyo. This small, unassuming restaurant has recently been awarded one Michelin Star.
Owner Chef Satoshi Ichijo begins each day at 3 am by visiting the fish markets to select his ingredients for the day. After a few hours of preparation, he prepares each dish for guests for lunch. After a few hours of rest, he does the same for dinner; he has some support on the service side; however, he does all the food preparation himself.
Chef Satoshi served us an Omakase menu, which means chefs selection, where the chef chooses all the dishes to be served. On this occasion, our Sushi/Sashimi omakase menu was to be no less than 16 small hand-prepared items, enjoyed with a chilled Ginjo Sake.
As far as running a business goes, this is a real “Key Man Dependency”, as with many things in Japan, his work ethic has been influenced by respect for craftsmanship, ingredients and the guest experience.
The result of this commitment and experience is one of culinary beauty. Each dish celebrates the quality of the ingredients, and minimal flavouring is added. This is an excellent reminder that high-quality fresh ingredients are the centrepiece for this dining style.
One of the highlights was the presentation of three cuts of Tuna with varied fat content, presented in sequence, starting with a lean amount and finishing with a fillet from the belly of the Tuna; the fat content was easily recognisable and coated the pallet.
The experience allowed me to reflect on our Western dining culture and if many of these subtle flavours and textures would be valued in our current contemporary dining offer. There is no doubt that Japanese cuisine continues to grow in popularity in part due to the healthy nature of the ingredients and our collective appreciation for fresh quality seafood and ingredients in general.
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