It shockingly doesn’t have any Michelin stars, and won’t be found advertised in any magazine or guide book.
Its clients are hardcore foodies who stumble across its astonishingly creative takes on food by word of mouth.
Obtaining a reservation requires months of patient pre-planning and many email exchanges with the Chef’s wife, Akiko.
It is notoriously difficult to find in the streets of Akasaka with a single white door and steel door-pull that leads up a narrow flight of stairs to a tiny teak dinning room that hosts but two tables.
It does but one seating a night; that’s it.
It is carefully, almost religiously, guided by owner, Chef Yoshiaki Takawaza.
It is called Aronia de Takawaza.
2) inside Aronia de Takawaza – G reflected in the restaurant’s teak wall
Upon entering, one is transported to a refined zen environment with a raised dais where Chef prepares your courses. Seeing Chef Takawaza is initially terrifying; he is clearly intimidating, utterly consumed in the moment of creation. We are nervous and – frankly – scared to look at him let alone speak. His wife, the thoroughly engaging Akiko, is our host, shuffling between ourselves and the other couple with utter ease, making us feel completely at home, and conveying the minute detail of her husband’s food.
The meal is a rarefied marriage of art, performance and culinary artistry that neither of us has ever experienced. What seals the deal however, comes after the dinner when Chef Takawaza joins us to share the inspiration for his food – organic, sustainable, local, trying always to utilize every part of the animal or vegetable and most importantly, ‘fun’ and accessible. Chef Takawaza is every bit classically French-trained but is keen on removing the formality and haughtiness associated with ‘high end’ food experiences. What sets his meal above all else we’ve had is the clear ‘love’ of food that permeates every dish he serves and his commitment to food as ‘fun’.
He then grills us on Canada and our food experiences and is genuinely interested to know more about two chefs whose approach is similar to his own. I am amazed that – in a way – he is so insular and that such a magician of culinary artistry remains so unaware of food movements elsewhere. It actually makes him that more endearing for by the time we leave, it is clear one should not be terrified or scared of Chef. While he is a demon in the moment of creating his food; he is the most amenable, kind, quiet, and genuine chef I’ve ever met. He is in a word, real. Doing what he does for no more reason than he loves what he does and wants to share his love with other foodies.
We partook of a 12-course tasting menu that included:
This was whitefish sashimi in oil olive with diakon that had been augured in a special machine behind the scenes. Resting on the daikon fish roe reconstituted into a sort-of dried apricot like form and a wonderful lotus cake that had a single slice of black truffle resting on it.
6) the fish roe, daikon, lotus cake and black truffle; 7) the whitefish
Served with this course is THE BEST BREAD I HAVE EVER EATEN IN MY LIFE. The best bread I will probably ever eat in my life. Bread I even now, some 3 weeks after the fact, dream of and can still evoke the taste of. Bread that surely was made by the gods, not some chef in Tokyo.
The Bible is wholly wrong when it says, ‘man cannot live by bread alone’. I’m sorry Jesus or whoever said this, you’re wrong. You clearly never tried either the bamboo charcoal powder and truffle bread or the raisin bread made at Aronia. I could eat this and solely this till I shuffle off this mortal coil and be utterly happy, full and content. One could never tire of it.
Served with this bread – and umpteen times better than any butter – is a homemade Hokkiado wild boar pate.
(sigh) I know what I’ll be ordering for my last meal.
Radish, daikon, smoked yellowtail and yuzu juice that had been reformed using liquid nitrogen.
Blanche de Noel
Hokkaido quail and quail liver is served with plum sauce, ginkgo seeds, various vegetable crisps and hazelnut ‘snow’ in this homage to winter.
This savory take on the classic French dessert which Tokyoites adore is actually a fois gras base with squash replacing the usual chestnut cream topping. The garnish is edible gold and balsamic sauce.
Ezo-venison Tar Tar
Venison tar tar served with a Parmesan crisp, black truffle – and for the surprise underneath – sea urchin.
Takawaza’s Farm – 2010 Winter
The next course is preceded by a hand-drawn table mat that Chef has prepared. It shows a farm. Chef’s dream is to own a farm and prepare meals from it. Something incidentally, Canadian uber-chef Michael Stadtlender did at the world famous Eigensinn Farm near Barrie here in Ontario. We spoke with Chef Takawaza about Michael’s farm and subsequently shared emails about his latest venture – Haisai.
On to this table mat is placed a glass of ‘milk’ and a plate of vegetables. The ‘milk’ is actually cauliflower soup and the vegetables a mixture of root vegetables topped with a miso sauce (which has been dehydrated into ‘soil’) and buried with unexpected nuggets of Gorgonzola.
Breakfast at Aronia de Takawaza
Next, breakfast arrives. A rather unique breakfast composed of a duck egg with white truffle in a quail broth, served alongside potato ‘corn’ flakes. Like children we’re instructed to mix the potato flakes into the milk, stir, and eat.
Which we of course do … with relish. The course is delicious and fun.
Flavour in White
Flavour in white is a mixture of cod, cod intestine, cauliflower, risotto and shaved Parmesan. Five simple ingredients that work wonderfully together.
Ezo-Venison with sweet & sour
The final meat course is more venison, this time perfectly cooked and served with gobo (done as fingerling potatoes) and three distinct – OMG delicious – sauces: beet, kumquat and pear/red wine.
The palette cleanser was a spoonful of snow that was actually apple.
So, in the end, is my life changed after visiting Aronia? … Yes; I admit it is.
I leave Aronia with a new appreciation of food and the sharing of food. An appreciation we rarely – and then only fleetingly – grasp. Food has soul and the sharing of food hearth (in the Joycean meaning of the word) that we all ought to champion.