Aronia de Takawaza

It is heralded as one the top 10 life-changing restaurant experiences in the world.

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.

1) the door-pull

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

G and I were beyond excitement when we secured a reservation back in February of last year and were truly honoured to spend the evening with Chef Takawaza and Akiko on December 27, 2010.  With us was but one other couple and we had the attention of Akiko and Chef for every moment of the 4+ hours it took to dine.

3) the slightly raised preparation area where Chef Takazawa puts the finishing touches on plates before bringing them to you.

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.  

 5) the amuse

6) the fish roe, daikon, lotus cake and black truffle; 7) the whitefish

The next dish is Chef’s signature – a course that is served to all customers since the restaurant’s inception in 2005 – ratatouille. Chef individually prepares 15 different vegetables for this dish, each unique marinated and then constructed to create a 2×2 inch piece of art. We are instructed to eat the dish – which takes half a day to prepare – in one bite. And while it seems sacrilegious, as I want to simply sit and stare the the construction for hours rather than consume it, I do as directed and down the tiny terrine in one bite. In the mouth, it is complex and unique with each vegetable releasing its own personality. 

8) ratatouille

9) ratatouille served with a granule of salt and single black bean

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.

10) bread of the gods – the pate, bamboo charcoal & truffle and raisin bread

Radish, daikon, smoked yellowtail and yuzu juice that had been reformed using  liquid nitrogen.

11) buri-daikon

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.

12) me preoccupied with the bread as blanche de Noel arrives

13) close-up of this wonderful dish that was a delight on the tongue – lots of texture and flavour

Mont Blanc
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.

14) dessert taken to a whole new level

Ezo-venison Tar Tar
Venison tar tar served with a Parmesan crisp, black truffle – and for the surprise underneath – sea urchin.

15) looks yummy

16) tastes divine – the addition of sea urchin is unexpected yet perfect

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.

17) the place mat

18) the root vegetables; 19) the ‘milk’

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.

20) breakfast is served

21 & 22) mix these together and enjoy!

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.

23) Flavour in white

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.

24) the meat course

Grated Cheese?
The palette cleanser was a spoonful of snow that was actually apple.

25) snow

Strawberry Shortcake

Dessert was strawberry shortcake where the shortcake was replaced – cheekily – by vanilla ice cream and whip cream vaporized due to being submerged in liquid nitrogen. Good fun.

26) our dessert steams away

If you go, save your pennies. Dinner for two, with 3 glasses of wine each, 10% service and 5% tax was YJYP68,800 or about US$832.00.

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.

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7 Responses to Aronia de Takawaza

  1. tomatoboi says:

    Wow, that’s a lot of beautiful photos of Hong Kong! Makes me want to go back so much!What camera do you use?

  2. ElusiveWords says:

    I’m blown away by the food (and the price). The description of the bread had me smiling and my imagination running wild. Thanks for sharing.

  3. christao408 says:

    Pretty amazing.  Glad you shared the experience with us, as I don’t think I could justify spending that much money on a meal as much as I might like to.

  4. I am beyond words and ‘jealous’ doesn’t quite cover itI’m glad you were able to have such an amazing experience…I wonder if they have something similar to that here in the US =(

  5. kunhuo42 says:

    omg… that’s a crazy dinner. way out of my price range, but it looks delicious! i guess i’ll have to live vicariously through your pictures =D

  6. Fatcat723 says:

    Beautiful presentation with excellent food! I will have to find someone to take me there.

  7. CurryPuffy says:

    The venison tar-tar with parmesan crisp is quite pleasing, so is the voice of Akiko describing the strawberry shortcake. I’m sure you guys got the full attention of the hostess and the chef as well! Well, I guess mere mortals like us will not probably spend so much to experience such a meal. But I may put this place on my ‘bucket list’.

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