I always try to find a special dining experience when I’m spending Thanksgiving away from the family. The previous year I ate at Sushi Masato, and while I was in Tokyo I had to book a dinner at Den. A recipient of 2 Michelin stars and recently named #17 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, they serve a modern kaiseki tasting menu by Chef Zaiyu Hasegawa.
After a warm welcome and a poured glass of Syaraku Jyunmai-Ginjyo sake from Fukushima, we began the tasting menu.
The first course was a take on a Japanese traditional sweet called monaka. The crispy wafer sandwich was stuffed with white miso marinated foie gras, sweet potato, and pickled radish. It was sweet, savory, and very interesting.
The second starter was a soft roe cake, known as shirako, with milk, onion, and kuzu root starch with a thick starchy sauce.
The next course was one of Chef Hasegawa’s signature dishes. The Dentuckey Fried Chicken was served in a custom take-out box with autumn leaves and the American and Filipino flags inside. How cute! The crispy deep-fried chicken wing was stuffed with Japanese sticky rice and samgye-tang (ginseng chicken). It was incredible.
For a restaurant known as one of the world’s best, the atmosphere was fun and laid-back. The chef and staff were so easygoing and always smiling. Everybody was welcome to talk and ask questions. I got to know a couple fellow foodies dining next to me.
I switched to wine before the next course. It was sea bass (suzuki) and greater amberjack (kanpachi) sashimi brushed with soy sauce and served with wasabi. Fabulous!
The fish course was grilled black mouth croaker (meigo) with sliced yellow turnips, grated radish, and black cabbage.
The following course was the most amazing salad I’ve ever had! Seriously, it was just a salad and I wasn’t expecting much, but the signature Den salad made of 20 different seasonal vegetables blew me away! It was so fresh and tasty. That was followed by a soup of codfish and turnip in sake lees – a by-product of sake making. It was hearty and flavorful.
Afterwards, one of the chefs came out with a large pot and opened it to reveal a large piece of black cod over rice. The tasty black cod rice was served with miso soup and some pickled vegetables.
It was time for dessert. A newspaper with a hidden message was placed in front of each diner, then moss from the Den garden was presented on a garden trowel. The yummy dirt and moss was actually mascarpone mousse mixed with charcoal powder, several Japanese tea leaves, buckwheat, and dill. It was like a creative Japanese tiramisu.
Then it was time to conclude the tasting menu with some “coffee”. The cute “Star Combacks” mug was filled with custard pudding with sugar cane and black truffle. So good!
My dinner at Den was wonderful. The dishes were creative and I enjoyed the unique flavors. The chef and staff were so nice. Chef Hasegawa even invited me into the kitchen and took a selfie of us. It was such a fun dining experience. Thank you!
Architect House Hall JIA
Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan