Chef Patron Hiromitsu Nozaki is well-known in Japan, especially after publishing over 40 cookbooks, but of course also for his flagship restaurant Waketokuyama which is a luxury kappo with a laidback style.
A kappo is a restaurant where the chef cooks in front of his guests in an open kitchen, which is common in Japan and nowadays at many other places around the world as well. Kappo is the shortened form of katsu shu ho ju and means “cut first, then simmer” and is a suitable phrase for Chef Patron Hiromitsu Nozaki, who has a deep devotion to knives and working with them. He even published a book just about how to use knives in cooking. What style and which one for every moment.
Chef Nozaki liked to be a professional boxer, but he was not good enough. His interest in the relationship between health and nutrition started when he was young and kicked off after the death of his sister at young age. He only had studied nutrition when he had his first job in a kitchen, but it did not take too long before he understood his potential to become a great chef. Hiromitsu Nozaki worked at several Japanese cuisine restaurants and eventually became a true professional in Japanese traditional cooking. He was appointed the Executive Chef of Tokuyama in 1980 and in 1989 he founded his own Waketokuyama restaurant. The rest is history and today he has many restaurants, but he spends most of his time in his signature establishment.
Waketokuyama is a rather big restaurant compared to most other top dining restaurants in Tokyo. It is located in a modern building from 2004 which was designed by architect Kengo Kuma. You have two floors to choose from, so plenty of seats with one counter on each floor and separate tables as well. Choose one of the counter seats to see the cooks work and if you are lucky you will have a seat at the first floor where Chef Hiromitsu Nozaki works.
The cuisine has a clear foundation in the traditional Japanese cuisine, but Hiromitsu has clearly put his touch on it and the food you will have is fairly contemporary. As is common in Japan you will have a pre-set menu without any options so just relax and enjoy all the dishes which will come your way. The meal starts with a sakizuke, an amuse, which can be a soup with scallop, shimeji mushroom and napa cabbage. After the amuse you will have some zensai, appetiser, which can be simmered eel and steamed rice ball with wasabi. After that it is time for the main courses and the restaurant likes to start with wan, soup, like the diced turnip soup with Spanish mackerel and thin kelp roll with wheat gluten, rape blossom, carrot, burdock and yuzu peel. There are many dishes to be served at each meal and after the soup the dinner follows with a tsukuri (fish) dish, a susumizakana (the house speciality), a shiizakana (the actual main dish), a shokuji (earthenware pot rice, pickled vegetables and soup) and finally a dessert. You will not leave Waketokuyama on an empty stomach.
Waketokuyama is Western friendly and everyone will feel welcome. Hiromitsu Nozaki’s flagship restaurant never disappoints and is great, but it does not give the same long-lasting impression as the absolute best in Japan.
Written by Andy