[Tokyo] DEN - New Location, New Format
We went back to Den which was one of our favorite dining experiences in Tokyo! Recently awarded #45 on World's 50 Best Restaurants, it has moved to a new location in Jingumae where it can be confusing at first because the front door says "Le Gaulois" - turns out it used to be the chef Zaiyu Hasegawa and his wife's favorite French restaurant so they kept the signage when they took over the space. Along with the new location is a new seating format where a long communal table replaced the traditional counter seats. I'm not sure I liked the new seating format much since it requires you to sit in close proximity to other people, but it's a change that fits with the casual dining atmosphere and fun hospitality that Den has become known for. As it was our second time, Chef Zaiyu prepared different dishes for us to try in lieu of some of its signature dishes.
Instead of the monaka as the first course, we received a seasonal dish which was a tempura of taranome (mountain vegetables) freshly picked from Mount Fuji. The tempura was nicely crunchy while the vegetables tasted refreshing - it was the taste of Spring.
The next course in lieu of the turtle soup was a white asparagus with onsen tamago and dashi where we were told by Zaiyu to mix the egg and eat the strips of asparagus like pasta.
The signature Dentucky Fried Chicken was filled with sticky rice, young plum and shiso this time with a touch of flower to signify the season of Spring.
The sashimi of tai had been aged for 3 days and served with shiso and wasabi.
The Wagyu beef shoulder from Shizuoka had been cooked for a week in dashi and soy sauce which turned out to be super succulent in texture and sweet in flavor.
The signature Den salad with edible ant and over 20 different vegetables was again our favorite dish of the meal! The most impressive piece was the tomato which had been treated in vanilla as it was not in season yet to bring out its flavor.
For the rice course, we were treated with two different rice this time - one with sakura ebi and the other with hotaru ika (firefly squid)!
Replacing the playful cream cheese dessert served on a shovel was this precious Dekopon with lemon jelly, rum and green peas. Dekopon is a type of Japanese mandarin orange reputed to be the most delicious citrus in the world, and it was deliciously sweet but I wasn't too sure about having peas as dessert.
Lastly, a cup of "coffee" to finish the meal with sugar cane, milk and black truffle custard.
The service and hospitality at Den was just as great as the first time, and with the new seating format we felt like we were eating in the chef's house. Admittedly, I thought the food we had the first time was better than some of the new dishes we had in lieu of its signature dishes. The new dishes were still good of course but we felt that they just didn't have the same quirkiness and creativity as the original ones. Eating at Den is definitely an enjoyable experience nonetheless and a must-try for anyone visiting Tokyo!
Architect house hall JIA
2-3-18 Jingumae, Shibuya Ku, Tokyo
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