[Tokyo] 3* Sazenka 茶禅華

Rating: 5/5

My best meal in Tokyo this trip was at Sazenka which has 3 Michelin stars and is currently #11 on Asia's 50 Best Restaurants! Based on the concept of Wakon-Kansai 和魂漢才 (Japanese spirit with Chinese talent), Sazenka is a truly unique marriage of Japanese and Chinese cuisine. Chef Tomoya Kawada became interested in Chinese food at a young age and worked at a Chinese restaurant for 10 years before moving to Japanese kaiseki restaurant Nihonryori Ryugin. Armed with the knowledge of both cuisines, Chef Kawada aims to showcase the essence of Chinese cuisine with the splendid ingredients in Japan.

The experience was truly top-notch from the food to the hospitality and even the restaurant itself which resembles a traditional tea house. For our meal, we were lucky enough to try a special seasonal menu with Shanghai hairy crab as the main focus.

青山綠水 - Somen Noodles with Tea Oil

黃金皮蛋 - Golden Century Egg deconstructed into 3 layers: center egg yolk, outer egg yolk with soy milk, and egg white.

Then it was time for the star of the meal - hairy crabs! We were served both the male and female hairy crab roe version of the same dish for comparison - do you know the difference between the two? Male roe is golden and creamier while the female roe is orange and hardens when cooked.

脆皮響鈴 - Steamed Hairy Crab Roe with fried wonton
The roe on the left is female while the right is male.

酔大閘蟹 - Raw ‘Drunken’ Hairy Crab marinated in Shaoxing wine

Female hairy crab

Male hairy crab

Male and female crab claw meat

One of my favorites of the night was the signature Sliced Pork with Eggplant 雲白肉片! Based on the classic Sichuan dish sliced pork belly with garlic sauce (蒜泥白肉), Chef Kawada’s version was light on the garlic flavor but yet very delicious and flavorful. We were told to grab a few slices to eat together and the whole plate was gone in a matter of minutes!

白魚米粉 - Ice Fish with Rice Noodles

雉雲吞湯 - Wonton in Pheasant Clear Soup

麻辣亀鳳 - Spicy Chicken Wings stuffed with suppon (soft-shelled turtle) and shark fin. When the bowl of chicken wings and chili peppers was delivered to our table, we could immediately smell the deliciously spicy aroma wafting from the dish. Banana leaves were provided on the side so we can use it to hold the wing while we devour into it. And wow the chicken wing was so juicy and flavorful, we thought we had reached the climax of the meal until the pigeon arrived.

Palate cleanser

鴛鴦蒸蟹 - Steamed Hairy Crab layered with male roe, female roe, and crab meat

蟹黃魚翅 - Hairy Crab Roe Sauce with shark fin

Hairy Crab Roe Rice with white truffle

炸蘿蔔糕 - Fried Turnip Cake

茶禅鴿子 - the signature Pigeon served 3 ways. The leg was seasoned with Chinese five-spices and repeatedly fried; the breast was smoked and then grilled over Japanese binchotan; and lastly the head with the brain exposed. All of the parts were fantastic but the breast was my favorite - it may be one of the best pigeon breast I’ve ever had!

麻婆豆腐 - when a top chef asks you if you’re full yet, always say no so that they may served you a delicious bowl of mapo tofu! Beautifully refined, Chef Kawada’s version did not disappoint and we couldn’t help but ask for more rice to go with the mapo tofu.

Egg Noodles with Hairy Crab XO Sauce

Figs with Sesame Ice Cream

Hot and Cold Almond Tofu

Sweet Glutinous Dumpling with White Sesame

An incredible meal from the beginning to end embracing the philosophy of 和魂漢才 (Japanese spirit and Chinese technique), 茶禅一味 (oneness of Dhyana and tea), and 真味只是淡 (true taste delicately remains) - thank you Chef Kawada and team for the incredible meal and hospitality!

4 Chome-7-5 Minamiazabu, Minato City, Tokyo 106-0047
Tel: +03 5449 6778


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