Tucked on an unassuming sidestreet in Aoyama, Esaki’s basement location makes the restaurant a hard-yet-good-find. And with Esaki being on its second year on the Michelin 3 stars list, it sure is one good, if not great, find!
The chef and his apprentice. Oh how I envy the apprentice! I wonder what it takes to be one.
We had our reservation for lunch. Esaki has only one 6-course menu for lunch and it was at 5250yen – which I think makes Esaki the most affordable among the Michelin Tokyo 3 stars list, at least for lunch (dinner menu is around ~20k or more). Their ume shu is certainly not cheap though, at 1000yen a glass. In other restaurants, normal price of ume shu is at 200~500yen.
As a support to the nationwide, if not worldwide, campaign to help Tohoku recover fast, Esaki used ingredients taken from the quake-hit regions.
First off, Sazae and Asparagus in sazae liver sauce. Sazae, a turban shellfish (that looked more like a snail) harvested in Chiba, tasted mushroom-like and a bit tough for a shellfish. The asparagus, which was from Hokkaido, was so tender yet crisp. The sazae liver sauce has a really curious alternating taste – bitter, salty, sweet. It was so delectable though that you’d find yourself spooning the sauce when you’ve already eaten the meat and veggies.
Mushroom and veggies. The mushroom came from Fukushima. I love the yam sauce with the mushroom. It was slimy yes, with just a very slight hint of saltiness. The one in the apex of the triangle has a sesame and peanut sauce. It actually reminds me of the peanut sauce in the Filipino Kare-kare. The beans on the other hand means to off-set the taste of the two, I think, with it being almost bland – no flavor whatsoever.
Sashimi. Thin, almost translucent slices of hirame. Very fresh, very nice.
Now this one’s my favorite among the entrée. Salmon with black rice. This kind of salmon matures during autumn. So when this kind is harvested at this season when they’re still adolescents, it makes for a creamier meat that’s almost boneless (I certainly didn’t see nor felt any bone on the one served me). The salmon was fried perfectly, no fishy taste and smell at all in that I even ate the skin when normally I always keep the skin at the side of my plate, uneaten. The black rice was curiously crunchy and sticky. Fatsia sprout (taranome) tempura was also added in. The whole lot is sprinkled with salt that was extracted from the bottom of a hot spring. Very very nice.
True to the Japanese custom, rice was served last. We had Takikomi Gohan (boiled, flavored rice) with Miso soup. The boiled rice was seasoned and cooked with the cabbage from Miura Peninsula. Even though meatless, the rice was so flavorful in itself. The miso soup served was one of the most unique miso soup I had ever tasted. The button mushroom was made more slimy and flavorful by the natto added to the soup. Yep it has got that distinctly natto taste – similar to soybean yet more stronger.
The rice and miso were great combi with the houji-cha or roasted wheat tea.
Now, for dessert! We were served a bowl with a lid that would make you think that whatever is inside is something hot. Hence I had some difficulty connecting it with the fact that it was now time for dessert.
When we opened it, we got this. Suggestive of a tomato sauce.
But once we took a spoonful of the rich redness – ahhhh, it was heaven. It-was-just-so-good that each sip was almost orgasmic. So goood. Ahhh, so good. Yep, it’s so good you just can’t stop exclaiming so with every spoonful. As Hubby said, it was the best dessert he has ever had in his entire life so far (glad to have had made the breakthrough on his birthday ). Puree of Amaou Strawberry from Fukuoka with a teeny weeny scoop of sherbet.
My dessert went great with the herb tea.
By the way, Esaki’s toilet is so pretty and clean I can stay in it and while the day away.
An interesting fact: With 14 restaurants having Michelin 3-stars rate, Tokyo still tops Paris this year, making Tokyo still the center of the gastronomical world. Very interesting. And exciting, especially if you’re living in the area.
Address: Hills aoyama B1, 3-39-9 Jingu-mae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Home Page: http://www.aoyamaesaki.net (In Japanese)