Passione Gourmet Koju, chef Toro Okuda, Ginza, Tokyo, di Alberto Cauzzi

Koju

di Presidente

Il perfezionismo del minimalismo.
The perfectionism of minimalism.
This is, according to us, the synthesis of the kaiseki philosophy and of this great restaurant. We have already discussed this topic in Kitcho’s review, but we would like to give also another point of view, that would go beyond the obsessive attention for the raw materials, the seasonality and the ceremony.
Because at the Koju restaurant we are facing an interpretation, possibly extreme, of the stylistic kaiseki modernism branded Japan. A ritual as such, that at the same time is denuded of various nick-nacks, it is made metropolitan and contemporary, even antithetically fast in a way, but still preserving all the real and deep contents of this art.
The starting point is the care in the preparations. Despite being apparently easy, they are the outcome of long and very meticulous elaborations. In the kitchen, even though you can’t see it, 2 people take care of the rice cooking, 3 people are responsible for the broth preparation, other 4 are in charge of chiseling vegetables and fish. An army concentrated on tasks that might seem easy at a first sight, but that are actually coordinated and captained by real masters of long-time experience.
The “master” refines and chisels the sashimi, tastes and adjusts the already quasi-perfect broth for the shabu-shabu. He observes and leads with the attention of an orchestra director. Now we fully understand the assonance with another master as Marchesi with this philosophy, and also his continuous nearing to symbolism and stylistic, as well as to the strictness of the great orchestral musical opera. Never as in this case an analogy was so guess right.
The day of our visit, chef Toro Okuda was in Paris for the opening of his first restaurant outside Japan (Okuda Paris, already red marked for the next tours in the Ville Lumière).
His substitute, young but self-confident as a navigated chef, did not make us regret the Masters absence.
Koju is the experience, with a capital E, of a Kaseiki contemporaneity taken to highest peak. Here, each basic ingredient, a fish or a vegetable, is preserved in its deepest essence. You won’t find added salt anywhere. All is pure, when sweet it will taste sweet, when sapid it will taste sapid. And when the ingredient is lightly spicy, it will taste lightly spicy. Presented in its majestic and untouched pureness.
The main character of each preparation is often played by the broths, of outstanding density, refinement and persistence, as well as sapidity. They are enriched by apparent costars: sometimes a dried fruit, another a herb or laquered.
A fascinating experience, that you should combine with a great example of the kaiseki tradition in Kyoto, if you want a full and thorough picture. After that, your circle of taste in the Rising Sun will be full.

La table du chef.

Mise en place.

The young chef at work.

Blue crab, gelatin of rice and soy vinegar, citrus fruits: a concentrate of rare elegance.

Abalone, purée of aubergines and soy beans. Fantastic is the compactness of the abalone and of the jasmin scented aubergine

The preparation of our sashimi.

The first broth.

Lobster, soy beans, mushrooms, shellfish and lotus root ball

Sashimi of tuna, squid, sea bream, daikon, algae salad, radish. Of fantastic consistence and pureness.

The preparation of the shabu-shabu.

Steamed barracuda with mushrooms, roasted eel laquered with whitebaits. Plunged into an autumn garden. Sweet potatoes, ginkgo nuts, daikon balls, ginger roots, pimiento, lime, pepper and shiso. The pepper leaf on the eel is the touch of a real master.

The preparation of the Wasabi roots.

Fish Shabu-Shabu (similar to codfish) and highly exclusive Matsutake mushrooms. The broth is intense and pervading, with the mushroom that emanates scents of autumn and brush. Fantastic.
Rice, miso and mushroom broth, onions and pickles.

Rice, miso and mushroom broth, onions and pickles.

The revision of the traditional mochi. Caramel and chestnut ice cream, chestnut liquor, boiled chestnut and sweet rice balls. Sensational.

Classic ending with Matcha tea.

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