J sent me to lunch at Hirosaku (ひろ作) at Shimbashi, Tokyo. She said I must have a meal there, and assumed that I would know how to get there and sort myself out at the restaurant. She win lor. I had no idea that it's a Michelin-starred restaurant till much later. I was a little skeptical. Michelin stars are so.....not my thing. But when J elaborated that it's a tiny place run by an elderly couple, I was sold.
Hirosaku was thankfully divine. It has been around for two decades, with its owner Chef Satoshi Watanabe (さんがそ渡辺聡) started off being a self-taught soba-maker and never looked back. It serves up traditional kappo (割烹). At lunch, it's nothing fancy. Six simple courses including an appetizer and one dessert in a washoku meal (和食, わしょく). The food trotted out is the sort homestyle dishes done in the exact way that I love (and miss). ごちそうさまでした!
There isn’t a menu in English or English-speaking wait staff available. It’s just the husband and wife team. The restaurant only has nine seats. A table for four, and five at the counter, and I think there's a tiny private room for four at the side. Ahhh, what a wonderful business model that feeds the soul. It was rather heartwarming to see them potter about with a ton of efficiency, getting each course ready to feed people. That’s omotenashi (おもてなし) done beautifully. However, I've got no idea how they sustain the operations for so many years in a fairly prime location that seems to demand high rents.
Sitting at the counter meant that I could see all that went on in the kitchen. I loved seeing the food being prepared and plated. This is truly 'cooking from the heart', as good as it gets. It's what we hipsters love to term 'farm-to-table'. The shiso rice was such pure joy in the mouth. The kitchen did it the way my grandmother used to do it- with a whole shiso leaf (and not chopped up), and bits of grilled white fish. And it was so very nice chatting with the elderly couple.
The tempura was sooo good. That juwari soba (十割そば, 100% buckwheat) was indeed heavenly. The buckwheat flour is hand-ground every morning. “昼に蕎麦を食わせろ。” Chef Satoshi Watanabe happily shared his philosophy of life through his soba-making—earnestly living each day with the same sort of translucency and openness. He's happy when his food brings a smile to the face of diners. A review of Hirosaku also mentioned,
Japan has so much wonderful food for us to explore. There're many of this sort of gems around waiting to be discovered. Of course it's helpful to understand the language since English isn't too useful even in Tokyo. I was pleased that this lunch offered no meat beyond fish, uni and scallop. It doesn't just keep the prices low. It keeps my stomach very happy. This trip, it's Hirosaku that gave me the best meal, and I couldn’t be more grateful for this arrangement.
東京都 港区 新橋 3-6-13
3 Chome-6-13 Shimbashi, Minato, Tokyo 105-0004, Japan
(A three-minute walk from Shimbashi station)
T: +81 3-3591-0901
Lunch is reasonably priced between 3300円 to 4000円, but dinner goes up to beyond 30,000円. Reservations are essential, do so three to four weeks in advance, especially for lunch (speak Japanese please); cash only, no credit cards accepted.
BE VERY NICE TO THE OWNERS.