Chugoku Hanten

3-7-5 Higashi Azabu, Tokyo, Japan

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This Chinese restaurant is one of five Chugoku Hantens, located in Roppongi, Higashiazabu Mita, Ichigaya and Chao Meng Lai.  Kitchen staff are recruited from Shanghai and Hong Kong, the head chef here coming from from Hong Kong. The owner, Schi Fu Tsao, is regarded as a pioneer of Chinese restaurants in Japan, and the furniture of the dining room is imported from China. The restaurant is at street level in a busy shopping area in Minato Ku. It had a smartly decorated dining room (though the plastic tablecloths are incongruous) that was large by Japanese standards, seating at least 60 diners. It served Cantonese food, and there was the usual lengthy menu. On the weekend lunch when we visited, live Chinese music was being played in the dining room. The dim sum set menu was ¥3,000 and the Peking Duck menu ¥6,000, but we went a la carte.

Dishes arrived one at a time rather than in the usual Chinese style, and not in an obvious sequence. First were spicy stir-fried prawns, served with a sweet chilli sauce; the prawns were tender and had good flavour, while the sauce was a little over-sweet and could have done with a little more chilli kick (I suspect this dish has been adapted to local tastes), but it was pleasant enough (13/20).

Much better were scallops with broccoli. This being Japan, the quality of the scallops was high, far higher than you would find in a similar restaurant in London: three large, sweet, carefully cooked scallops in a "special" sauce, with nicely cooked broccoli (15/20 comfortably). Even better were gai lan, the shoots here selected to be very young and tender, steamed and served with soy sauce (16/20). I also really enjoyed the rice, which had a pleasing nutty hint to it, much nicer than the rice I am used to in London (15/20). Some dim sum that we ordered turned up at the end of the sequence. Har gau steamed prawn dumplings were excellent, the dumpling light, the prawns again of a higher quality than one would see in London (16/20). Char Sui steamed buns were also excellent, very light and fluffy in texture, with a sweet filing of pork (15/20).

Service was polite, and the bill came to ¥13,336 for two, including jasmine tea and mineral water. This works out at £51 a head, which seems a tad high but felt fair to me, given that we somewhat over-ordered, and given the good quality of the food. My experience of Michelin starred restaurants in Japan outside the French and Japanese cuisines has been distinctly variable, but this seems to me just about worth a star (though not the two it received in the 2012 Michelin). If this was in London, then it would be up there with the best Chinese restaurants. Of course if it was really in London then they would not have access to the high grade ingredients, such as the lovely scallops today, that Japan offers in abundance.


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