Villanca Azabu 1st fl. 2丁目-7-2 Azabujuban, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan

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This kaiseki restaurant was opened in August 2000 by chef/owner Toshiya Kadowaki. He caused a minor media stir in 2008, when Michelin launched its Tokyo edition, by declining to be included in the guide, and generally dismissing it as unwanted foreign intrusion (incidentally, all but one of the Michelin inspectors in Japan are actually Japanese, so it is not a bunch of French people dispensing their opinions to the locals). He clearly changed his mind, as in the 2009 guide Kadowaki was listed, with two stars, which it has retained through to the 2013 guide. The restaurant is in a quiet street on the edge of Roppongi, with an attractive old-fashioned traditional discreet entrance, lit by a lantern. You sit at a counter and watch the chefs preparing the dishes in front of you, or there is alternatively a small private room. The counter has just six seats, so this restaurant has a quite intimate atmosphere.

Although kaiseki, the style here is not traditional, with influences from Europe creeping in, as we shall see. The first dish, which in traditional places is usually a cold dish, was here a warm shrimp rice dish with chilli (rice normally appears only at the end of a meal in kaiseki dining). The shrimps were excellent, with a hint of inherent sweetness and were perfectly tender, the hint of chilli lifting the dish (17/20). Next was snapper with sansho, the mountain pepper flower which is a relative of the Sichuan pepper and has the same numbing spice effect on the tongue. Here the fish was carefully cooked, the tingling spice of the sansho well controlled and complementing the fish nicely (17/20).

This was followed by white asparagus with sesame sauce and Japanese spring mountain vegetables. The asparagus was of a very high standard, the vegetables bringing a hint of bitterness to the dish which nicely balanced the sesame (17/20). Next was sashimi of swordfish, served with chives, mountain potato and onion. Swordfish is not my favourite sashimi, having a rather firm texture, but this was prettily presented and the accompaniments worked well (16/20). Better was lobster with more sansho, which was lovely. The shellfish was perfectly tender and had really good flavour, the sansho again providing a carefully controlled element of spice (18/20).

The next dish was a pair of sorbets: shrimp liver and squid ink, with a mix of hot and cold egg soup. This tasted a lot better than it may sound, the shrimp liver flavour working quite well with the egg (16/20). A little piece of cooked red snapper was served with sesame oil, lime and fish roe, which was simple but enjoyable (16/20). Next was a comforting broth of spring mountain vegetables with hot pepper, and when the chef said "hot" he was not kidding: the pepper had a remarkable kick to it (16/20). The last savoury dish was simple but superb: rice cooked with a generous shaving of Italian black truffles. The rice was perfectly cooked and the truffles had particularly good flavour (18/20). As a nice touch, I was offered an extra portion when I mentioned how good it was, despite this being a very costly ingredient. The meal concluded with a refreshing dish of mango, ricotta cheese and honey.

The chef spoke a little English and was very welcoming, and the waitresses topped up water and beer faultlessly. The bill came to ¥26,650 (£174) per person. This was an excellent meal, the ingredient quality very high, the cooking technique hard to fault and with some interesting and original dishes.


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