Makimura is located in Shinigawa, an area eight miles south of central Tokyo in the direction of Yokohama, and home to a major Shinkansen railway station. The restaurant has been operating for twenty-seven years, and in its current location since May 2010. It is in a quiet street not far from the main highway running from central Tokyo, in an unassuming building. Just six seats are set out along a wooden counter, but there can seat eight more in a private dining room.
Chef and owner Makimura Akio started cooking professionally in 1978.. He has a particular interest in fish dishes, and in particular sea bream and red sea bream (tai & madai). His signature dish is the sea bream rice with green tea (Tai Chazuke) where he presents fresh sea bream sashimi on a bed of rice to taste first and then he pours the green tea stock over the remaining dashimi and rice to show the difference in flavour and texture, the latter known as "chazuke". The sea bream is bought every morning and prepared at the market to allow the umami flavour to develop by the time he uses them in the restaurant. He uses two types of sesame to make the sesame sauce for seasoning and the green tea stock is made from a kelp dashi that has had the kelp resting in the water for 12 hours from the night before.
Our meal began with barely cooked shrimp with fish roe, aubergine, walnuts and creamy tofu. The shrimps were sweet and the aubergine of good quality, the walnuts adding useful textural contrast (16/20). This was followed by excellent deep-fried squid with ginkgo nuts, the flesh of the squid extremely tender (18/20). Next was flounder in a clear soup along with a single mushroom, chives and yuzu. The fish had good flavour though for me there are limits to how exciting fish can be when served in soup (15/20).
Next, a fish called olive flounder was sliced ultra-thin as sashimi and served with its milt (sperm, known as shirako in Japan) and some tiny green beans. The idea is to wrap the milt in the flesh. I have to say that this is an acquired taste, and I much preferred some grilled shirako that I had just the day before, so although I did not particularly like it this is probably a reflection on me rather than the quality of the creamy fish milt (14/20).
I much preferred bonito, which was served both as sashimi and as a single grilled piece, which came with a dipping sauce with garlic. The fish had lovely flavour (17/20). This was followed by abalone that had been steamed for five hours (I am indebted to my neighbouring diner for details such as this, a regular here who kindly translated my questions) and paired with sea urchin and cold udon noodles with sauce of abalone liver, all served in an abalone shell. The abalone was tender and the uni of high quality (17/20).
Sea bream roe came with fried turnip and a turnip sauce. This was pleasant though I remain to be convinced of the virtues of cooked turnip as an ingredient (15/20). Sea eel (caught in Tokyo bay) was more to my taste, served on a savoury umami flan. The eel was terrific, and the umami flan a silky complement to the eel (17/20). The final savoury course was the signature sea bream and sesame sauce served with rice and pickles. This was of high quality, with a second stage of the dish taking some of the bream and rice and pouring a clear soup over it, as described earlier (16/20).
For dessert, sliced pear came with two impressively gigantic grapes in pear jelly. The quality of the best Japanese fruit is really quite remarkable, and although very simple this was a lovely and refreshing way to end a meal (18/20).
The bill came to ¥36,115 for two, which works out at £98 per head including plenty of beer and sake to drink. This is actually pretty modest by Tokyo standards, especially for a three star Michelin kaiseki restaurant, and presumably reflects the lower costs of operating from premises out in the suburbs compared to the more prestigious Ginza. Overall it was certainly a pleasant experience, and although the chef's wife who handles the front of house does not speak any English, she was very welcoming to us. I would not necessarily have chosen all of the ingredients that were served tonight, but Japanese food is ultra-seasonal, and anyhow is to an extent a matter of personal taste. Certainly the cooking skill was high and the quality of the produce used was excellent. For me it did not compare favourably with the best kaiseki meals that I have eaten in Japan (such as those at Kitcho, Mizai and Ryugin) but it was certainly good. It is also a fraction the price of what you will pay in a top kaiseki restaurant in Kyoto.