A good chef friend was visiting from NYC. He’s lived in Tokyo for years and knows that Italian done by Japanese chefs is one of Tokyo’s greatest culinary treats. I was thrilled to hear we were going for Italian and that a food editor was picking our lunch spot. A tiny Hiroshima virgin oyster in the chilled soup was rich in umami. The skin of the potato was grated and used in the Parmigiano-Reggiano crisp, a brilliant Japanese concept of using every part of the product.
Sazae, turban-wreath shell, is a tiny conch-shaped shellfish. Here it is sautéed in an aonori (laver) butter sauce and seasoned with some garlic chips. Some warm bread came just in time to soak up the butter sauce.
Chef Tacubo excels in pasta and meat dishes. The pasta in this dish was well-seasoned as he seasons it with asari (littleneck clams) jus before plating. It is topped with fresh shirasu (tiny sardines) and karasumi (bottarga roe) and dill. A great fusion dish of East meets West.
Another brilliant dish.
The pork from Aomori was well-balanced with the wild asparagus and edamame. The African salt pearls, I believe from Djibouti, are like large grains of sand. Sadly I had to head home early so I missed the dessert which was lemon-based.
Aria di Tacubo is a short walk from Ebisu station. It is a tiny, well-lit spot at lunch. Only a few tables, about 16 seats, so reservations are required. We sat down to an empty restaurant at 12:30 p.m. and by 1 p.m. it was full. Chef Tacubo has a strong following so be sure to plan ahead. Lunch starts at 2,900 JPY for 3 courses with one pasta, but you’ll want to be sure to have at least two pasta, so starting at 4,900 JPY. Dinner starts at 8,500 JPY. The wine list is not exclusive to Italy and we enjoyed a few wines with our meal. The sommelier was very helpful in helping us pair wines with the menu.
Come here to see the sophisticated work of a Japanese chef who knows Japanese ingredients well and can assemble them into Italian cuisine. My NYC chef friend is right when he says that tourists to Japan are missing out on a big part of the food scene here by limiting themselves to Japanese cuisine. It is a great idea to have one Italian meal while in Tokyo, and Aria di Tacubo should be near the top of that list.
Perhaps the greatest pleasure is experiencing the seasonal ingredients, this time of year includes the nama-shirasu and sazae. Bravissimo, chef Tacubo!
** Note, the restaurant has moved to a new location in 2016. The new address is reflected below.
Shibuya-ku, Ebisu Nishi 2-13-16, Rangusu Daikanyama 1F
渋谷区恵比寿西2-13-16 ラングス代官山 1F
(Shibuya-ku, Ebisu-Nishi 1-12-11, Bios Bldg. 4F – old address)