Art on the Table by Asato Ikeda

Den29

It was the first time in my life that I held a cup in my hand and immediately fell in love with it. The light sky blue color, the rough and smooth texture that my fingers fell into, and the taste of the saké while holding something so beautiful. I couldn’t put it down.

I first held Asato Ikeda’s ceramic cup at Den in Jimbocho, chef Zaiyu Hasegawa’s brilliant restaurant. I thought someday I would invest in some of Ikeda-san’s pieces for myself. Even took a picture of the cup (photo above) so that I could remember it. And then, a few months later, Ikeda-san and his works were on television. Once more my heartstrings were pulled and my motivation to bring his craftsmanship into our home became a priority.

I did some searching online in Japanese and quickly lost hope. What few sites that did come up with his pieces were all sold out. I then reached out to Kenshin Sato of Kenshin Utsuwa. Bob Tobin and Hitoshi Ohashi of the Tobin Ohashi Gallery first introduced me to Sato-san last spring. I went to one of his special events at Ginza Mitsukoshi and we exchanged business cards.

This summer, while at Den, chef Hasegawa told me that Kenshin Utsuwa sells many pieces that are used at his restaurant, including Ikeda-san’s. I follow Kenshin Utsuwa on Facebook and reached out to him in Japanese in December. I sent him the photo of the cup from Den and asked him if he could find me some pieces. Just last week I got the e-mail telling me that I could stop by his shop this week. It’s a beautiful shop that is worth visiting if you are in Shibuya or Omotesando as it is just between the two. Just call ahead as he closes the shop if does special events around the city.

Ikeda

Welcome home! My birthday present from me to me.

Two small guinomi and a tokkuri with a lip for pouring sake or shochu.

Ikeda1We christened the cups with Shichihonyari which we bought at our new favorite sake shop in town, Oboro Saketen in Shinbashi.

The owner of Oboro Saketen, Okuma-san, studied at university for two years in Minnesota and speaks English.

Ikeda2

We love these nori cups for bite-size sushi that we picked up at Tsukiji Market. A small celebration to welcome these pieces to our home. I am already looking forward to using these tomorrow. I have enjoyed the journey. Holding something and wanting it, thinking of someday owning a piece of Ikeda-san’s artwork, and the help of friends to help make my little dream come true.

Kenshin Utsuwa

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 2-3-4

Advertisements

The Artistry of Den 傳 2

Den16

Asamayama Natsu-Jun, or summer Junmaishu, was rich enough to stand up the fish course.Den17

Katsuo-zuké, skipjack tuna marinated in soy sauce, is a dish we eat at home, but this was so much more upscale. The katsuo was marinated for a much shorter time than we do at home. Also, I loved the egg yolk that was marinated in dashi. There is a trick to get his texture but I don’t want to reveal too much.
Den18

Akita prefecture’s Yuki no Bijin (Winter Beauty) is an appropriate name for a saké as Akita is snow-filled for most of winter. This snow melts and contributes to the delicious water used for making Tohoku saké. This was a Tokubetsu Junmai Ginjo. Check out the beautiful glass it is served in.Den19

I was so curious about this ceramic as it had a rich texture. Chef Hasegawa brought out some bowls to show me the beautiful work of this potter from Mashiko in Tochigi, just north of Tokyo. The potter carefully etches or scrapes out the black parts to show the interior white.Den20

My neighbor happened to be drinking from a saké cup also by the same potter. Gorgeous. Den21

Ayu is a summer river fish in season now. Most times it is simply salted and grilled, which is of course delicious. Tonight was my first time to try ayu as himono. The fish is butterflied, guts removed, and then marinated in salt water for a brief period and then air-dried. Just before serving it is grilled. The whole fish is edible, head to tail. “Rich in calcium,” said the server in Japanese.

In the middle was liver mousse from the ayu. Very rich in flavor, but a light mousse. And the green cake on the bottom is a steamed bread made with tadé no ha (water pepper leaves) and rice flour. It is first steamed until cooked through and is light and fluffy. Chef Hasegawa then grills it under a direct flame to give the edges some crispy texture which is like the cooked edges of the ayu. Brilliant dish that can only be had here at Den.
Den22

Haneya Junmai Ginjo Nama Genshu. The cup looked like it was made by a girl. When I asked about it they said yes, Midori Uchiyama, I believe from Tokyo. The bottom of her pieces either have a “M” for Midori or “Mid”.Den23

Here is his signature dish that comes with every meal, no matter what time of year it is. He calls this dish “Hataké no Yōsō” or the state of the farm. There were over 20 vegetables and flowers in the salad bowl, including baby kabocha squash and corn silk. He treats many vegetables individually, either roasting or pickling in a sweet vinegar, or even deep-frying. Giving a variety of textures and flavors. Brilliant dish. I wish I could eat this everyday, or make this at home, but I can see it’s a lot of prep.Den24

Pringles canister containing Den potato chips – check out the smile! And, a zucchini blossom that was deep-fried.
Den25

Here is Midori’s sake cup and tokkuri.

Den26

Tachibanaya Tokubetsu Junmaishu made with omachi rice. The sweetness of the sake paired well with the soy sauce ankaké sauce on the next dish.Den27

Again, a brilliant use of texture buckwheat grains on the sweet soy ankaké sauce over kuro wagyū from Hokkaido.Den28

Chef Hasegawa assembling a dish for other guests (I’m allergic to shrimp, otherwise I think I would have had this). He was saying he had just returned from a trip to France and Italy and was inspired by bouillabaisse. Den29

This saké cup was by far my favorite. I had seen photos of it from the Kenshin Utsuwa facebook page. I loved the texture, the color, the rough exterior and smooth interior. And, the saké tasted lovely in it. The artist also makes a tokkuri that my neighbor used that was gorgeous as well. I think I’ve found my next birthday present from me to me.Den30

The donabé with the rice for the shimé.

Den31

Kamo Kinshu Karakuchi Junmaishu. A little frizzante on the palate.Den32

The rice course was amazing. Sweet corn and scallops cooked in dashi before adding to the rice pot to be cooked with the rice. I wish I could make this at home, and will definitely try.Den33I was getting full at the end of the meal so asked for a small serving of the rice. Chef Hasegawa made a rice ball for me to bring home to my husband. Very thoughtful. The rice was served with asazuké pickles made that morning and miso soup.

Den34And, dessert. Looking like the moss in front of the restaurant. I was so curious about it. It had to be edible, but all of it? So I asked Hasegawa-san if I could eat it all, dried leaves and all. He said yes so I took a bite. I was so curious what the dried leaves were. I had no idea, but it added a unique texture to the dish. “Tea leaves” he revealed.

Dinner at Den is a night that you will remember for a long time. I can’t wait to go back. I spoke with my neighbors who come once a month, all the way from Yokohama. I hope someday to be a monthly customer as well. The atmosphere at Den is light and friendly, not stuffy and staid as some kaiseki restaurants may be. It’s fun and friendly and has amazing food served on gorgeous dishes. Even for a solo diner, it’s easy to sit at the counter by yourself and take it all in.

Artistry of Den Part One

Den

Den has moved to a new location:

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 2-3-18
Please call +81-3-3222-3978

Chiyoda-ku, Jimbocho 2-2-32

03-3222-3978