This is the twenty-eighth post in the Around the World Birthday Extravaganza Series. Please scroll to the bottom to see all the other posts in this series.
Two words: truffle rice
These were the words that first drew me to this place. One of my Japanese friends who lives in Azabu-juban (right on the edge of Roppongi) told me about the divine truffle rice at this two-Michelin starred restaurant, Azabu Kadowaki. Azabu Kadowaki is a kaiseki restaurant that focuses on traditional, high-end tasting menus.
Imagine . . . a bowl of hot, steaming rice with generous slices of shaved black truffles on top. I was sold immediately, and decided that I would most definitely visit this place the next time I was in Japan.
The restaurant is tiny, with only six bar seats and fourteen other seats in the rest of the restaurant. We sat at the bar (yay!) and started with a light, vegetarian appetizer that consisted of mountain mushroom, negi (green onions), eggplant, and red beets over a sesame tofu and tossed with a delicious, deeply flavored miso sauce. I loved the flavor of the sauce, which reminded me of sesame paste but a bit sweeter and with a deeper umami flavor.
Our next course was a duo of tempura-fried shrimp topped with a dusting of bottarga (salty fish egg) powder and tempura fried "Korean carrot", a root vegetable that tasted like ginseng but had a starchy texture.
And then the next course was . . . . . fugu (!). Fugu is pufferfish or blowfish, the fish that is infamous for its poison tetradodoxin, a sodium channel blocker that paralyzes the victim, resulting in asphyxiation. Licensed chefs must train for three years before they can serve fugu in a restaurant.
We had fugu served as sashimi with two sauces (fish liver sauce and salt vinegar). The chef told us we could eat the fish in multiple ways: wrap it around the seaweed, the young ginger, or the chives; dip in one of the two sauces. We could also eat it with the shiso leaves, which were placed underneath the fish.
Here's Bryan taking his first bite.
Thankfully, this chef was very skilled at preparing the fish and we survived. The meat has a *slight* numbing tingle to it, which is a bit odd and perhaps disconcerting at first. Other than that, the fish is actually pretty flavorless. You really do need the sauces to enjoy the dish. The texture is only OK (a bit rubbery). Overall, if it weren't for the tingly "poison" (or whatever is causing that slight numbing effect), it wouldn't be that interesting of a fish.
I'm glad I tried it once, but I am not sure if I would seek it out again.
Our next course was a Japanese winter potato served with a radish sauce, abalone, and ginkgo beans. The ginkgo beans (which are usually one of my favorite fall items in Japan) were a bit bitter. I wondered whether it was because we were later in the season. The potato was fried with a "gooey" breading that reminded of agedashi tofu (yum!). Overall, the dish was beautifully fragrant with a nice brightness from yuzu zest.
This next course was stunning to look at and very interesting to eat. At the bottom of the bowl was a warm crab chawanmushi (steamed egg custard). On top was a mix of two different cold powders - squid ink and prawn's head. The chef told us "Don't mix them! Go straight in with a spoon and enjoy it all in one bite."
It was a phenomenal bite. Warm and creamy on the bottom, cold bursts of umami from the powder on top. It was quite rich, and reminded me a bit of creme brûlée.
Our next course was a mini shabu, or hot pot. The chef prepared a burner with a flavorful broth. He then briefly cooked slices of buri (winter yellow tail) for us.
First, we wrapped each slice around gobo (burdock root).
Then, we dipped the whole thing into a flavorful and bright sauce that reminded me of ponzu, but so much better.
Finally, we added a splash of sudachi lime.
It was phenomenal. Sooooo good. The fish was barely cook, which made for a lovely texture. The bright citrus notes from the lime and tart sauce balanced out the rich fish perfectly.
We then got to enjoy the lovely, flavorful broth. I think they called it something like a smoked otcha biri otcha? It tasted like an herbal tea with notes of ginseng. It was warm, restorative, and healthy.
And then finally . . . . the famous truffle rice arrived. The chef brought over a heavy stone pot filled with rice. Then he just started generously shaving black truffles over the rice.
The smell was intoxicating - it was so good!
I was so distracted that I totally forgot to take a photo of the final dish before I scarfed it all down. Sorry! 🙂
For dessert, we enjoyed a beautiful whipped creamy cheese mixed with fresh strawberries, melon, pear, and pomegranate. The best part was the phenomenal black truffle aged honey that was served on top. Who would have ever predicted that truffles would taste so good in a dessert? (Ok, so maybe there's at least one other chef.)
All in all, the service was excellent, the food was top notch, and we got to try some really interesting and unusual things we had never tried before. The restaurant is definitely worthy of its two Michelin stars.Our meal for two cost just shy of $520 USD all in (including tax, some beers, and gratuity).
If I were to come back to Azabu Kadowaki again, I would probably skip the fugu (unless if you're just really curious!), but I would most definitely love tasting more of that truffle rice, the delicious buri shabu, the deacdent crab chawanmushi, and anything with that beautiful aged black truffle honey.
1F Villanca Azabu
All Posts In This Series
Around the World Birthday Extravaganza
Alba White Truffle Fair
Osteria Dei Sognatori - A Traditional Piedmontese Dinner
Italy Wine Tour - Barbaresco
Lunch at Donna Selvatica in Neive, Italy
Dinner at a Truffle Hunter's Inn - Tra Art e Querce
Trattoria Della Posta in Montfort D'Alba
Nighttime Truffle Hunting with a Dog in Alba
Osteria della Arco - last dinner in Alba
Stunning Images of La Morra and Barolo, Italy
First Day In Bordeaux, France - Une Cuisine en Ville
Chateau Haut-Brion Tour in Bordeaux France
Restaurant Le St. James
Touring Bordeaux Wineries - Day 1 - Left Bank
La Tupina, Bordeaux (traditional French dinner)
Cos d'Estournel Tour
Touring Bordeaux - Pauillac, Chateau Lynch-Bages
A Different Paris
Le Relais de l'Entrecote
Hiking at Mount Takao in Japan