"Knowing that you are from Australia, Sakai-san has especially prepared two variations of the entree for you", Vahid, our waiter of the evening, said to us.
"Sakai? Iron Chef Sakai? He is here? Like, right now? Can we meet him?"
Only some seven hours earlier, we were leaving La Rochelle in bitter disappointment. Having just been told that the restaurant was fully booked for a wedding reception, our hope to have lunch there was crushed. The option available was dinner later that evening.
Dinner. That meant the meal would be a lot more expensive than anticipated, and the attrocious foreign exchange rate at that time was certainly not helping. That also meant we would have to change our plans for the rest of the day and make a trip back to Shibuya again later in the evening. With a heavy heart, we rejected the offer and left.
But while descending from the 32nd floor of the Shibuya Cross Tower where the restaurant was located, the fugu-poisoned spirit of Chairman Kaga spoke to me. "You have come so far. Just go with your heart. Allez cuisine!". Mr foodwink, who must have been spoken the same, nodded in agreement without a flicker of hesitation.
So there we were at Sakai-san's restaurant again later that day. Like many fans of Sakai-san, we had been dreaming of this moment for a long long time. After being seated for a short while in a waiting room blessed with the views of Tokyo's night skyline, we were politely ushered to the main dining hall where it was already almost full. There were three menus on offer, and we opted for the six-course Image menu featuring an amuse bouche, two entrees, two mains and a dessert (sorry, my pictures do not do them justice).
And we loved each and every dish. The Delacroix of French cuisine was a true master. An innovator. A skillful artist. The dishes each carried a refreshing but refined symbiosis between Japanese and French flavours. And artfully presented as expected of Sakai-san. We were highly impressed.
Amuse bouche was an enticing gathering of cod fish mousse, parma ham stick, oysters with nori (seaweed) sauce and crumbed, deep-fried cherry tomato. The first entree included abalone slices (mr foodwink's had smoked salmon instead), asparagus and a refreshing lobster salad. The second entree was an interesting combination of pan-fried, melt-in-the-mouth foie gras, sesame-coated scampi on poached turnip, paper-thin turnip chip and a spectacular wild duck consomme.
The meal got even better with the succulent pan-seared snapper on a bed of Japanese rice cake and served with a refreshing seaweed sauce. This was followed by fillet of kuroge wagyu (Japanese black cattle) with tempura asparagus, potato rosti and champignon sauce. Mr foodwink opted for the sirloin version with eggplant chip which was equally satisfying.
Then came the cheese cart. Sakai's amicable chesse sommelier introduced various varieties of cheese to us like prized possessions. Although we are no regular cheese-eaters, we thoroughly enjoyed his recommendations, including the accompanying poached peach which was prepared right in front of us. By this stage, we were feeling extremely full.
But all was forgotten when the desserts came, chosen by Vahid based on his various chats with us throughout the evening. Mine was the chocolate platter with chocolate mousse, chocolate shells with cream and mandarin ice-cream. Mr foodwink's was strawberry shortcake with fresh berries and citron macaron. All served with the kawaii-est coffee art. I almost didn't want to drink it.
By the time Sakai-san left the kitchen to greet us, other patrons had already left. Gushing like a star-struck teenager, I told Sakai-san how I had always been a huge fan. How I loved everything I had that evening. How professional and impeccable the service was. How his helpful staff had recommended a sushi restaurant to us and even printed us some maps. And how he had not changed a bit since the Iron Chef days. If memory serves me right, the last one invited a few chuckles.
Leaving the restaurant, all service staff accompanied us to the lift and bowed as a sign of gratitude. It was one of the best meals we have ever had. We both felt that such an enjoyable evening was priceless. And that we will be back for more.
Level 32, Shibuya Cross Tower,
+81 3 3400 8220
Bookings are highly recommended.
Hope you have enjoyed this series of food memories from Japan. Until next time, stay safe and eat lots.