Master Chef Masahiro Yoshitake-san wanted to be a chef since he was a young boy. Born in Tochigi just north of Tokyo, he was fascinated with the chef’s toque blanche and the authority that came with it. At young age, he started learning to cook from his mum and packed his own lunchbox for school. One can only imagine the envy his classmates felt when he opened his bento box.
It was his father who said he should consider becoming a sushi chef instead. Taking heed of the advice, he worked part time at a sushi restaurant when he was a high school student. Yoshitake-san then worked in a major sushi restaurant before he was transferred to New York for a few years to helm the restaurant there.
While it was a good experience for him, he felt that there was more he could do to promote the delicacies of Japanese cuisine rather than just making spider and California rolls, albeit that was the time when the United States was starting to learn more about Japanese cuisine. So he packed his bags and headed back to open his own restaurant in Roppongi and after six years, he moved his restaurant to Ginza. He knew that to succeed he needed to be located there. He now leads a team of four in Ginza with his wife managing front of house, and two chefs in Hong Kong in his namesake restaurant.
Fast forward to today, Yoshitake-san stands proud at his seven-seater restaurant located in Ginza in his chef’s white, minus the toque blanche. He is focused on showcasing the freshest seafood from Japan, especially from Kyushu and Shizuoka. In particular, he places absolute trust in his seafood distributor from Shizuoka who shares his exact standards for seafood, that he does not make any order, but simply receives what his distributor feels is the freshest of the season.
Yoshitake-san skillfully uses ingredients that add enhanced layers of flavours and tastes to his dishes, but at the same time, it remains simple, harmonious and true to Japanese cuisine. His first dish of kani with bonito jelly vinegar and crab roe is a harmony of flavours where the sweetness of the kani is enhanced by the slight saltiness of the bonito jelly and the rich crab roe brings a rounded richness to the dish.
His specialty dish of sliced abalone with abalone liver sauce is a perfect pairing where the natural ocean brine is balanced off with the richness of the liver sauce, that in turn, enhanced the natural sweetness of the abalone flesh. At the end, he gives you a small pinch of his vinegared sushi rice to mix into the abalone liver sauce and smilingly tells you that it’s his version of risotto. Thoroughly mixed, the rich, salty risotto-like mixture leaves you clamouring for more.
The Akashi tako is slowly cooked in a cast iron pot for heat control that gives at the lightest of bite and when dipped into the accompanying pink Hiroshima mojio salt, brings back the soft brine of the ocean. Crunchy, sweet and briny.
The simple dish of kinmedai sashimi is thoughtfully enhanced with high-quality shoyu that is brewed with kinmedai bones – a technique similar to boiling soup stock with bonito and kombu – to create a dipping sauce that is full of umami bringing out the sweetness of the kinmedai.
Yoshitake-san is generous with the fish slices for his Edo-styled sushi, hiding the nicely-sized sushi rice under glistening pieces of fish. The light-brown sushi rice is a blend of two different grains and has more vinegar added than usual. Usually this would overwhelm the natural sweetness of fish but when the slices are generous, the sushi rice takes a slightly different role in enhancing the sweetness instead.
As a bon vivant, Yoshitake-san takes inspiration from the other chefs he meets when he dines out. He is not particular about the type of cuisine, but more important is that the chef preparing the meal makes his/her best effort. This constant push for excellence stimulates his thinking on how he can better refine and bring his own cuisine to the next level.
Yoshitake-san does not want to create an intimidating environment for his guests so while he remains intensely focused as he creates his dishes in front of you, there is always an easy smile when you talk to him about his culinary creations and sushi. Yoshitake-san feels that while sushi is a very traditional Japanese cuisine, he prefers his customers not to overthink and try to understand it. Instead, he wants his guests to taste and focus on the differences in quality from the fish in Japan compared to other countries.
If you need a conversation starter, ask Yoshitake-san about the dining table you are seated at. It is something he is extremely proud of as it was carved out from a tree in the Edo period and made in Ibaraki. Perhaps it is Yoshitake-san’s way to tie in the traditional Edo-styled sushi with his guest for a complete experience.
As you taste each of his dishes, look out for the one ingredient that enhances the overall flavour of the dish or sushi, or the layers of flavours that Yoshitake-san thoughtfully puts together to bring out the essence of the dish. Refined, simple, balanced, layered and clean are the adjectives one would describe his culinary creations. Sushi Yoshitake truly deserves its reputation as one of the top Japanese restaurants in Japan today.Crab bavarois and a tomato jus were served with kegani crab (also known as hairy crab in English) from Hokkaido, which was served with fennel as well as fennel ice cream, crustacean custard, acidulated red turnips, and crab bavarois. A beautifully delicate flavor with a delightful natural sweetness permeated the crab dish, and both the crab and the fennel were of great quality, with the tomato jus possessing a stunning intensity of flavor. This was a really good dish (19 out of 20 points). After that, I had a plate of seasonal vegetables with langoustine that was beautifully presented. In addition to salad leaves, the veggies were cooked in a number of ways: some were grilled, such as aubergine; others were marinated; and others were served raw, such as broccoli. The langoustines, which were originally from New Zealand, were wrapped in courgette slices and served with a red pepper mousse and green tea oil from Uji, south of Kyoto, as an accompaniment. The veggies were consistently of great quality, and the langoustine tails were very sweet due to their inherent sweetness, and their delicate flavor blended nicely with the accompanying vegetables (18/20).
Cooked chicken breast was served with grilled asparagus, girolle mushrooms from France, caramelised onions, and a garnish of Australian truffle. The chicken leg flesh was mixed with foie gras and shaped into a ballotine for the final product. The bird itself was a breed known as black chicken, which originated in Kyoto and had a delicate flavor reminiscent of Bresse chicken, according to the chef. The ballotine had a smooth texture, and its richness contrasted wonderfully with the muted flavor of the steamed chicken breast (18/20). All of the components were prepared perfectly.
As the main course, we had anamadai (tilefish), a kind of fish collected in the Japan Sea that has a delicate, somewhat sweet flavor. It’s so named because it’s also known as “sweet sea bream” in Japan. Along with grilled morning glories and a thoroughly reduced crab sauce that was flavoured with ginger, the fish was served with crisped-up scales and a side dish of sweet onions filled with onion, ginger, and crustacean mousse. This was an outstanding meal, with the fish being delightfully delicate and full of delicious flavor, the small crisp fish scales being ethereally light, and the sauce being powerfully flavoured and reeking with fragrant ginger. The veggies were well cooked, and the ginger had a distinct flavor that worked wonderfully to boost the flavor of the thick sauce while also contrasting with the delicate flavor of the amadai (steamed rice). A single 20/20 rating does not do honor to one of the greatest fish meals I have ever had (a mere 20/20 rating hardly does it justice).
The cheese selection included mostly of French cheeses, with some additions from other countries, such as aged Gouda and a blue cheese from Nagano, Japan, towards the middle. What struck me most about this establishment was how nicely the cheeses had been maintained, and how everything was presented in top condition. St Maure de Touraine may quickly turn chalky, but here it was perfectly ripe, as was Brillat Savarin, Comte, and Munster, all of which were all wonderfully ripe.
An appetizer of mulberry sherbet with cream cheese mousse and blackcurrants served before the dessert (18/20) was a light and delightful transition to the sweets. Crepe Suzette is a delightfully old-fashioned delicacy that is prepared tableside with a lot of theatrical flair. Grand Marnier was dripped through a peeled orange and into a sauce of caramelised sugar, butter and orange juice before being flambéed by our waitress. The pancakes were light and delicate, and the sauce was well balanced, and the vanilla ice cream on the side was outstanding (19 out of 20). A lemon meringue pastry with white chocolate cream, yuzu jelly, and an orange and tequila sorbet was a variant on the classic lemon tart. This was really stunning, with the citrus ingredients perfectly complimenting the white chocolate and the meringue being as light as a cloud (19/20). There was a sponge cake on top of rose-flavored whipped cream, with raspberries around it, and lychee and raspberry sorbets on the side, which was an extraordinarily gorgeous presentation for this kind of dessert. Fantastic flavor and texture, with the baba having excellent texture and being deliciously moist, and the raspberries having exceptional flavor (20/20).
To round up the evening, there was an outstanding cart of mignardise, which had a wide variety of cakes, chocolates, pastries, and other little treats. This morning’s coffee was Musetti Paradiso, a coffee that is just 70 percent arabica and that is only barely palatable. In light of the overall attention on high-quality ingredients at this establishment, this was the one misstep. Tokyo has a plethora of high-end coffee shops these days, so it seems to reason that a restaurant of this caliber would provide high-quality specialty coffee.
The service was extremely excellent, and the personnel was attentive, knowledgable, and helpful at all times. With numerous glasses of excellent wine, the total bill amounted to 45,584 (£343). If you and your friends split a moderate bottle of wine, the average cost per person would be roughly £240. Despite the fact that this is not inexpensive, it is only about half the price of a dinner at a normal three-star restaurant in Paris these days. With top-notch ingredients, excellent cooking expertise, and pleasant service on the table, this was a really pleasurable lunch. The amadai dish, in particular, left a lasting impression on me. Three stars are awarded to this establishment by the Michelin Guide.
Cuisine Type: Sushi
Address: 7-8-13 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 104-0061, Japan
Phone: +81 3-6253-7331
Website: Sushi Yoshitake Official Site
Hours: Closed: lunch : Monday-Saturday, Sunday
Michelin Stars: 3