Food without memory is just digestion

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Ogawaken (Daikanyama) - Food Theatre

Friends, Gentle Reader, are one of life's sweetest pleasures. Particularly foodie friends. Especially foodie friends who invite you to dinner at fabulous restaurants. The Professor (a.k.a The Man formerly known as The Ad Guy) is such a friend. Together we have enjoyed all manner of fine fare, and his patient and generous way of dealing with me is a blessing.

At his suggestion, we set off to Ogawaken in Daikanyama (Map). The group that operates this restaurant has a long history - this photograph is from 1905 (Meiji 38), and shows the first Ogawaken in Tameiki. Tetsugoro Ogawa had learnt to cook at an English diplomat's home in Yokohama, and opened his restaurant at the ripe old age of 28. The Ogawa family and the restaurant staff all lived "above the shop" on the second floor. Today the company is better known for the "Raisin-wich" than for fine food, and has a number of retail outlets around Tokyo.

We had asked for the o-makase (ignore the "sushi" focus in the Wikipedia link) menu at the counter, which means you literally sit on the edge of the kitchen and get to watch absolutely everything. Chef Tadasada? (忠貞) Ogawa rules over quite the largest kitchen I have ever seen in Japan outside of a grand hotel, with some of the most amazing appliances one could wish to see. I'm told that one could purchase a Mercedes for the cost of the magnificent steam oven.

We counted seven kitchen staff, and three floor staff. Apart from your Humble Correspondent and The Professor, I think there were 4 other diners. We started with some delicate vegetables accompanied by a Louis Latour Puilly Fusee 2007 chosen by The Professor, and worked our way through eight sublime courses that individually and collectively delighted all five senses.

But what attracted our attention more than anything else was the subtle theatre being played out before our very eyes. There was a subtle dance between all the actors in the kitchen, from Chef Ogawa spending 30-some minutes trimming (yes, trimming!) our wagyu steaks to the young man who guarded the simmering cauldron of stock that had pride of place in the kitchen. Every 15 minutes, he would skim this fragrant liquid gently blowing the fat into a separate bowl.

Or the tossed salad chap - perhaps 50 tosses of the choicest lettuce with a transcendent dressing. Each toss a precise 25 centimeters. Each leaf making two revolutions. Careful attention to ensure nothing was bruised.

Regardez! The dessert course lads, hulling fresh strawberries in tight precision that would do the Japanese Synchronized Swimming team proud! Chef running everything in a tight SILENT precision worthy of a ringmaster.

Let today mark a new page in the noble house of Ogawa. While this restaurant has been a well-kept secret for some years, and a venue at which it has often been difficult to secure a reservation, allow your Humble Correspondent to urge you to get on the telephone and secure a seat. Ask to sit at the counter, where you get to observe a sublime piece of food theatre. And no giggling!

Ogawaken [Map]: 10-13 Daikanyamacho, Shibuya Ward, 03-3463-3809
Rating: Food: 8; Drinks: 8; Service: 8; Ambiance: 9; Price: 8 ($$$). Total 41/50

1 comment:

JOHN W said...

Hi Terry, great blogsite. Congrats.
I had a nice bowl of cassoulet in Toulouse last week. Do they do this traditional Gasconne dish in your part of the world?
Look forward to seeing you soon. TTFN
John W.