How to enjoy ARTISAN APARTMENT AKASAKA | Enjoying premium yokocho with Taiwanese creator Alan!
When you hear the word yokocho (side street), do you imagine a row of eaves lined drinking areas with the atmosphere of the Showa period in Japan, where many people are having a great time?
In this installment, we visited ARTISAN APARTMENT AKASAKA, a premium yokocho that is slightly different from the standard one, with the very popular Taiwanese creator, Alan.
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What is ARTISAN APARTMENT AKASAKA in Premium Yokocho?
ARTISAN APARTMENT AKASAKA in Premium Yokocho is located just outside Tokyo Metro Akasaka-mitsuke Station. Go to the location indicated on the map, and you will find a staircase leading to the basement.
At the bottom of the stairs are three special spaces where artisan chefs of sushi, yakitori, and duck demonstrate their skills. Although located in the heart of Tokyo, this calm and serene space, where you can forget the hustle and bustle of the city, gives you the excitement of being invited to a secluded retreat.
Enjoying Akasaka Na Camo guro
The first restaurant we visited was Na Camo guro, a secluded mature retreat located at the far end of the yokocho . It is a restaurant where you can enjoy pairing duck-based dishes with wine. This time, we were served the Kamosuki Course, a course that features plenty of Mogami Duck which is raised in Okura of Mogami in Yamagata Prefecture, which is a member of the NPO “The Most Beautiful Villages in Japan” association.
First came the amuse-bouche consisting of pâté de campagne and pickled purple cabbage sandwiched between small puff pastry. The smooth texture of the pâté matched exquisitely with the light puff pastry. The sumptuous taste and lovely appearance of this dish was an exciting way to start the course.
Three appetizers were served on a plate including strawberry gazpacho, cream risotto arancini topped with truffles, and duck prosciutto. All were served in bite-size portions, so you can enjoy a variety of flavors one at a time.
Optional Duck Breast Tartare with Sea Urchin & Caviar
An extravagant dish of duck breast tartare topped with egg yolk and caviar, and garnished with uni (sea urchin). This dish is served on a baguette, if requested.
Next is a granité made with chai to refresh the palate. Granité is a sorbet-like iced dessert served with French cuisine. Its refreshing taste prepares your mouth for the next dish.
Now the main dish of the course, duck sukiyaki. This dish, which has been popular with guests since the restaurant opened, is Na Camo guro’s specialty.
Duck sukiyaki is carefully prepared in front of the guests while the staff explains which part of the duck is used. Watching the duck meat sizzle in the iron pan really works up an appetite!
After being served the duck sukiyaki, which is cooked perfectly by the staff, you can enjoy making a rich egg yolk and a special warishita sauce (sukiyaki stock). The umami of the top quality duck with its high quality fat will fill your taste buds with an irresistible flavor!
Alan said, “This was my first time eating duck sukiyaki. I was satisfied not only with the taste but also with the appearance of the dish, which was prepared in a Japanese-Western style. Everything in the course was delicious, and it completely changed what I thought of duck cuisine.”
Optional after-meal Lasagna
Finally, there is an optional after-meal dish. We decided on the lasagna with seasonal vegetables. Na Camo guro uses fresh vegetables and mushrooms in addition to duck meat, which can be enjoyed all year round, to create a dish you can only enjoy now.
Bite-sized dessert: Panna Cotta
Panna cotta, a treat that originated in Italy, was served for dessert. The fruit on top also changes depending on the season, and we enjoyed blueberries this time. The sweet and sour taste of the blueberries adds an amazing accent to the rich sweetness of the panna cotta.
Pairing with wine
Na Camo guro offers a wide variety of tasteful wines that go well with duck. The selection ranges from affordable to luxurious for special occasions, so let the staff know how you are feeling and what you like, and they will recommend something tailored perfectly for you.
Two red wines were served to match the dishes.
For the Duck Breast Tartare, we enjoyed Adulation Zinfandel from California, USA, which features a mildly spicy flavor. The aroma of the wine adds a more gorgeous touch to the dish.
For the hearty Lasagna, we enjoyed the Bulgarian Enira Reserva, which has a robust flavor that will not be overshadowed by the dish. This wine is loaded with everything from fruitiness to a sense of ripeness.
Enjoying Akasaka Kicho
Next, we visited Akasaka Kicho, located right next to Na Camo guro to try the Omakase Course (recommended course). Here you can enjoy yakitori made from kuro Satsuma-dori (black Satsuma chicken) raised at a poultry farm in Kagoshima Prefecture, which is carefully crafted and grilled slowly over binchotan charcoal.
The first part of the course is an assortment of appetizers, including rape blossoms in broth, turnip soup with chicken broth, and shira-ae (tofu and vegetables) with persimmon. The seasonal vegetables are gently seasoned to preserve the flavor of the ingredients, providing guests with a wonderful dish only available now.
One of the chicken specialty dishes is a cured ham with chicken thigh and breast meat. Try it with salt, wasabi, or goma ponzu (sesame and Japanese citrus dipping sauce) to your liking.
The salad is served with a dressing made from seasonal vegetables. On this occasion, the carrot dressing was bright orange, sweet and refreshing.
7-Skewer Yakitori Assortment
This course includes seven yakitori skewers, each of which is carefully grilled in the center of the restaurant. The beauty of the craftsman’s techniques, including the speed at which he rotates the skewers, the way he adjusts the placement of the skewers based on the strength of the charcoal fire, and the way he shakes the salt, is a sight to behold.
The first item is grilled chicken thigh skewer. A whole kuro Satsuma-dori chicken is cured in the restaurant for three days and then slowly grilled, resulting in a crispy skin and juicy thigh meat.
Chicken Thigh and Shiso Wrapped in Chicken Skin
The umami of the fatty kuro Satsuma-dori and the aroma of the shiso (perilla) leaves fill your taste buds with every bite.
Tsukune (chicken meatball) is seasoned simply with salt. Large grains of salt with a pleasant texture are used, which slowly melt in your mouth to create a mellow flavor.
The sunagimo (gizzard), with the surrounding parts completely removed, is crunchy, delectable and light in texture.
Tebasaki and Tebamoto
Myoga (Japanese ginger) is sandwiched between the skewers of tebasaki (chicken wings) and tebamoto (chicken drumette), providing an accent that makes the aroma and texture more enjoyable.
Negima (chicken drumstick meat and leek) is made with the chicken meat just under the chicken thigh. All the stringiness has been removed, giving it a pleasant and well-balanced texture.
The springy and juicy bonjiri (chicken tail) is coated with Kyushu shoyu (soy sauce) and grilled, giving it a slightly aromatic sweetness.
2 vegetable skewers
Salt is applied to the flesh of the brightly colored tomatoes as it bursts forth from the skin, giving them a salty taste followed by their genuine sweetness.
The mushrooms are grilled ajillo style with olive oil and thyme, and the refreshing aroma fills your senses, intertwining with the umami of the mushrooms to create a luxurious taste.
Pairing with sake
Cosmos from Aramasa Shuzo, a brewery in Akita City, features the acidic taste of Aramasa, with a soft sweetness. It is easy to drink even for beginners, so be sure to enjoy some with yakitori when visiting here.
Hakkaisan is brewed by Hakkaisan Brewery in Niigata Prefecture. Its refreshing taste makes it perfect to enjoy during a meal. The mild aroma enhances the genuine taste of the food without taking away any of its aroma.
Finish off the course with the daikon no oni oroshi (coarsely grated daikon radish) served at the end of the meal to refresh your palate. Oni oroshi is grated more coarsely than ordinary daikon oroshi (grated daikon radish) to create a more chewy texture. The coarser grating prevents moisture from escaping, allowing you to experience the sweetness of the daikon (radish).
The proximity between the chef and guests is another charm of the restaurant. Ask the chef about everything from ingredients to grilling techniques to learn more about the depth of yakitori and enjoy your meal on an even higher level.
Alan said, “While we were eating, he provided detailed explanations on how to grill and sprinkle salt on each part of the yakitori right in front of us. I was also very impressed by how interesting he was to talk to. I felt the charm that I can only get from sitting at the counter.”
The last place we visited was Sushi Jackson. You can enjoy freshly made sushi with warm rice while watching the chefs make the sushi here as well. The warm temperature of the rice enhances the flavor of the fish. We had the Omakase Course (all-you-can-drink plan included), a luxurious course with a total of 19 dishes.
Maguro no Temakizushi
The first thing the chef makes is a maguro no temakizushi (hand-rolled sushi with tuna), which allows you to enjoy two different flavors in one roll. The sushi is topped with quail egg yolk marinated in shoyu.
Delicate mozuku seaweed with vinegar has a delightful crunchy texture.
This is a sashimi platter featuring the freshest fish in season. This platter included Hokkaido hotate (scallops) and Fukushima hirame (flatfish). The hotate is served with salt, wasabi, or sudachi citrus to taste, and the hirame with ankimo shoyu (monkfish liver with soy sauce). The ankimo shoyu packed with the flavor of ankimo (monkfish liver) can be added to the rice after the sashimi.
The deep-fried shrimp is made from natural Mexican brown shrimp and we recommend enjoying it first with salt and later with their original tartar sauce.
Sawara (Spanish mackerel) has a light flavor, yet an elegant sweetness.
All sushi is served with the perfect amount of shoyu provided by chef, so please enjoy it as it is served.
Mie Aori Ika
Aori ika (bigfin reef squid) is a thick-fleshed squid with a firm, chewy texture that becomes sweeter the more it is chewed.
This kohada (dotted gizzard shad) is carefully prepared and lightly vinegared. It is characterized by many small bones, but the chef brilliantly prepares it in such a way that you don’t even notice that they are there.
Miyagi Kaki Marinated in Shaoxing Rice Wine
Kaki (oysters) with a rich umami taste is marinated in Shaoxing rice wine and flavored with whiskey, so the moment you put it in your mouth, its mellow aroma gently fills your senses. The kaki are delivered from the best production areas according to the season.
Horenso Hitashi (broth spinach in broth)
Spinach, which is in season now, is served in a mild-flavored broth.
Sushi Jackson is a believer in the idea that, “Cuisine begins on the boat.” Therefore, the restaurant selects the finest fish from fishermen with whom they have built relationships of trust by traveling to fishing ports all over the country.
The honmaguro (Pacific bluefin tuna) is carefully selected by Yamayuki, a middle wholesaler who has earned the absolute trust of places such as famous sushi restaurants.
Honmaguro no Akami (Pacific bluefin tuna lean meat) from Kesennuma, Miyagi
We enjoyed the lean meat of a 129-kilogram honmaguro from Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture. It has both acidity and umami, and is refreshing to the palate.
The chutoro (medium fatty tuna) is so fatty and tender that it immediately melts in your mouth.
One of Toyama’s specialties, shiraebi (white shrimp) has an elegant and sweet taste you can enjoy again and again.
Steamed Madara no Shirako Sushi (Pacific cod soft roe)
This steamed sushi is made with hamaguri (clam) and other shellfish broth. Let the warm sushi calm your taste buds and stomach for a moment.
Dried Aichi Mehikari
Enjoy the fluffy texture of mehikari (greeneye) down the bones. You would never guess that it was dried overnight.
Sumagatsuo (little tuna) is so fatty that it is called zenshin toro (full-body fat), and is characterized by its smooth texture and lack of odor.
Fresh hokki-gai (Sakhalin surf clam) caught in the northern lands are packed with a meaty flavor and elastic chewy texture that shellfish lovers will surely enjoy.
Arajiru (fish scrap soup) is soup made from the bones of the day’s fish, simmered slowly in a pot for six hours to give it a mellow broth flavor.
The last sushi to be served is the richly flavored anago (conger eel). The sweetness of the anago and sauce combined with the aroma of sansho (Japanese pepper) makes this a perfect dish to end the course.
Royal Milk Gelato with Aged Mirin
Aged for a long time, the mirin has a strong whiskey-like aroma, and the mixture with the royal vanilla gelato is a perfect match.
Alan said, “I was able to have each piece of sushi prepared in front of me, and after adding the optimum seasoning, I could enjoy the sushi in its finest condition. My first omakase sushi course impressed me more than I expected. Next time I have the chance, I would like to go back for my favorite, uni (sea urchin)!”
ARTISAN APARTMENT AKASAKA is a place where you can escape from your everyday life and enjoy a special experience. All three restaurants are committed to using only the finest ingredients and offer counter seating where you can enjoy the lively atmosphere of the restaurant. This unique experience allows you to be served at the optimal timing while enjoying conversation with the chefs. Why not come and visit ARTISAN APARTMENT AKASAKA on your next anniversary with that someone special in your life?
* The published information is current as of February 2023. Prices and other details are subject to change.
This dining complex opened in Akasaka in July 2022. The three restaurants, Akasaka Na Camo guro, Akasaka Kicho and Sushi Jackson, serve high quality food of a higher rank than that of a typical yokocho, accompanied by wine and sake.