Dinner at Sazenka

Dinner at Sazenka

at Sazen ka (茶禅華) on 19 April 2024
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Sazenka, located in Tokyo’s Minami-Azabu district, is a fine dining restaurant that merges Chinese cuisine with Japanese influences. The chef, Tomoya Kawada, is renowned for his unique approach that incorporates Chinese cooking techniques and Japanese sensibilities. This fusion reflects a deep respect for the tea cultures and culinary traditions of both China and Japan. Sazenka is set within a former diplomat’s residence and offers an intimate dining experience with just 12 seats and two private rooms.

Chef Kawada’s journey in the culinary world has been impressive. Before opening Sazenka in February 2017, he worked at a Chinese restaurant in Tokyo for ten years, moved to Nihonryori RyuGin to learn Japanese kaiseki, and then to Taiwan to help start RyuGin’s Taipei branch before returning to Japan. His menu at Sazenka features traditional Chinese dishes, such as barbecued pork and Qingtang noodle soup, alongside special order items like simmered abalone and Shanghai hairy crab, often paired with a selection of fine teas or alcoholic beverages.

Sazenka has earned accolades such as three Michelin stars and recognition in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list, highlighting the restaurant’s exceptional cuisine and the chef’s innovative approach. The restaurant’s philosophy centers on “Wakon-Kansai,” which translates to a spirit of Japanese essence with Chinese talent, an idea that permeates through its dishes and overall dining experience

Dining at Sazenka is not just a meal; it's a journey through a meticulously crafted fusion of Chinese and Japanese culinary traditions, under the adept guidance of Chef Tomoya Kawada. The menu at Sazenka, exemplified by the dishes served, showcases an innovative blend of ingredients and techniques that highlight the chef's commitment to the 'Wakon-Kansai' philosophy—Japanese spirit with Chinese talent.

Starting with the Asari Clam with Rice Vermicelli, the dish stands out for its exquisite use of texture and a high level of acidity that complements the subtle sweetness of the clams beautifully. This opening act prepares the palate for more complex flavors to come.

The Hotaruika Shaoxing Marinate brings a playful contrast with its trio of toppings, offering a delightful exploration of taste and texture, while the Hard Clam Spring Roll surprises with its use of fukinoto (butterbur sprout), adding a bitter edge that cuts through the richness of the clam.

The Sazenka Style Barbecue is a reinterpretation of the classic barbecue with a Japanese twist, utilizing pork in two servings—one notably enhanced by hanasansho (a type of Japanese pepper), adding a tingling spiciness that invigorates the senses.

An unusual yet harmonious combination in the Pufferfish with Jellyfish presents a masterful play on textures, melding the firmness of the fish with the crunch of the jellyfish, underscored by a delicate balance of flavors that are both bold and intricate.

The Pheasant Wonton Soup is a revelation in its clarity and depth of flavor—intensely aromatic yet astonishingly light, demonstrating the chef's skill in extracting and concentrating flavors without heaviness.

Moving to the stronger tastes, the Steamed Pufferfish and Szechuan Pufferfish (the latter prepared as karaage) are standout dishes that show the versatility of pufferfish, prepared with respect to both its texture and the potential of its subtle flavors, especially when paired with the boldness of Szechuan seasoning.

The Braised Shark Fin Soup is a signature that lives up to its reputation, offering some of the most profound and layered soup experiences, marked by its rich and luxurious consistency.

For a lighter touch, the Seasonal Vegetables, steamed onion in its own broth, showcase the purity of the ingredients, reflecting the simplicity yet depth that Japanese cuisine is known for.

Ending on a high note, the Sweet and Sour Pork Rib is a classic dish reimagined with a finesse that ties the entire meal back to the overarching theme of Chinese influence meshed with Japanese restraint.

Overall, Sazenka delivers an exceptional dining experience that not only respects but also celebrates the shared culinary heritage of China and Japan, making each dish a testament to the art of fusion cooking at its best.

Chinese Japanese
10 / 10

蛤蜊米粉 Asari Clam with Ricevermiceli

紹興海鮮 Hotaruika Shaoxing Marinate

文蛤春捲 Hard Clam Spring Roll

茶禅燒味 Sazenka Style Barbecue

遠江海蜇 Pufferfish with Jellyfish

雉雲吞湯 Pheasant Wonton Soup

清蒸虎福 Steamed Pufferfish

香辣虎福 Szechuan Pufferfish

紅燒魚翅 Braised Shark Fin Soup

今日時菜 Stemaed onion

茶禅排骨 Sweet and Sour Pork Rib

Mapotofu

Ramen