Hinokizaka, Ritz Carlton Tokyo: Master at Work


  04.10.16    Japan


The spectacular and splendid Ritz Carlton in Tokyo is perched on one of Roppongi’s famous hills, giving it views across the city which are almost unrivalled. Last year I did a piece for CNN mentioning their Food and Wine Festival, an event set to take place this year in Macau from November 10-13. Some of the world’s great chefs – including Virgilio Martinez from Lima’s Central restaurant, recently crowned again as the Best Restaurant in Latin America – joined in Tokyo, so you can expect serious culinary heavy hitters to do likewise in Macau. It’s definitely worth a visit there.

Back in Tokyo, Hinokizaka is one of the best places to experience four of the great Japanese cooking styles – Kaiseki, Sushi, Tempura and Teppanyaki – all under the same roof. The four restaurants are physically separate and feature distinguishing designs, but all share an absolute dedication to their craft and the finest possible produce. A marriage made in heaven anywhere – but especially so in Japan.

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In a recent trip I tried the sushi and teppanyaki options – the sushi review will come at another time because it also involved a brilliant trip to Tsukiji market with their chef, complete with a supporting cast of rugby-playing tuna carriers and Olympic skiers now working as uni salesmen.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the teppanyaki restaurant reminded what a remarkable and delicate style this can and should be. It accentuates the flavour and texture of produce in the most subtle but noticeable ways, producing some truly extraordinary dishes. The look is sleek, reflective and black, the tiles behind the teppan producing a Where’s Waldo moment.

Hinokizaka Tokyo Ritz Carlton

The tools are laid out on the absolutely spotless grill, of course kept that way throughout the evening with surgical precision.
Hinokizaka Tokyo Ritz CarltonThe prawn dish that results from the skewered chap above is absolute kitchen alchemy. Hypnotically clever, wholly delicious, completely unexpected and all via a remarkably entertaining process. Of course there’s absolutely no showing off, especially not in Japan, but the techniques are nothing short of brilliant to coax and tease and smash and flip and sear until what results is this: And yes, every part of the shrimp is used, somehow rendering it down to mere millimetres in thickness.

Hinokizaka Tokyo Ritz Carlton

But it’s far more fun to show him in action:

Together with the scallop served with it, it was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten in Japan, a mesmerisingly-good reminder of how seafood and hot oil should work together. A simple salad was then an absolute thing of beauty, a contrast to the rich and oily

Hinokizaka Tokyo Ritz Carlton

This was Matsutake mushroom season, the Rolls Royce of fungi in Japan. They have a distinct, aromatic smell and a smoky but silky back taste. Their rarity comes from being hard to find, given their terrain requirements, as well as competition from local wildlife who also like to pan fry them in butter. Possibly. But that was the vegetarian option, although the Kuroge Wagyu beef, known as ‘The Pinnacle of Japanese Beef’, was similarly an epiphany. It came alongside perfect vegetables and romantic mojo-killing garlic chips:

Hinokizaka Tokyo Ritz Carlton

Dinner also included sashimi and desserts, soups and surprises. At 15,000 yen – or around HK$1150 – it also represents a remarkable value experience in one of Japan’s most exclusive settings.