Kodama @ Tokyo **

There are numerous small restaurants in Tokyo, many good remain unknown to the general public, while others are super-charged and in the limelight. I am not a food snob, I just prefer to see it, as it is. Japanese food is not only about “stars”, as there were no stars when I started here 30+ years ago. Nowadays, we thrive on the stars, people chase the stars, and we run away from them.

Last night, we tried Kodama, a young chef named Kodama, he is tall, talented and slender. We had no idea he was a Michelin chef let alone a two star. We entered his restaurant to find an intimate ambience, not knowing what to expect, as we were the only customers of the night. The counter was set up for us, centered on the chef, he was ready to begin and we were also. I had some reservations when the first dish arrived, I felt like a beginner all over again.

When we researched and made the reservation, we asked discovered he uses the best raw ingredients, a focus on seasonality – is that so? The style is classical, multiple dishes, all focused on market seasonality. He selected a variety of raw materials you would expect in the mid-winter, many we have seen and tasted before.

I always maintain there are two types of chefs, those that speak, and those that say only a few words. Kodama san is the quiet type, he said very little as he focused on his work.

The first dish, raw fugu topped with a yuzu jelly, it was a nice first dish, something we didn’t expect, and then some shirako accompanied in a hot broth with finely sliced carrot. Except this dish, the one aspect of his work, I thought he did exceptionally well, was the combination and use of various raw materials. Perhaps not knowing he was a two star, I vacillated over the fugu, I felt like, “oh no fugu”. I like fugu, I eat fugu without any hesitation, but I stay away from eating ordinary fish in general.

This fish isn’t ordinary by a long stretch of your imagination, then why did I hesitate? I am used to eating fugu at fugu restaurants that specialize in fugu only. I believe (wrong or right) chefs who only serve fugu, and nothing else, serve the very best fugu. So when you go to a random restaurant and the first dish is fugu, a mental block sets in.

I enjoyed the fried shrimp over a broth of shellfish, (pictured below) combined with a rice puff. This dish had a good balance, something difficult to find with young chefs. It is obvious Kodama san has been well trained, experienced and is confident, polite and keeps you captivated.

Green soba noodles, mixed with seaweed, hand-made and cut by the chef. Kodama’s soba is served with thin slices of tender boiled abalone. The sauce was made with abalone flesh and the liver that smothers the noodles. He read my mind, offered us a plate of freshly baked rice flour bread, soft warm, tender and fluffy, we used it to lap up the remaining sauce.

We appreciated his quiet approach, his cleanliness, his knife technique; he had a good grasp of temperature, texture and taste – Kodama san has talent and we could easily appreciate his style. We do however believe that Kodama san would be better suited in a more intimate environment, a place that would be more cozy.

We were not sure why Kodama san has a red counter, it is so unfitting for a two star atmosphere, its bordering bad taste. The service was good, his pottery so and so, depending on which dish he used. Some of it was just kitsch, and interfered with his skilled work, while others were more what we expected for a restaurant of this level.

He has a good sense, and his sake selection was very good. He suggested a few different sake, and they were well balanced, and accompanied his cuisine perfectly. Overall, we thought this is a good restaurant but wish next time there are no cigarette smoke-filled aromas inside the restaurant. Also his female staff should avoid using perfume – there is nothing worse for a client.

All in all, we would try it again, I am just very critical – thank you chef for the experience.

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1-10-6 2F
Nishi Azabu, Minato-ku
Tokyo, Japan
T: 03 3408-8865