On a recent visit to Nabura I enjoyed the best plate of sashimi I have ever eaten. Head chef Shogo Takeda uses his yanagiba like a conductor uses his baton and whips a variety of fish into a crescendo of flavour, texture, colour and mouthfeel.
He exploits the strong points of each fish and creates a balanced dish that is worth crossing town for, even in peak hour. Lets not get hung up on just the sashimi. Each dish individually is well worth another visit.
So what makes a great chef tick? Obviously it’s all about knives and shoes.
LEIGH HUDSON: You have a really impressive selection of knives. It looks like you like Honyaki knives?
TAKEDA: Yes honyaki knives are the best. This one is almost twenty years old and it’s still perfect, the pattern on the blade is Unkai Fuji meaning Mt Fuji in a sea of clouds. Most of my knives are made in Sakai because the craftsmanship is very good there. I have Yanagiba, Fugubiki, Kiritsuke, Hamo Kiri and Deba.
*The Unkai Fuji knife Takeda san is referring to (second from top) is made by the same blacksmith as the Konosuke Sakai Waning Crescent Moon.
LEIGH HUDSON: How would you describe the food at Nabura and what is your inspiration?
TAKEDA: The food is inspired by Chaji Kaiseki – formal Japanese tea ceremony – but unlike Chaji Kaiseki which is full of strict rules I put a modern interpretation on the menu.
LEIGH HUDSON: So what inspired you to become a chef?
TAKEDA: As a child we travelled a lot because of my father’s work in broadcasting so I had opportunity to try many styles of food. I love eating so by fifteen I was determined to become a chef.
LEIGH HUDSON: Your resume reads like a textbook in Japanese cuisine. Tell me about the styles you’ve mastered?
TAKEDA: I started working in Ryotei which is a style of fine dining restaurant here in Japan. From there I wanted to learn about Wagashi (Japanese sweets) so I trained to be Wagashi Master at Shiono in Akasaka.
After this I worked at Kakiden in both Kyoto and Tokyo. The food at Kakiden is Chaji –Kaiseki. It was here I had my first head chef role in my twenties.
LEIGH HUDSON: Do you sharpen your own knives?
TAKEDA: Yes a chef needs to sharpen their own knives so they understand them better.
LEIGH HUDSON: They are pretty serious looking geta!
TAKEDA: These are my shorter ones. When I was working in Kyoto I used to wear geta that were 20cm high. I had to wear them so I could reach the maguro – tuna. Because I have been wearing geta for so long I don’t feel right if I wear normal kitchen shoes.
Nabura restaurant is seriously good. If you are thinking about going to Tokyo, add Nabura to your list. Here’s what we ate for dinner …