Arriving at the gates of Echikatsu, found just a short walk from Yushima Station, is like going back to another time. Established in 1871 and now run by the sixth generation of the same family, the tradition and authenticity of this restaurant have been perfectly preserved. Although rebuilt and restored several times over the years, its building remains a symbol of Japanese beauty and simplicity, and looks – we imagine – just like the original, making it worth a visit in itself.
Walking the stone pathway through an impeccable Japanese garden to the main entrance, you already know you’re in for something special. Made up of individual tatami-mat rooms that cater to anywhere from two to 80 diners, the restaurant’s structure means you’ll always be eating in privacy and made to feel like you’re the only guest there. Every room looks out onto the beautiful gardens – if you’re lucky, you’ll get a view of the pond and its colourful carp swimming around peacefully. The tranquillity of the setting will have you in disbelief of the fact you’re still right in the middle of bustling Tokyo.
Sukiyaki is Echikatsu’s main culinary attraction, and supposedly tastes just like it did when the restaurant was first founded. Supermodel-thin slices of A5-grade Matsusaka wagyu are cooked in a shallow iron pot at your table, along with tofu, leek, mushrooms and harusame (glass noodles). The broth used is known as warishita – its exact recipe is a closely guarded family secret, but the main ingredients are soy sauce, sake, kombu seaweed, mirin and water. It only takes a few seconds to colour the strips of meat, and they really shouldn’t be cooked for any longer. Before eating, you dip the beef in a lightly beaten raw egg to really bring out the flavour. It’s a melt-in-your-mouth experience unlike any other.