On the surface, Kabi comes across as a modern European restaurant, which is hardly surprising considering the chef and co-owner, Shohei Yasuda, worked at several French restaurants plus the two Michelin-starred Kadeau in Copenhagen. However, Japanese ingredients are front and centre, but interpreted through the new Nordic approach to food. The Kabi team forage for pine shoots and mushrooms in Nagano and Niigata on their off-days, and they create their own larder by experimenting with the two techniques that define Japanese cuisine: pickling and fermentation (hence the restaurant’s name ‘kabi’, Japanese for mold).
This is why the food here is so distinct: all the dishes are underscored by a thread of earthy, funky, umami flavours, which are beautifully balanced to avoid being overpowering while lingering ever so lightly at the back of your palate. It means these thoroughly modern dishes are grounded with a sense of place – a reminder that this is still Tokyo. The tasting menu (¥9,000) changes every one to two months, and of the 13 or 14 dishes, ten will be new. However, Yasuda’s two signature dishes will always be on the menu.
One is a roll of crunchy daikon sheets pickled with sake lees and served with a tart dressing of fermented tomato water, asari clam stock and fig leaf oil. The other is an inspired take on sushi: pickled mackerel on rice wrapped in spinach and wasabi leaves and dusted with kale powder. It looks like a Snickers bar, and is the perfect encapsulation of Kabi’s food: surprising, unique and a joy to eat.