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Nobody can dispute Chef Ohara’s dedication to his craft. At six each morning the eponymous chef is at Tsukiji fish market, selecting the freshest of the day’s catch. And at midnight he’s still giving it his all, preparing his cozy, functional, Michelin-starred 12-seater Arakicho restaurant for the following day’s shift. In between, a lucky dozen customers get to experience some of Tokyo’s finest kaiseki – a culinary tradition dating back to 17th-century Kyoto with an emphasis on freshness, balance and seasonality. With assistance from his wife, who tends to a panoply of boiling pots in the back kitchen, Ohara creates meticulous, measured dishes with painstaking precision and effortless artistry.
The set menu changes with the seasons but typically begins with owan, a clear fish broth with edible chrysanthemum petals, before moving onto hassun, a plate of assorted delights which may include soy sauce-dipped salmon roe, grilled ginkgo nuts, melt-in-the-mouth honeyed chestnuts, and barracuda and lotus-root sushi. The grilled fish with sudachi citrus and shiitake mushrooms is another highlight, and meals end with whisked, foamy matcha that dissolves on the tongue. The functional decor and lack of music – there’s nothing but the gentle hiss of air conditioning to accompany your respectfully hushed purrs of approval – allow Chef Ohara’s dazzling food to take centre stage. A set menu costs over ¥10,000; lunch (only on Wednesdays and Saturdays) is cheaper. Bookings essential.
Nakabayashi Bldg 2F, 1 Arakicho, Shinjuku-ku
|Transport:||Yotsuya-Sanchome Station (Marunouchi line), exit 4|
|Opening hours:||12noon-1pm (Wed, Sat only), 6pm-8pm / closed Sun & hols|