One defining aspect of Tokyo’s dining culture is its plethora of intimate, open kitchens that seat less than a dozen guests at a time. That Rama caters to just nine diners at a time for a Japanese-Italian tasting menu is not unusual in the city’s burgeoning modern omakase scene, but this sleek and warmly lit venue along an unassuming street in Shirokane is still a stand-out.
What makes Rama a new favourite among our ever-growing list of Tokyo’s finest restaurants is the way head chef Katsuhiro Aoki manages to deliver food that is playful, elegant, unpretentious and genuinely delicious all at once. An autumn menu might begin with a twist on Caprese salad with sautéed persimmons in lieu of tomatoes, whereas chilled gnocchi with mackerel and tart raspberry vinegar would be served to convey the transition of spring to summer.
The signature dish is a bowl of handmade taglioni crowned with a generous grating of fragrant truffle. Served in a buttery emulsion of homemade chicken stock and 24-month Parmigiano Reggiano, the only thing that changes about this pasta across the seasons is the variety of truffle that is sourced directly from Italy, but every bite is as revelatory as the last.
Somewhere between the courses of handmade pasta, Chef Aoki always includes two classic Japanese dishes with his own spin. The first is a single piece of nigiri sushi, expertly shaped and served to diners one by one like a traditional omakase sushi experience. Rather than seasoning the sushi with soy sauce, however, the chef glazes his nigiri with a rich tomato reduction offset with sherry vinegar. The second of these dishes is Aoki’s take on ochazuke, which might come in the form of a small bowl of Japanese rice seeped in a hot broth of clams and white wine.
The menu is surprising, to say the least, but so is the cost of this multi-course spectacle, which is priced at just ¥9,900 per head. There’s a supplementary price if you order a coffee at the end of your meal, but you won’t raise any eyebrows if you break the cardinal rule of no milky coffee after dinner and order a flat white. Instead, the staff will jump on the opportunity to practice a bit of latte art, and you’ll likely be presented with a cutesy milk foam bear in your brew.