Tokyo is teeming with restaurants that serve excellent food, whether Japanese, French, Italian or Chinese. The city is also a showcase of trendy interiors, ranging in style from mid-century modern to Scandinavian hip and Italian minimalist.
But when it comes to combining top-notch Japanese cuisine with a contemporary, minimalist setting, there are few places that can match Sasya Kanetanaka(茶酒金田中) in Omotesando.
Housed in what used to be the Hanae Mori building and is now the oak omotesando building, Sasya’s first claim to fame is that it was designed by the multi-talented Hiroshi Sugimoto.
Although primarily known as a photographer, Sugimoto, who is famous for his sombre seascapes, has also dabbled in architectural design.
Sugimoto’s input at Sasya begins with the hallway entrance to the 2nd floor where the restaurant/cafe is located.
The hallway is done in huge slabs of grey stone, which give the place the aura of an ancient Greek or European temple. A giant mass of metal that looks like an upside-down spear, hangs from the ceiling, with the sharp end pointed downwards.
This makes for a very unsettling feeling, although I believe the concept behind the massive hanging sculpture has more to do with ideas of infinity than with human sacrifice.
Inside Sasya, Sugimoto has created a very airy space, with a series of glass doors on one side of the restaurant opening onto a serene courtyard, complete with a moss carpet, that looks like a modern take on the rock gardens of zen temples.
There are two, very long tables of pale wood with soft, white chairs on each side designed by Sugimoto himself.
On a recent visit, the Y5,000 lunch course we had ordered began with an entrée of two dishes – a tomato, wakame (seaweed) and onion salad and an assortment of yam, eggplant and asparagus covered in egg yolk sprinkled with yuzu. Both were perfect summer dishes, with the lovely yuzu flavor particularly welcome on a steaming hot afternoon.
The second course was a cold corn soup that was so light it was closer to a corn drink.
This was followed by a serving of parboiled anago (conger eel) which was crunchy and very tasty, hamo (daggertooth pike conger) sushi with a plum sauce and maguro (tuna) sushi, which was fatty and perfectly seasoned.
The anago tempura, which came next, was crisp and well complemented by a cold dish of eggplant in a dashi broth that expertly brought out the flavor of the eggplant.
A shabushabu (hot pot) of pork came next, with leek, green vegetables and shiitake mushrooms, which we dipped into a sesame sauce.
Another eggplant dish, followed by cold udon noodles and a summery Japanese dessert accompanied by green matcha tea completed the course.
As with most Japanese meals, the lunch course at Sasya Kanetanaka was filling but not heavy.
Sasya Kanetanaka offers both high quality food and the enjoyment of eating in a beautiful space that combines the zen-like serenity of traditional Japanese establishments with the contemporary stylishness of a Sugimoto-designed interior.
It’s a good bet you will be throwing many a glance at some very hip-looking fellow diners, in between gazing at the peaceful garden outside and the artistically arranged food in front of you.