Teppanyaki grasp Junichi Yoshida of Michelin-starred Ishigaki Yoshida ‘burns in’ the hotplate at Koki for its grand opening
I needed to search on-line to search out out the place Ishigaki was earlier than I dined with the person who put the small Japanese island on the culinary map.
To my shock, I found it’s lower than 200 miles east of Taiwan’s capital, Taipei. In the meantime, Japan’s capital metropolis, Tokyo, is a few 1,200 miles away.
Ishigaki is the second largest island and the industrial hub of the small Yaeyama group of islands some 250 miles southwest of Okinawa. It’s about as far south in Japan because it will get, on the fringes of the North Pacific Ocean.
Images on Okinawa’s official journey web site present the island ringed by beautiful turquoise coral quays that bug-eyed vacationers can view in glass-bottomed boats. This isn’t precisely ranch nation. It’s nowhere you’d anticipate reef and beef.
Because it seems, it’s house to one of many world’s best cuts of meat that comes from what I now suppose have to be among the world’s happiest cattle.
“Mr Kitauchi himself, the proprietor of the farm, feeds the cows by hand,” chef Junichi Yoshida tells me through an interpreter the day earlier than the grand opening of Koki, Capella Hanoi’s beautiful new Japanese eating expertise. “There are simply 30 head of cattle on the farm at any given time, so that they don’t get pressured through the three years they’re raised.”
Chef Yoshida is aware of his beef.
He’s the teppanyaki grasp who steered his Tokyo restaurant, Ishigaki Yoshida, to its first Michelin Star again in 2015. The accolade was additionally the primary ever given to a teppanyaki restaurant.
Consequently, the chef, together with his cherubic face and beaming smile, taught us that going out for teppanyaki needn’t be diminished to a sideshow of spinning eggs and slinging dishes, that it may well really be a wonderful eating expertise that leaves your shirt as clear and freshly-pressed if you go away because it was if you walked in.
“The very first thing is the household tree of the cattle,” explains the Tokyo native once I ask what makes Ishigaki beef so good. “It determines 80 p.c of the flavour of the meat, together with the juiciness.”
Certainly, Mr Kitauchi’s web site impressively claims his ranch’s premium steak hails from the Tajima line recognized for its “genes for deliciousness.”
I take his phrase for it.
When the next night arrives, I get to expertise simply how deliciously these genes have delivered.
I’m seated in one in every of 4 non-public teppanyaki rooms at Koki that seat simply eight visitors when chef Yoshida gently locations two heavily-marbled slabs of meat, every virtually the scale of a home brick, on the shiny heat teppan earlier than me and pronounces: “Tonight, particular beef from Okinawa Prefecture!”
After which his spouse and maître d’ produces a doc with a “nostril print” and proclaims: “That is the meat certificates displaying the meat’s household tree!”
It’s bona fide.
For shut to 2 torturous hours, the blocks of beef (flown in instantly from Ishigaki and out there nowhere else in Vietnam) slowly cook dinner in entrance of us underneath the watchful eye of chef Yoshida.
Each time he leaves his station to supervise his employees or put together one other dish, I ponder breaking each cultural and culinary rule within the guide by reaching out and prodding them with my chopsticks, they’re that tantalizingly shut.
However happily I get distracted by the dishes and the sake (Koki has essentially the most intensive number of sake in Vietnam) that comes earlier than I get to style Yoshida san’s teppanyaki.
There are no less than 5 of them.
Firstly, our mouths are gently prepped with a beef consomme jelly with grilled eggplant, salmon roe and an okaki rice cracker, adopted by a crispy Hokkaido crab roll that brings a hush over the room, creating an ambiance a world away from the chaotic streets of the Previous Quarter above us.
We might be in a kind of subterranean eating places at a subway station within the centre of Tokyo for all I do know. This place is lit.
The ocean urchin (additionally flown in instantly from Hokkaido twice every week with the crab) is wealthy and creamy due to the scrambled egg and beluga caviar.
There’s additionally a slow-cooked black Japanese abalone marinated for 72 hours in sake carefully adopted by a small serving of Juwari soba with abalone liver sauce.
However actually, as scrumptious as they’re, they’re the undercard this night.
As anticipated, it’s the meat that’s the knockout. It’s completely cooked, crimson inside, calmly crisped on the skin and all however dissolves in my mouth with its tenderness and juiciness.
My tooth are superfluous for this expertise.
It’s additionally the primary time I’ve eaten steak with a splash of wasabi which supplies every portion further chunk and delivers my nasal cavity the new rush that comes with consuming this most pungent of horseradishes.
The mix works.
“Oishii desu ka?” chef Yoshida politely enquires in regards to the deliciousness of his steak.
“Oishii desu yo!” I reply, drawing on my rusty Japanese language abilities from my faculty days.
The cheerful chef beams again at me in a method that epitomises the Japanese characters that kind the phrase koki after which this pleasant restaurant is known as – vibrant and glossy.
Observe Matt on Instagram at @mattcowansaigon
All pictures offered by Capella Hanoi
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