Koju (Tokyo) – Fall on a Plate

A meal at Koju does not surprise as much as it lingers – a slow burning memory that simmers for days, or weeks. Where restaurants like noma and Manresa tell a story through their use of local & timely ingredients, Koju bridges a gap between story-teller and eater – it is not a meal as much as it is an immersive experience. And it just may be my favorite restaurant in the world.1

Despite the reverence for ingredients, eating at Koju is not temple-like; instead, it is fun. Okuda-san is a charming cook – always willing, with a boyish enthusiasm, to explain the food. Engage him and he will pull out books for you – test you – and honor you with treats. Eating at the counter is a must – do not settle for the tatami room (unless you are entertaining a party.)

The food is austere and minimalist and it could be challenging for a first-time visitor to Japan. Much technique is involved in the creation of the food, and its handling, but it does not exhibit the flare and bombastic approach of many Western chefs. Some might say “that’s it?” but the ingredient quality alone, if nothing else, will keep one engaged. Last year, the memories lasted and re-surfaced well over a week later, as I found myself comparing everything I ate to the magic of Koju.

This meal took place last fall. The entire meal is posted below with minimal description – words are meaningless 2

- chuck

1 – Similar effect, but in a completely contrasting style, El Poblet is the other restaurant I would consider as “my absolute favorite.”

2 – Terre et Mer wrote a more detailed description of his Winter meal. There is also last year’s review of a similar meal and time period.

  • http://www.forkandbottle.com King Krak, Oenomancer

    Photos 2 & 3 – well, I just so wish I was there.

  • Ed

    It is difficult for a layperson such as myself to reconcile a review like this to Andy Hayler’s very tepid 4/10 review of the very same restaurant. I’m curious – how do you explain such a huge discrepancy?

    Thanks and best, Ed

  • http://www.chuckeats.com/ ChuckEats

    Hi Ed, could be a few things: off night, the chef may have been opening his 2nd restaurant during that time, the season (kaiseki is so seasonal and perhaps Fall is his best season?), & i know Andy & I disagree on Japanese cuisine (for example, i think he wrote he doesn’t believe a sushi restaurant could ever earn 3 stars; whereas, given more explorations in Tokyo, sushi restaurants would only fill my Top 5.)

    As usual with these things, you have to calibrate your tastes, read the words, look at the pictures, and dive in :-)