An earnest chef-come-researcher who avoids fixed ideas and freely tackles ingredients face on.

Toyonaka Sakurae
Kenji Mitsuda

Toyonaka Sakurae Kenji Mitsuda

On his theme of ‘face the ingredients for what they are’.

Mr. Mitsuda:
I didn’t want to jazz up or substitute anything for anything, and came across the theme of ‘how to enjoy the taste of ingredients for what they are’ after realizing people had accepted the idea of soy sauce foam.

For example, a non-boiled winter radish is on the regular menu of my restaurant. We peel the radish and soak it in oil before steaming it in a steam convection oven for 90 minutes. The oil coats the radish locking in the vegetables original flavor and aroma. It also stops any unnecessary flavors from merging into the radish, allowing customers to enjoy the delicious true flavor of the vegetable itself.

A winter radish that isn’t boiled! It’s the first time I’ve heard of such a thing.

Mr. Mitsuda:
Don’t get me wrong, I really like the normal boiled radish too. After all, I used to have it on my own menu. It’s just, customers never tended to praise the taste of the winter radish. They always tended to say things like, “The stock is really good”, or “It is so soft!”, etc.

We purchase vegetables from organic farmers who personally want to make vegetables for Sakurae. That way, we can be confident that they will be happy with the cuisine we present them when we meet.

I feel sad when I think of dishes that just taste of stock and ignore the original ingredients’ true flavor and aroma. At the end of the day, those kind of dishes are all down to how the chef arranges it. Wouldn’t it be better to create dishes where the chef puts their efforts towards enhancing the true flavor and aroma of the ingredients instead? That’s when I wondered what I could do to enhance the original flavors of the radish.

Through pure chance I discovered that soaking a radish in oil enhances its taste. That discovery alone encouraged me to remove boiled radish from the menu.

To make my winter radish all you have to do is soak it oil and steam it. That’s all. But the taste and aroma is completely different. The radish becomes even more tastier. Why should I make the extra effort of boiling it in stock? Simple cooking methods can enhance the natural flavors of other things too. But I was still unsure as to whether it was acceptable to put it on the menu. After all, it is a completely different take on the common cooking methods for radish.

I ate winter radish boiled in stock at another restaurant and came to the same conclusion – it tasted like stock. It didn’t taste like radish. I became worried about what to do as I continuously thought, ‘The radish I make is tastier’. Customers who ate it at Sakurae slowly but surely started to comment on the radish I had made, saying they cannot forget how it tasted. I started to think that maybe putting my style of radish on the menu wasn’t a mistake. After all, what the customer thinks is everything.

Whenever you start something new you worry about it, you build self-confidence and seek others’ responses. Only then can you finally feel content yourself. It’s always the same pattern. Funnily enough, even though white turnip is similar to radish, when cooked in my style (soaked in oil then steamed) it doesn’t taste as good. It just goes to show that you really do have to look at each ingredient separately and face them for what they are. It’s a tough job! Haha

Toyonaka Sakurae appearance

Toyonaka Sakurae

Osuka- Bld., 7-10-7, Sakuranocho, Toyonaka-shi, Osaka, 560-0054, Japan
10 minutes from Shoji Station on the Osaka Monorail.