“Nishiazabu Kikuchi” is a small Japanese cuisine with 7 counter seats and 1 table, located in a quiet residential area of Nishiazabu, Tokyo. The restaurant has acquired 2 Michelin stars with its Japanese dishes made with handpicked seasonal ingredients. This time, we covered and photographed Mr. Kikuchi’s feelings such as how to take soup stock and how to cook rice using a clay pot.
We use both Makonbu and Rishiri Konbu to make the Dashi broth.
This is a matter of personal preference, but I feel that only using Makonbu makes the broth a bit too sweet, so I also use Rishiri Konbu to add a bit of saltiness.
Some chefs do prefer to only use Makonbu, so ultimately, what you use and how you use them are up to each chef and the restaurant.
First, I soak the kelp in water for 30 minutes. Then, I cook it on low heat for about 30 minutes, while checking for the appropriate doneness. If the broth is too watery, I cook it further, if it is too thick, I make adjustments by adding water.
Since I use natural Konbu kelp, there are some variations between the pieces. Also, even on a single piece of Konbu kelp, the part toward the root is different from the part at the tip. So, I have to be cognizant and attentive each time.
By taking the time to make the Dashi broth from Konbu, I am able to create a pure and clean Konbu Dashi.
As long as I have a delicious Dashi broth, I don’t need to rely on other seasonings, or I would only have to use them minimally, and also, it is easy to create the flavors I look for.
There are many uses for the spent Konbu kelps after I used them for making Dashi, so I keep them. They are only good for a week or so, however.
I don’t use them to extract Dashi for the second time (Niban Dashi). It takes a long time to make Niban Dashi, and I just don’t think I can make a great Dashi the second time around. So, I save them for other things.
For example, I use them when I’m braising vegetables, I make Tsukudani with them, I use them to make Nukazuke, and I also use them to make Dashi with fish. There are so many uses.
After Dashi broth is made with Konbu, I add dried bonito shavings to further enhance the flavors. I use Honkarebushi. Karebushi refers to a type of dried bonito with mold, and Honkarebushi refers to the highest-grade product with multiple applications of mold.
Depending on the level of steam production, I adjust the temperature and add the dried bonito shavings. I check the flavor and adjust the amount of the shavings. If the temperature is too high, unwanted things are extracted into the broth, so temperature control is key.
After the flavors are extracted from the dried bonito shavings, I filter them out to complete the Dashi broth. This is Ichiban Dashi (primary Dashi). This is enough for today, and a bit for tomorrow.
I want to show you a bowl dish today.
Shinjo takes a long time to prepare, so I will use the ones I prepared previously.
The ingredients for Shinjo changes with the season, and this time, they were made with shrimp.
I used Japanese tiger prawns.
Some people may think it’s wasteful to use tiger prawns to make Shinjo, but I want to confidently offer what I think is delicious, so I refuse to make compromises and use the best ones. Perhaps it’s just a matter of self-satisfaction for me.
Shinjo contains eggs, Yoshino Kudzu dissolved in water, Chinese yams, and Konbu Dashi. Some people also include diced onion.
I steam Shinjo over low heat. I have to use low heat to prevent them from breaking apart. I do use high heat when I am pressed for time, but I make appropriate adjustments such as cracking the lid open slightly.
I use the rape blossoms to add color to the dish.
I feel that I lose their flavor when I boil and then chill them ahead of time. So, I heat them in the Dashi broth. Doing this allows me to leave the flavors of the rape blossoms in the broth.
I also do this for other things that I need cook right before the dish is made.
At my restaurant, the patrons see how the dishes are being made. Using the ingredients as they are is more exciting than taking a pre-cooked version out of a container. Or so I have been told by some customers. I really am not doing it for a show (lol).
While the rape blossoms are cooking, I start plating Shinju.
Shinju and bamboo shoots have been pre-boiled, and the bamboo shoots have been further cooked in Dashi already.
I add the rape blossoms and Hanazansho peppers.
If I pour the broth too vigorously, I can knock them over, so I have to be careful.
Since I am picky about the type of rice I serve, the cooking process itself is not that interesting (lol), but please do feel free to watch it.
I used specially grown rice from Shiozawa in Minamiuonuma.
The grower came directly to me, asking me to use their rice.
There are many kinds of specialty rice in Japan, so when I find something I like, I use it.
The first step is rinsing the rice. The first water that comes in contact with the rice is very important. I use either a mineral water or filtered water.
I rinse the rice without being too aggressive.
I soak the rinsed rice in water for 3-4 hours prior to cooking.
I place the rice in a stone pot and cook for 20 minutes. I just leave it in there, until I reheat it in a steamer right before I serve it to the guests.
I started using a stone pot when a dishware distributor recommended a single-serve stone pot to me. I got such great reviews from the guests. Since the stone pot only has the capacity to make 1 cup of rice, it is a bit inconvenient, but I can make rice much better this way.
2-17-17, Nishiazabu, Minato-ku
Subway Nogizaka Station, Omotesando each a 10-minute walk from the train station
Sundays, New Year’s Holiday