The wonders of Japan through a lens of fine Italian cuisine are served from an intimate, stage-like counter. As the cuisine changes regularly along thematic lines, each visit offers a new taste experience, and with so much flavor in unseen components, unexpected and highly pleasing taste sensations await. Intricately planned menus driven by seasonal ingredients and wonderfully paired wines – dinner at WAJO goes beyond a meal into entertainment.
Footsteps from Daikanyama station, look for the WAJO sign with the sweeping characters of professional calligrapher Soun Takeda. You will not be surprised that this restaurant is one in the Minoru Hasegawa Group that consistently wows Tokyo gourmands. Down the stairs and through the door, a breathtaking counter setting is immediately before you. A duo of colorful floral artworks by a French female painter adorns the interior, where jazz gently bounces off the walls as you dine. With just eight seats, each with a full view of the chef’s deft hands as he works, just two meters separate guests from the chef across a flat counter. Let the show begin.
Special-order lacquered wooden trays and hexagonal lacquered chopsticks with thick, easy-to-grip ends and delicate tips sit before each guest. You might question, why chopsticks for Italian cuisine? The name WAJO originates in the traditional saying wajo ryoshu, passed down among toji masters and other workers in a sake brewery, meaning “harmony brews good sake, and good sake brews harmony”. It inspires these Italian plates carefully composed with a peaceful heart and is linked to the idea of connecting guests and staff in one circle. The name was chosen with the wish that guests may spend a wonderful time here savoring the uniquely Japanese-inspired Italian cuisine.
Beyond a meal into entertainment
Chef Taiichi Endo delights guests with Italian techniques and ingredient-driven dishes in a unique course. Every two months, a selected theme weaves together a story behind ten to eleven plates, showing some of Producer Hasegawa‘s colors, with past examples including “pizza“ and “pasta, pasta, pasta“ in which even the dessert was pasta. The course is carefully composed for the perfect balance of the five taste elements and umami.
Chef Endo‘s simple, clean presentations belie the powerful taste sensations within. On this occasion, the opening dish began with rice soaked in fresh cold water brimming with Sakura shrimp from Numazu, Shizuoka. Having been infused deeply with the shrimp flavor, Endo kneads the steamed rice into a thin paste. The mixture is dried and then, just before serving, fried into crispy chips accompanied by Sicilian almonds and glistening black pearls of Japanese caviar.
Meandering from seafood to land ingredients, you may be served braised Ezo deer shank with sunchoke puree and chips. Finished with a dusting of cacao bean powder, the dish captures the vast land of Shiranuka in Hokkaido, where the deer is found. Next may be homemade tagliolini pasta with Hokkaido tsubugai whelk from Oshamambe. Endo kneads his pasta to achieve the perfect al dente texture, picturing diners biting down with their back teeth. The whelks are heated in four iterations to maximize umami.
The pasta is boiled for just two seconds before tossing in the saucepan to infuse all the delicious umami into the pasta. Each bite down on the noodles releases incredible flavor. Kinki rockfish caught off Abashiri, Hokkaido, undergo the shinkeijime process to preserve freshness while still on the boat. The plump, juicy, charcoal-grilled fish is served in a delectable Aqua Pazza soup with broth extracted from hamaguri clams and tai sea bream. Yamagata beef fillet is simply grilled, served with a red wine and sherry vinegar sauce, and accompanied by a caramelized Awaji onion cooked low and slow for two hours.
Many taste and texture elements are combined into the cohesive dessert featuring Miyazaki Prefecture Tochiotome strawberries served with lychee and raspberry. Designed as a plate for devouring rich aromas, the intricate work is so visually appealing that you cannot wait to sink your teeth in. And flavors are equally satisfying.
Chef Endo has been in close contact with the fourth-generation Oshima, Imabari fisherman Junichi Fujimoto since they first met in 2013, using his superb seafood in each kitchen he has been in charge of. Endo handles the catches with the utmost care, knowing that Fujimoto makes a pilgrimage to the Tokyo restaurants he supplies every February and September, cutting ties if the food does not meet his high standards. Other ocean delicacies are shipped from Zushi, Kanagawa fisherman Taiki Hasegawa; Mr. Hayashi in the Goto Islands, Nagasaki; and Takoichi based in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture. The vegetables are supplied by Kamakura Yasai in Kanagawa Prefecture – a relationship sustained since the chef was 28 – and root vegetables are shipped from NOTO TAKA FARM found on the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture. Endo uses a blend of Italian semolina and Japanese flour for the pasta. His olive oil is Cedric from Sicily, which makes single-origin, single-parcel olive oils with highly unique flavor profiles. Seeing no need to keep a good secret, he is always keen to share quality ingredients with fellow chefs.
The wine collection numbers 1200 bottles of mostly Italian wine. In addition to the in-store seller, WAJO has another space purely for wine storage. From exquisite grand vins to excellent wines from Australia, Spain, and other countries worldwide, you will surely find a wine to your liking. According to Director/Sommelier Shintaro Fukuda, the key to the wine selection is unmistakable, conceivable aromas. The house sparkling is Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore – a highly acclaimed Spumante awarded more accolades than any other.
- The price includes our booking fee of ￥8,000
- The price includes our booking fee of ￥8,000