Hunting-driven, French-inspired cuisine. Dine on a philosophy that takes farm-to-table to a whole new level as you savor the delicious, delicate flavors of wild game from the vast and abundant land of Hokkaido. To eat the life of these wholesome animals, from nose to tail, is to show gratitude for the life and vigor they provide us.
The setting is a free-standing house in the upscale residential neighbourhood of Shoto in Shibuya. There are no signs outside and the address and phone number are kept private. The restaurant is gradually growing its circle of guests through an introduction-only system. Walking in feels like stepping into someone’s home, but the warmth that exudes from this space is beyond expectations.
The interior, accoutrements, and all the touches are masculine without bravado, creating an elevated rustic feel. The centerpiece arrangement of branches, wild persimmons, and moss brings a touch of untamed nature inside. Around the large wooden counter, the walls, in deep colors or with a rusted iron feel, are decorated with animal print motifs, deer heads, and a European painting of men and dogs readying for a hunt.
The large glass doors of the terrace room open out onto the Japanese-style garden giving this room a soft, light feel. Follow the red carpet up the stairs to find yourself in the cosy cigar room or the dimly-lit, medieval style dining room with ruby curtains, candlesticks and an imposing deer head. Whatever the occasion, you will find comfort and satiation in this space.
Feast on Life
The cuisine at Elezo House is driven and inspired entirely by hunting – an art that has been perfected by the team of chefs who built the Elezo enterprise. Your dining experience is enhanced by learning about the passion, understanding, and dedication that makes such delicious food possible. Wild game, more typically referred to in Japan by the French word gibier, is undergoing somewhat of a boom all over the world. But Chef Sasaki’s conviction that it is not simply a boom but an entire cuisine is gaining the attention of epicureans around Japan.
In his all-black surgical scrubs outfit, Sasaki presents dishes that allow you to eat your fill of meat. From one course to the next, the hunted deer are showcased in richly-flavored yet elegant preparations. To start the course and stimulate all your senses, the server pours deer consommé into a miniature bowl of fine truffle strips, releasing incredible aromas that invite you into this deeply flavored broth. A morsel of deer boudin noir bursts with complex flavors due to the addition of deer rillette and pigs’ trotters. Next, the signature dish: translucent orange consommé gelée, made purely from collagen released from the deer bones, on top of layers of luscious sea urchin and sweet carrot purée to make for the most unexpected but balanced taste combination.
A charcuterie plate that follows not only showcases the artisans’ skills in preparing delicious cured meats and pâtés but also in making them look like beautiful gifts. The soup course resembles bouillabaisse flavors so closely you could be mistaken for thinking it contains shellfish. Instead it is made with the bones of salmon that Elezo gets through a bartering system with fisherman at the tiny port near the farm. The bones are cooked for hours until no moisture remains, and simmered again with vegetables and tomatoes, drawing out ever deeper and more concentrated flavor.
Finally, the main course: venison. While prepared differently throughout the year to highlight the best in each season’s flavors, one thing stays the same: you will always have the chance to enjoy succulent meat from male and female deer of different ages. This is Sasaki’s chance to exhibit his deep knowledge of the animals and their unique qualities, always showing the diner the meat before cooking. The roasted winter venison is served in a sauce of dashi, brandy and green pepper, with orange-infused roasted endive and brandy-soaked green grapes for a heady combination that you will not soon forget.
Reflecting on the evening, you realize this was no ordinary meal. It was a culinary experience in which you received life and vigor from the wholesome animals of Hokkaido and renewed respect for talented chefs who prepare exquisite dishes in which the ingredients speak for themselves.
The Elezo group is based in the Tokachi region of Hokkaido, renowned for quality ingredients. There is abundant land and a plentiful supply of crystal clear water. In addition to the benefits afforded by the bountiful surrounds, by taking control of the entire process, Elezo is able to attain extraordinary quality with certainty. They know every hand that has played a part. Their hunting grounds and farm are all in one place, as is the meat processing area. Every staff member must acquire a hunting license and observe the very strict rules, including not impacting any part of the body below the neck. Wild game is field dressed and cleaned within one hour of being hunted, and the skills and hygiene standards employed in these steps are the key to Elezo’s outstanding quality.
In addition to hunting wild game like deer, rabbits, pigeons, and ducks, the Elezo team cares for pasture-grazed animals and free range poultry that they have lovingly raised from birth. The animals are happy in this healthy environment and every action is taken out of deep awareness of and respect for the life that is taken to sustain us. The sense of well-being experienced by the animals is perfectly expressed as each bite releases full and pure flavors.
There is an extensive selection of wines, whiskey and brandy to choose from, but given the thought and consideration given to pairings, you might like to leave it up to your chef and server. Like so many of the decisions that are made at Elezo House, the ideas for pairings come from discussions among all members of the team, from the hunters to the farmers and of course, the sommeliers. They share personal favorites and new discoveries with each other, always searching for wines that match the wild yet delicate flavors of the meat. One of the chef’s favorite combinations pairs the unique, aromatic qualities of Sancerre with the diverse ingredients on the charcuterie plate, and also with the boudin noir that follows.
The team is currently working on several non-alcoholic pairings and an overseas winemaker is interested in developing wines specifically to pair with Elezo cuisine. Chef Sasaki is also looking to include more Japanese wines in the offering, certain that many possess the right balance between robust and subtle, or masculine and elegant, to enhance the dining experience.