The best Italian chefs make their mark through their secret ingredient - a little pinch of something in the pasta sauce to set them head-and-shoulders above the competition. At Chef Takashi, the secret ingredient isn't something you'd expect - but it's something you're going to love.
Motobu beef isn't widely known around the world – yet. Food tourists in Japan seek out the famed Kobe and Matsusaka varieties of beef, known worldwide as rare delicacies. Yet to discerning foodies, they have a rival that's beginning to make big waves in the culinary world. Motobu beef comes from the city of Motobu, Okinawa, where the prized cattle are raised on a very special diet to produce the most delicious beef that this reviewer has ever had. Importing the meat directly from Okinawa, Chef Takashi is one of only two restaurants in all of Tokyo to offer it.
The gracious Chef Takashi himself, who spent 7 years cooking at the prestigious Shinjuku Prince Hotel, served a variety of his best dishes and explained each of them as they came out:
- The Capellini with Salmon and Karasumi was a fresh and tasty appetizer. When the restaurant hosts set course events, the chef told me, his usual customers get unhappy if this angel-hair pasta dish is not included.
- The Carpaccio is our first taste of the Motobu beef, served raw in thin, tender slices and topped with fresh wasabi leaves. It's a bit spicy, and a lot delicious. One cow has only 2kg of meat that can be used for this particular dish, the chef explained.
- The Bagna Càuda with Seasonal Vegetables is an artistic dish served with a flair. The warm sauce, with a rich, deep Italian taste of garlic and olive oil, comes from the colder regions of Northern Italy. Many restaurants heat this dish on the table, but Chef Takashi prepares it in the kitchen and serves it ready to eat. This way, he said, it prevents the sauce from burning and eliminates the need for extra oil to keep it. The day's selection of vegetables (which included beets, cucumber, bamboo sprouts, radishes, and many more) were so pretty that it almost made me feel bad to eat them - but I was glad I did.
- Takashi's Original Blend of Salt is featured with the Motobu beef and wasabi. The salt blend, a carefully selected blend of herbs and spices, lit up the meat in a completely new direction. Along with with the bagna càuda sauce, the Original Blend of Salt is one of the best-selling items on the restaurant's online shop.
- The Beef Taliata is a thick, heavy mixture of the delicious Motobu beef served over pasta double the size of linguini. This hit the spot as a heavy pasta dish that made me wish I wasn't so full already.
The restaurant also features a selection of over 60 wines, from Italy and elsewhere. The wines were carefully chosen to complement the restaurant's menu by a wine expert, who also selects the wines for the restaurant's 2 monthly events, a rotating cycle of cuisine to match any culinary interest. At the time of my visit, they were discussing the upcoming oyster-featured event. The restaurant also hosts hooking classes every third Saturday and Sunday, and numerous parties for many different groups.
The Chef Takashi Italian Restaurant is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to midnight, with last order at 11 p.m. Calling ahead to make a reservation is recommended (especially on weekends), though walk-ins are welcome. The restaurant also takes reservations for lunch time during weekdays. The restaurant's cozy, modern atmosphere (and outdoor patio) make it a great destination for any event, from business gatherings to a casual lunch or a romantic night out.