Hideki Ii

Raised in his family’s Chinese restaurant, Hideki was exposed to cooking from an early age, but it wasn’t till he met legendary Australian chef Tetsuya Wakuda that his career took off. After relocating to Sydney to become senior sous chef at Tetsuya’s, Ii went to New York to work for the UN before returning home and opening Shirosaka, a Michelin-starred modern kaiseki restaurant in Tokyo’s Akasaka neighbourhood. This is where you’ll find the smiley chef – and certified sommelier – eating and drinking when he’s off the clock.

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Welcome To Akasaka

Akasaka is next to Roppongi and used to have to a lot of kaiseki restaurants but most of them have closed. In the last five years, however, lots of good new restaurants have opened here. Shirosaka is the kind of Japanese restaurant I want to eat at. I don’t like formal places and always go to casual places where people are friendly and there’s a warm welcome. My restaurant is small so I can talk to all of my customers about what they want to eat and create an omakase menu especially for them. We specialise in charcoal-grilled dishes and also offer wine and sake pairings.

Late-Night French Comfort

Bistro Ma Cuisine is a French bistro that opened in November. It’s casual and open late till 3am so we go there a lot after service. The chef Ryosuke Ikejiri cooks classic French food like potato potage and also makes his own sausage. I really like his pâté de campagne (country pate) and the restaurant serves sake as well as mostly French wine.

Shirosaka dish of spherical rice cracker, quail’s egg yolk and trout caviar nestled into a bed of diced tuna, uni, and dashi gelée.
Photography: Courtesy of Shirosaka

Oysters And Wine

Vinoble is another place I like to go after service. It’s a late-night wine bar that serves really good oysters from Daikokushima Island in Hiroshima prefecture. The waters are clean and the oysters are shucked gently, never washed and served with their liquor. The kitchen also smokes its own oysters and serves other dishes like oyster omelette and charcuterie. The wine selection is really good too and the cellar features French and New World wines. They also pour natural wines, too.

Japanese-Style Barbecue

If friends are visiting, I take them to Kabun-Chika for yakiniku (grilled meat). There’s no seasoning on the meat, just salt so you can really taste the quality of the wagyu. The kitchen buys whole cows and uses every part of the animal including lots of offal. They also serve some creative, tasty side dishes. I love the white oxtail soup. There’s also a fresh kimchi that they marinate just before serving.

The entrance to Shirosaka. Photography: Courtesy of Shirosaka

In The Mood For Pasta

Before opening Shirosaka, I worked at Union Square Tokyo for six months with Michael Romano who was the chef at the original Union Square Café in New York. The restaurant does burgers, pastas and steaks. Over the past 20 years, there’s been an explosion of American cuisine in Tokyo, especially craft burgers which Japanese people are crazy for. I like the burger at Union Square. Yoshichika Matsuda, the head chef here, is very talented. He makes a really good aglio, olio e pepperoncino (garlic, olive oil and chilli) pasta using capellini. I also like sitting at the counter at Melograno. Chef Yuji Goto gives everyone a warm welcome and I always tell him to cook me whatever he wants. I love his pasta. When I was there in October, he served me this black truffle pasta that was really, really good. It’s not a big restaurant, but it’s casual and very friendly.

Inspirational Cocktails

Watershed is a new cocktail bar that’s two minutes from Shirosaka and hidden on the second floor of a building. The owner Gohei Tsunoda learned under mixologist Tomoyuki Kitazoe at Bar Rage and is also a qualified sommelier. I often get inspiration for my desserts from his seasonal fruit cocktails.

Boudin noir at Bistro Ma Cuisine. Photography: Courtesy of Bistro Ma Cuisine

My Favourite Sushi

Sushi Mizukami is a new sushi restaurant that’s been open for a couple of years. Michinobu Mizukami, the chef, used to work at Jiro. He also does Edomae-style (marinated fish) sushi but uses white vinegar in his rice rather than red vinegar. All of his nigiri is really good. Personally I prefer hikarimono (shiny fish) like aji (horse mackerel) and kohada (gizzard shad) that show off the chef’s skills. His otsumami (snack dishes) like smoked monkfish liver are really good too. Mizukami isn’t too formal and, unlike some of Tokyo’s famous sushi restaurants, it’s still possible to get a booking. Kentarou Imamura, the chef at Sushi Imamura learned how to cook kaiseki but isn’t a sushi chef. His otsumami are also really good. I had some squid eggs that were served with dashi, soy, mirin and sake. He doesn’t talk too much, but it’s a good amount. His wife is the sommelier and she can recommend both wine and sake. More places are serving wine with sushi. I like to match pinot gris with sushi.

Craving Chinese Food

When I lived in Sydney, I used to eat at so many good Cantonese restaurants. I miss them. Sun Kee in my hometown of Setagaya is the only restaurant that does real deal Cantonese, not like Japanese-Chinese food. You can get Japanese gyoza everywhere, but the gyoza here tastes Chinese. It reminds me of the food that I’d get in Sydney at places like Golden Century. I always get the xiaolongbao, too. I go to Sun Kee a lot: every weekend, actually. It’s also kid-friendly so I bring my family there.

Oyster bar Vinoble. Photography: Courtesy of Vinoble.

Innovative French

Crony is an innovative French restaurant that was opened three years ago by Kazutaka Ozawa and Michihiro Haruta who both worked at [Tokyo three-star] Quintessence. Haruta-san, the chef, has worked at three Michelin-starred restaurants around the world and understands technique but isn’t fancy in the way he uses it. As part of the tasting menu, he served this grilled kinmedai (alfonsino) that was perfectly cooked followed by a squab main course that was perfectly medium-rare. The wine pairings are just beautiful. After 9:30pm, the restaurant serves an a la carte menu so you can sit at the counter and go for a drink and some snacks.

From Italy With Love

Yoji Tokuyoshi, the former sous chef at Osteria Francescana, was the first Japanese chef to get a Michelin star in Italy for his restaurant Tokuyoshi in Milan. Last year he opened Alter Ego where Den in Jimbocho used to be and now divides his time between Tokyo and Milan. He’s serving modern Italian cooking and using really good ingredients from Japan and Italy. I really enjoyed the marinated tuna with 30-month prosciutto that he cut on a red Berkel slicer machine.

Amadi with crisp scales, roasted celeriac and scallop at Crony. Photography: Courtesy of Crony

Guide last updated March 2020

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