Japanese restaurants are often known for their formal approach to dining and hospitality, but not so Den. Behind the Japanese curtain known as a noren, chef-owner Zaiyu Hasegawa has created an environment that breaks down the wall of formality in kaiseki cuisine, while still offering the art of selfless hospitality known locally as omotenashi.
At Den, the emphasis is on fun dining, which starts with the warmest welcome from the team and extends to quirky touches on dishes such as Den-tucky Fried Chicken - a piece of juicy poultry stuffed with goji berries, pine nuts and black sticky rice, served in a spoof KFC box. Team Den makes every effort to get to know each guest, offering personalised touches to their dishes whenever possible and bringing genuine pleasure to diners.
Hasegawa grew up immersed in the culture of entertaining. His mother was a geisha – a traditional Japanese hostess – who worked at a high-end restaurant. And it’s not just her profession in hospitality that she passed on, but also her motherly spirit. The chef wants to take care of those who make the effort to enter his establishment, and even with his limited English language skills, he manages to make international guests feel just as at home as the locals.
With a new, expanded location in 2017 featuring a more spacious dining room and open kitchen in place of the previous eight-seater restaurant, the Den experience is less intimate than it was. However even in the larger space, staff make diners feel like family members, with personal greetings and the utmost care and attention, while Hasegawa frequently crosses the line from kitchen into dining room himself.
Den’s star has rapidly ascended in recent years: since entering the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants last year at No.37, it has won the One To Watch Award at The World’s 50 Best Restaurants and now moves up 37 spots to No.11 on the Asia list. But it is perhaps The Art of Hospitality Award that most represents the restaurant – this is a place to visit as much for the delights and surprises of the food as for the warmth and joy of the overall experience.
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