The increasingly popular Tokyo restaurant that puts the fun into fine dining
While many Japanese restaurants are known for their relatively formal atmospheres and service styles, Den takes a very different approach. Chef Zaiyu Hasegawa’s primary objective is to ensure all his guests feel comfortable and relaxed and he does this by injecting humour and fun into his dishes.
Playful takes on international and Japanese classics include chicken wings in a fast-food takeaway box, potato cakes in the shape of chicks and even smiley-faced carrots. Despite the playfulness of the presentation, when it comes to precision and quality, Den is up there with the very best restaurants in Japan.
Chef Zaiyu Hasegawa has always had creative flair, preferring to spend his childhood making things instead of studying. He began his professional cooking career at 18, working in a Tokyo restaurant alongside his mother while pretending she was a stranger so that he wouldn’t be treated any differently.
At 29, he opened Den, driven by the desire to work for himself, following no one else’s rules. He created a menu serving modern kaiseki – the style of Japanese cuisine involving a series of small, intricate dishes – backed by his savvy technical skills.
Hasegawa’s kitchen brigade is supported by an effervescent front-of-house team, led by his wife, Emi Hasegawa, and Noriko Yamaguchi. And of course, Den wouldn’t be the same without the restaurant’s own friendly pup, Puchi Jr., who Hasegawa says is the star of the show.
Now almost a decade old, Den has gradually built a cult following, entering the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2016 at No.37 and making its debut on the 51-100 list of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list this year. The chef-owner’s light-hearted approach to dining, combined with first-class Japanese cooking, makes it a clear One To Watch with great potential to rise up the list in future years.