How Den puts the fun into Japanese dining

Laura Price - 31/05/2016

On Tuesday 7th June 2016 we will give you a preview of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants by releasing the extended 51-100 list. In advance of that list, for the first time ever, we reveal the restaurant that has been selected as the most promising newcomer.

And the winner of the One To Watch Award 2016, sponsored by Miele is… Den in Tokyo, Japan!

We caught up with Den’s chef-owner, Zaiyu Hasegawa, after he heard the news.


Congratulations! Den made its debut into Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants this year at No.37 and now it has been selected as The One To Watch in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2016. How does it feel?

I still can’t believe it!

What has been your experience of 50 Best so far – have you made new friends and contacts from the chef community in other countries?

Of course! Some of them have even dined at Den. It has been great to be able to communicate with chefs I admire from all over the world.

Are you planning collaborations with any other 50 Best chefs?

I hope so. I collaborated with Martin Benn from [the 2015 One To Watch restaurant] Sepia in April and it was a wonderful experience and a good stimulus for me, so I’m looking forward to working with other chefs.

What is the philosophy behind Den?

For me, my guests are the most important. Without them, the space and the atmosphere of my restaurant, even my dishes, are not complete. I care about connecting with people.

You have a lot of fun, light-hearted dishes such as chicken wings in a fast-food takeaway box. What is the idea behind those dishes?

So many people think the Japanese dining is a very serious dining style, or even difficult. I want people to enjoy their time at Den without worrying about manners or rules. I want all my guests to be able to relax and have fun. Take the chicken wings, for example: when guests see something familiar, and they can even eat it with their hands directly instead of chopsticks, it puts them at ease. It’s a different way to enjoy Japanese food.

Can you describe the Den menu and style of cooking?

There is only one set menu and it changes depending on what ingredients are available. In terms of style, I hope to bring something new to Japanese cuisine.

What’s the inspiration behind your cooking?

I love to talk with different people. Inspiration comes from communicating with people and seeing their smiles and laughter.

Aside from you, Zaiyu Hasegawa, who else is behind the award-winning Den team?

Emi Hasegawa is our top service member at Den, and she and Noriko Yamaguchi always try to give our guests the best experience. Rei Mochizuki, the sous chef and pastry chef, provides Japanese delicate senses in our desserts. Another chef, Keiichi Terada brought his French cooking background into Japanese dishes. 

There is another important member, Puchi Jr. Not only I but also the guests feel relaxed when they see him. Many guests even asked me if they’ll meet him in New York when I go to cook there next month.

You will be receiving your award at The World’s 50 Best Restaurants ceremony in New York in June. What are you most looking forward to for your first time at the global awards?

The most exciting thing is to be able to meet the other 50 Best chefs from all over the world.

What’s your personal philosophy?

Just eat, have fun and enjoy life!

Watch the video about Den:

Chef Hasegawa
will pick up his One To Watch Award in New York on Monday 13th June. Follow the live countdown via our livestream and on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.