Kasumicho Suetomi

Suetomi, named after the chef, is a ten seat counter restaurant (with additional private dining room for six) in a side street in Azabu, Tokyo. It would be easy to miss. A modest 30cm sign with the name and ‘3F’ is all that indicates you are in the correct place. The building itself is not impressive; a grey concrete tower, which looks from the outside, like any other residential building in the area.

I had been here once before. My friend Nozomu Takase (advertising executive and man about town) had taken me here as a treat in May. Now it was my turn to treat Goh Ideta, a belated birthday present and as a thank you for hosting me on this brief trip (part business, mostly pleasure). Like so many places in Japan, without the introduction, I simply would never have known it existed.

Arriving at the restaurant is pretty much like arriving at the door of an apartment. The space inside is small but carefully decorated. You walk along a skipping stone corridor past the private dining room on the right and into the ‘main’ space: a room of about 4 meters square with an L-shaped bench of unvarnished pale wood at which you sit and behind which stands the chef. Presumably this is Kasumicho Suetomi.

There is no menu, simply a choice of prices, which you have agreed at the time of booking (well in advance). Lunch is either Y5,000 (£41.50) or Y10,000* (£83) if you sit at the counter.

The taking of photographs in such and intimate space is inappropriate (you sit next to fellow diners as close as on the Tokyo trains) but I did have a notebook to hand in which I jotted down the tastes of this nine course feast.

I would run out of superlatives too quickly, so will stick to simply describing the food.

grilled Japanese potato (ebi-imo)
salt roasted gingko nuts (speared on pair of pine needles)
dried mullet roe (karasumi) in a rice paste (mochi) sandwich
decorated with a fallen red Maple leaf

Of particular interest here was the bright orange karasumi, which looks something like a dried apricot but tastes of caviar. The chewiness, sandwiched between the melting mochi worked particularly well.

shredded signora mushrooms (maitake)
with mochi rice
and grated yuzu citrus peel

A little bit like a risotto but with a very clear flavour. The yuzu adds a kind of sour mandarin twist to the savoury mushroom taste.

consomme with sea bream
and mild spring onion (kujo-negi)
with shredded yuzu citrus peel

Next to the sour citrus and the sharp spring onion, the fish tastes almost sweet.

sashimi of tuna
with fresh horseradish (wasabi) and soy sauce
sashimi of sea bream
with sudachi citrus and salt
perilla (shiso) sprouts

After the cooked sea bream, then you have it raw. The taste with the citrus and the salt makes this fresh cut of fish even fresher, as if it has literally just been pulled from the sea.

simmered radish (daikon)
with fried tofu (oage)
and wilted chrysanthemum leaves (kyo-kikuna)

The chrysanthemum leaves are slightly bitter and so draw out the sweetness of the stock (dashi) that the daikon has been cooked in.

grilled hilgendorf saucord (nodoguro)
with Japanese mustard (mizuna)
and shredded fried tofu (oage)

This fish sounds like a principle of chemistry. I had never heard of it. It was barbecued on a charcoal grill in front of you, so tastes slightly smokey.

shredded champagne crab (matsubagani)

Sweet and sour. A dressing with a small amount of vinegar and some kind of citrus.

pickled yam
pickled turnip (kabu)
cherry blossom shrimp (sakura-ebi)
with Japanese rice and Szechuan pepper (sansho)
miso soup with tofu

This is really the ‘filler’, which they leave until the end. They want you to stay a little bit hungry so that you savour the tastes for the duration of the meal.

You can have as much shrimp rice as you want. I had thirds. The rice had continued to cook on the sides of the clay pot it was served from, which meant you got more crispy bits the longer you ate.

Japanese persimmon (kaki)
European pear

Fresh, cooled and perfectly ripe with a delicate perfume.


* Just in case you were wondering which ‘price’ has been described.