Dinner @ Den 傳 (Tokyo, Japan)

May 24, 2017 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

As one read the entries of my Japan trip, one would realise I have way too many restaurants (in Tokyo) that I want to dine at. Keke. And Den was another restaurant on my list.

It’s read from Den’s website that they only accept reservation up to 2 months in advance. In addition, they don’t take online reservation and calls must be made between 12pm to 5pm. Wanting to dine in mid February 17, it meant they would only accept my reservation in mid December 16. However, at the point of me making my reservation, they were relocating. Thus, I wasn’t able to get them on the phone. Ie, no one picked up. And because of that, they accepted my reservation when I emailed them. Yeah!

And it felt so surreal to finally dine at Den; To see in person what I normally viewed in pictures on instagram.

After entering through the glass door, one would open the wooden grill-looking door by sliding it. I mistakenly tried to push it. Oops.

And according to regulars, Den has shifted to a bigger space. Customers designated to the communal table that’s almost the length of the dining space, sat facing the open kitchen. Though diners could sit facing each other at the ends of the table since it didn’t disrupt the view of the kitchen. Besides the communal table, there were also tables for bigger groups since it may be hard to talk sitting in a line.

I was fortunate to be seated at the long communal table, and at the centre. Directly opposite head chef Zaiyu Hasegawa where he would be stationed when he’s doing the plating. Keke. And upon seated, head chef Hasegawa san came up to welcome me with a hand shake. Fan girl moment! Haha. And with that, I commenced my ¥19,000 dinner with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – After the staff confirmed my dietary restriction of no beef, she went on to say that dinner included a cup of alcoholic drink. However, not wanting any alcohol, they replaced it with a sparkling non-alcoholic juice. Said to be from France.


  

2) Dish #2 (above) – Typically served as a dessert, Den served their monaka (crisp wafers with filling) as a starter. Sandwiched between the wafers were foie gras, flower jam (tasted similar to strawberry) and pickled radish. This was so good! I wanted to take a bite shot but head chef Hasegawa san caught me in the act of trying to get a clean bite. So yes, I was slightly embarrassed. And no, I didn’t get the shot as planned. Haha.



3) Dish #3 (above) – Soft shell turtle; An ingredient used in traditional Japanese dish but normally served as soup. But at Den, this was served with deep fried cod milt (shirako) and puffed rice. I couldn’t taste any distinct turtle taste which was a good thing because it was my first eating turtle. And honestly, I was a little intimidated.

  

  

4) Dish #4 (above) – DFC! Den-tucky Fried Chicken. As the name goes, it’s the restaurant’s take of KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken); Chicken stuffed with glutinous rice, prawn and pickled perilla leaves (shiso). I was in love with this dish. Every ingredient complemented one another. A larger wing for me please? And as one might have guessed, they removed the bone for a fuss free eating affair too. And I seen on instagram that head chef Hasegawa san do personalise these boxes with the respective diners’ faces. So I guess he couldn’t find a flattering picture of me? Though it was an equally nice touch to see a mini Singapore flag within the box! And one could keep the toy chick as souvenir too. Though I didn’t. No proper place to display it at home lah.


5) Dish #5 (above) – Yellowtail brushed with soya sauce, served with seaweed sauce and sea urchin. I wasn’t expecting much cause the presentation paled in comparison to the previous dishes. But I was wrong. This was honestly amazing.


6) Dish #6 (above) – Slightly fried tilefish (amadai) served with vegetables where one could eat this as a wrap or as a sandwich. Good balance of seafood and vegetables. And because it’s a open kitchen, I got to witness it’s head chef Hasegawa san who did the frying personally. And it’s definitely nice to know that although he has many kitchen staff, he controls the quality with his personal touch.

7) Dish #7 (above) – Den’s signature salad where more than 20 seasonal vegetables were cooked in different ways; Deep fried, raw, pickled, grilled, etc. And it was amazing for this was also a dish of contrasting textures and varying temperatures. Look out for the smiley carrot too! I ate mine before thinking of capturing a picture. Keke.

  

  

8) Dish #8 (above) – And by the time I reached my rice course, I was starting to feel full. Thus, I requested for a smaller portion of the rice (cooked in katsuo dashi) with bamboo shoot. And the staff was right when they pre-empted me that the bamboo shoot was going to taste like sweet corn.

9) Dish #9 (above) – Only another couple and I remained in the restaurant cause we arrived at the restaurant at the same (late) timing of 8pm. And the couple who were going strong with their food intake recommended strongly for me to try the second flavour which rice was cooked with shirauo (small fish) and wild vegetables, and sprinkled with salt just before served.

10) Dish #11 (above) – Strawberry garnished with white bean, coconut milk, dried black bean and rum jelly. And I was loving the fact that the strawberry was pre-cut to quarters so that we need not struggle with trying to slice it into smaller pieces. Such thoughtfulness!

By 9.15pm, diners from the earlier seating had finished their desserts and head chef Hasegawa san was making his rounds. Most diners seemed to be regulars based on their interactions. And although the couple and I wee only diners left at 10.30pm, I appreciated that the kitchen staff continued to be around (in the kitchen). But of course, some had started to get busy with the cleaning. But what made me truly appreciative was that head chef Hasegawa san continued to be around and gave his personal touch right to the last dish served. One certainly don’t feel neglected even if one was in the later seating.

In fact, for diners whose dinner ended late, we got to see his 2 years old dog! At 10.45pm, head chef Hasegawa san brought his chihuahua to wish diners “good night”. Keke. Named Puchi Junior, it would shake its fore legs up and down. Cute! Though I am not sure if Puchi Junior always make an appearance.

And if one was dining in the private room, one need not worry about being neglected as head chef Hasegawa san regularly went into the room. In fact, it was a clever design that a sliding window opened straight into the kitchen where customers could easily interact with kitchen staff. Lots of personal touch. Very nice.

Dining at Den is a must when in Tokyo; For the food and the warm and playful dining atmosphere which Team Den created. In fact, Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremony occurred days after my dinner. I was thrilled to know Den was ranked 11. And with their great and selfless hospitality, I couldn’t agree more that they deserved to receive ‘The Art of Hospitality Award 2017′.

DEN 傳
Architect House Hall JIA, 2-3-18 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 渋谷区 神宮前 2-3-18 建築家会館JIA館)
+81 3 6455 5433, Website, Tablelog
Overall: 9
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 9
Mon – Fri : 17:00 – 23:30
Ambience: 9
Sat : 17:00 – 22:00
Value: 8
Service: 9
* Closed on Sun

UPDATE 1: Restaurant was awarded 2 Michelin stars by Michelin Guide Tokyo 2018.
UPDATE 2: Restaurant was awarded 2 Michelin stars by Michelin Guide Tokyo 2019.