A Taste of Two Countries
David Bouley discovers that Yoshiaki Takazawa’s cuisine transcends cultural and culinary divides.
David Bouley has been at the leading edge of the U.S. dining scene for nearly 30 years. When he opened his first restaurant, Bouley, in the Tribeca neighborhood of New York City in 1987, he became one of the original chefs to introduce nouvelle cuisine and the menu dégustation to the United States. But Bouley’s vision extends far beyond the plate: Just as he expanded our notions of a menu by offering multiple, complementary courses in a single meal, he also created a centralized, multi-platform gastronomic empire—a venue dégustation, if you will—that combines in one small corner of the city an ever-evolving array of ambitious restaurants and other culinary experiences. Over the years, his groundbreaking restaurants have included Bouley Bakery, an innovative take on French cuisine; Danube, a jewel-box tribute to Eastern European cooking; and a bakery, market, and restaurant project. Today, his culinary realm encompasses Brushstroke, a modern interpretation of Japanese kaiseki that is a joint venture with the Tsuji Culinary Institute in Japan; Ichimura at Brushstroke, an acclaimed eight-seat omakase bar; a test kitchen and culinary library; and the most recent addition, a “living pantry” called Bouley Botanical, where he grows hundreds of edible plants.
His signature dishes, such as porcini-mushroom flan with Dungeness crab and black-truffle dashi, meld French technique with Japanese touches—a natural progression, as the nouvelle cuisine that captured his imagination when he was training in France during the 1970s and ’80s was built upon the kaiseki tradition of small, ultra-seasonal courses that artfully balance taste, texture, and appearance.
This deep connection to Japan’s haute cuisine led Bouley to nominate Yoshiaki Takazawa for the Robb Report Culinary Masters Competition. “I was looking for someone who had a unique style and a strong sense of Japanese culture and cuisine,” Bouley says, “which is about nature, seasons, refinement, personality, and emotion.”
Takazawa, 38, attended Shinjuku Culinary Institute, studied French and kaiseki cuisines, and worked in yakitori shops and banquet halls. In 2005 he opened his own restaurant in Tokyo—a two-table establishment called Aronia de Takazawa, which grew into a four-table establishment with a two-month waiting list. Diners from all over the world flock to the minimalist restaurant, now called simply Takazawa, to experience such stunningly beautiful dishes as the Scene of Winter to Spring, which evokes that moment in Hokkaido, Japan’s dairy-cattle country. For this entrée, the chef places a chunk of veal atop a dollop of mushroom sauce speckled with milk foam and garnishes the meat with crisp veal sweetbreads and a puree of lily bulb. Takazawa agrees with Bouley’s conviction that a person who follows recipes cannot be a good chef. “I get inspiration from anything,” he says, “even just walking down the street.”
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