Japan 2020 – Tokyo Food-Otaku: Den Tokyo

Moving on from our Michelin adventure in Niseko, we now find ourselves seated in Den. One of (if not the best) restaurant in Tokyo and listed at number 11 on the World’s 50 best restaurants and number 3 for Asia’s equivalent list for 2020 and awarded the best restaurant in Japan for 3 years running, dining at Den elevates dinner from what many will regard as a meal into an experience worth remembering for years to come.

Which incidentally brings me to the process of just getting a table in this 2 Michelin starred restaurant itself. An endeavour that you will be sure to remember as well. Getting a table at the best restaurant in Japan isn’t easy, but at the same time, it is in no way impossible. Getting a table at Jimbocho Den requires much effort and much patience. They do not take reservations via third parties so forget about asking your 5-star hotel’s concierge, neither do they take online bookings. So pick up that phone and dial, and dial, and dial again. They ONLY take reservations by phone and because they take reservations up to 2 months in advance to the day of your call (meaning to say if you wish to make a booking on the 20th of July, it can only be done on the 20th of May onwards), it can be quite a challenge as seats get filled up quickly. Even when you do get through to the restaurant’s ringing tone, it is no guarantee someone will pick up as they might be busy on another line. I made close to 500 calls before getting through to the restaurant to get a reservation. In fact, our entire trip to Japan was planned around our dinner date with Den. Was it worth the time and effort? Yes. Persistence defiantly pays off here.

Funnily enough, the only negative reviews online are from those complaining about this reservation system. Perhaps, this is a way to get those who really want to visit and are willing to put in the effort and time to secure a table?

Getting to Den itself is relatively simple, we alighted at Omotesando Station and had a good walk through the boutique lined streets. In addition to being the best restaurant in Japan, Den was also awarded the Art of Hospitality Awards in 2017 and 2019 and this shows the moment you are approaching the restaurant, even before stepping in. As our host for the evening saw us walking towards the restaurant she greeted us outside the restaurant by name and warmly welcomed us into a rather nondescript looking restaurant, if you weren’t in the know, there’s probably no way you would have guessed that this is one of the World’s best dining establishments if you walked on by.

Inside, it was a flurry of activity as the open kitchen buzzes with chefs busy preparing our dinner. As we settled down into our seats long the front counter, I wish I had the eloquence or vocabulary to describe to you dear readers how each and every one of our courses tasted but alas, I am no food journalist (nor foodie influencer) and I’m sure there plenty of other sites that do it better than I ever can. Instead, here are some pictures as we enjoyed our dinner, peppered with plenty of cheerful conversation and insights from our hosts and chefs who treated us with fantastic warmth and hospitality.

To say this was a great meal is an understatement and doing a disservice to the wonderful staff at Den. Chef Zaiyu Hasegawa had definitely achieved the mission statement that features prominently on their website.

“The taste of home cooking is different for everyone, but yet it is all prepared with the same wish, which is to make others happy.”

By the end of our evening, having enjoyed a fantastic and lovingly prepared meal by a team of passionate people willing to go the extra mile, happiness is quite possibly the most apt word one can use to describe how we felt. Even more so after we met the smallest member of their team, Puchi Jr!

To be fair, dining at Den is not economical by most standards but whether or not this money is worth spending is up to each individual. Again, if you think about dining out as just a means to get sustenance, then perhaps this isn’t for you, but if you are someone who is willing to accept that dinners can be enjoyed as an all encompassing experience, than yes, this is a special place.

Will we want to return? Definitely. 500 redials have nothing on us.

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