Shokudo Todaka, located in Gotanda, is well known to gourmets in Tokyo as it appeared in TV Tokyo’s “Kodoku-no-gourmet (Solitary Gourmet) Season 6.” Now, it is so popular that there is a two-year waiting list for a reservation. The secret of its popularity is its “unlikely” dishes, such as “Beef-wrapped sea urchin,” “Seasoned boiled egg topped with sea urchin,” and “Sweetened Azuki beans cheese sandwich,” cooked by the owner Todaka Yuhei. Let’s look into the origin of Todaka’s idea of taking familiar ingredients and turning them into novel dishes.
The sense of hospitality that creates “unlikely” dishes
Mr. Todaka, you always produce amazingly novel dishes. How do you come up with such unique ideas?
My hometown is Kagoshima. Tokyo is a fierce battleground for food and beverage restaurants, isn’t it? There are so many chefs with great skills. Under such circumstances, when I thought about how to make my mark, I realized that my desire to entertain customers is much stronger than others. Therefore, I focus on unlikeliness when I prepare my dishes. I have fun experimenting, and often think, “If I do this, the customers will be surprised.” Through this process, a menu forms in my mind
My shop is an ordinary eatery, so we cannot use only expensive ingredients. While we do have wagyu beef and milt on the set menu, I also spend a lot of time thinking of unusual combinations of more ordinary ingredients. So this may have enriched my ideas. For example, even ingredients used in high-end restaurants are treated as B-grade products if they have slight scratches or differences in shape. I always have the desire to find such ingredients or other ways and to make S-class dishes while keeping the price lower.
At Tokyo Tokyo Delicious Museum 2023, you are going to unveil your new “Shiraae (mashed tofu) soft serve ice cream.”
The “fruit shiraae” we serve in my restaurant as a palate freshener is very popular with customers, and I have been trying to make it into a sweet for about two years. I tried various sweets, such as pudding, roll cakes and cream puffs, and I found soft serve ice cream was “really delicious!”
I add mascarpone cheese in my shiraae, so it goes very well with ice cream. I am quite confident about this dish that is very fundamentally Japanese, based on tofu but that also has this sweetness. I would like many people to try it and hear what they think.
People make food delicious – that is another charm of the food in Tokyo
What do you think is the charm of “food in Tokyo”?
I have always thought that good food should not just be the privilege of wealthy people. What makes Tokyo so special is that it has so much diversity in that respect, with of course lots of high-end restaurants, but also many quite affordable places – that is the charm of food in Tokyo, I think. For example, in Gotanda, it is interesting that there are many inexpensive eateries called “Sen-bero” where you can get drunk (you become “bero-bero” in Japanese) for 1,000 yen (sen-yen in Japanese). Ultimately, I think food is about people. It is definitely not enough just to be a good cook. Popular restaurants in Tokyo have owners who can entertain customers well, though their types are different. There must be staff in the restaurant who make customers want to come back again and again. That is what we value in Shokudo Todaka.
Is there anything new you would like to take on as a challenge in the future to serve dishes in Tokyo?
If “Shiraae soft serve ice cream” is well received, I would like to open a sweet shop specializing in take-out. The reason I decided to participate in the Delicious Museum was because I was asked if I would like to take on a new challenge together at this event. It is a shop where you can taste delicious sweets unique to Shokudo Todaka. I am not tied to any particular genre of cuisine itself, so if I can entertain customers, I would like to challenge myself to provide various types of dishes.