Takashi Miyazaki’s cooking sings the body electric.
Takashi Miyazaki is on his third act, having opened his Miyazaki take-away nine years ago, followed by Ichigo Ichie six years ago. Ichigo Ichie served an elaborate, seasonal kaiseki menu for which he won a Michelin star. The third act sees Miyazaki stepping back from that operatic performance of cooking and eating, in favour of settling into something neighbourly and local.
But, don’t imagine that he has taken his foot off the gas. The new Ichigo Ichie is more relaxed, but the cooking is as fervently intoxicating as ever. The difference is that you can now get noodles, and tripe, and wasabi ice cream, at really keen prices. But the cooking continues to knock you off-kilter, rushing towards your neurological reward system at mach speed.
How does he do this? The answer perhaps lies in the fact that all Japanese cooking is conceived and considered as an aesthetic act, and so eating at Ichigo Ichie is effectively the equivalent of being immersed in a work of art. Here, the art is both on the plate, in winningly contrived dishes, and in the setting, with its calmness, its pitch walls, and svelte service. There is no other room like this, and no other cooking like this.
Miyazaki food satisfies by summoning and serving the sensuous-sensual-spiritual element of food. The food nourishes the sensuous mainframe that girds us, the textures luxuriate in sensual replenishment, and the totality is quietly spiritual, as you reflect upon how an artist of the cooking world can take the simplest ingredient – buckwheat! – and forge from it something extraordinary. Mind you, forging those noodles is no simple matter. It takes Miyazaki three hours each day to create these slender strands.
After just a few tastes of the cold buckwheat noodles with daikon, I made a note on my phone: “Eating hand-made noodles is like being given the keys to a Ferrari to drive home.”
I have no idea what that means, but I wrote it, contemporaneously, and am hereby pleading temporary insanity. The buckwheat noodles made me do it.
Ichigo Ichie offers the noodles in ten variations, with the set menu also offering rice dishes – Donburi – and four starters – Ippin Ryouri. The blackboard selection augments the written menu, and offers a further five dishes – oysters; fillet steak; pork katsu; Fukuoka-style tripe – along with wasabi ice cream, and a matcha panna cotta with lychee ice cream and caramelised apple.
We shared the trio of deep-fried Rossmore oysters, coated in puffed rice, along with ethereal tempura, and that Fukuoka-style tripe, a dish that hails from Miyazaki’s home city. Tripe is having a moment right now, and this Japanese iteration should ensure that the moment will be enduring. The tripe is served with cabbage, bean sprouts, and topped with threads of dried chilli, and it’s a fifth-quarter masterpiece, subtle and sweet, the sort of dish that makes you glad you can eat it, but sad that you can’t cook it. Ditto the assorted tempura: do not attempt this at home, because you won’t even get close to this angels-dancing-on-my-tongue beauty.
The oysters go straight in for the kill, the molluscs buttressed with aonori seaweed and nitsume, a fish-based sauce that is slowly simmered and reduced and into which you dunk the oysters.
The cold noodles are topped with a cloud of daikon – how do you even do that? – and eating them along with a glass of the Ichigo Ichie IPA, made for the restaurant by Original 7 brewers, made me want to be a blue-eyed samurai. The hot noodles were paired with slices of grilled Skeaghanore duck, a hay of leeks, and scallions, a symphony of sympathetic ingredients that united to send you into dreamy disarray.
The wine list focuses on natural wines, and is notable for having a trio of French wines from the Jura. The list is hugely improved from II1, with a good selection served by the glass. The Brich barbera from Piedmont is very fine with the duck and noodles, the Herve Souhat syrah sang along with the tripe.
The sheer power of this food arises from the fact that Ichigo Ichie dishes seem to by-pass the appetite in favour of heading straight to the senses, where they implode like electrolytes. Don’t believe it? Fine. Just have a taste of that wasabi ice cream, served with a smoked Gubbeen cheesecake, and see if eating it doesn’t feel sense-altering to you.
If it doesn’t, then you are already dead.
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