A veteran chef settles in to classy digs in Toranomon


Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on November 2009

Courtesy of Elements

Courtesy of Elements

Lovers of California cuisine owe a big debt to chef Masakatsu Kato—whether they realize it or not. At the Tokyo branch of Spago in the early ’80s, Kato served as the local emissary for groundbreaking LA chef Wolfgang Puck. Twenty years later, he was the envoy for another California-cuisine luminary—Puck protégé Mako Tanaka—at restaurant Mako in Roppongi. Finally, with the opening of Elements in Toranomon, Kato has a place to call his own.

Diners who have followed Kato’s career will recognize familiar flavors on the menu. Baked scallops topped with uni (¥3,600) and deep-fried flatfish with Chinese-style black bean sauce (¥3,500) are essentially holdovers from Mako’s kitchen. Chilled capellini with squid, olives and tomatoes (¥1,900) and baked king crab cakes with rémoulade (¥2,600) have a familiar feel as well. But the menu also offers fresh faces, our favorite being the warmed goat cheese and beet salad (¥2,000). The earthy flavors and vibrant colors of this rare-to-Tokyo dish perfectly capture the spirit of Kato’s approach.

Elements is also notable for its steaks made with dry-aged beef. Tokyo has been missing the intense flavor of aged beef since the closing of Nishi-Azabu’s Porterhouse Steaks last year, but with Elements on the scene (and, more recently, Gotham Grill in Ebisu), carnivores are sharpening their knives again. Kato uses an in-house aging cabinet and cooks his steak in wood-fired ovens (from ¥2,400 per 100g).


Dinner at Elements is by no means cheap—prix fixe menus start at ¥7,500—but lunch is one of the best deals in town. For ¥1,700, diners can enjoy an all-you-can-eat cold buffet of approachable gourmet fare: seared maguro with onion-soy vinaigrette, prosciutto, house-smoked salmon, beef with olive sauce, and batter-fried tuna. For an extra ¥800, you get to choose an entrée—at a recent lunch, roasted white-meat fish with a piquant sun-dried tomato and basil-chardonnay sauce was accompanied by a colorful array of autumn vegetables. Dessert was blueberry ice cream and a mini choux à la crème nestled on a strip of chestnut puree.

Elements has a separate bar area that buzzes with a genki crowd during lunchtime and after work. Situated on a spacious courtyard just a few minutes from Kamiyacho station, it’s an appealing spot for drinks with friends. The bar also offers a separate food menu, including an ¥1,100 burger lunch.

The restaurant proper is more mature, with dim lights, plush carpeting and a moody feel. A natty sommelier prowls the room alongside chic bilingual waitstaff. This is the kind of place where you expect classy touches like warm, crusty bread served with fine olive oil—and where you get them. To which we say: well-done, chef Kato.