Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on April 2008
It’s hard to imagine anyone who wouldn’t enjoy dining at Sasashige. This newly opened teppanyaki grill in Nishi-Azabu ticks all the boxes: ground-central location? Check. Eye-catching interior? You bet. Trendy vibe? In spades. But the best reasons to go are the fantastic course dinners courtesy of chef-manager Takeya Yamamoto.
Available at ¥6,000, ¥8,000 and ¥10,000, Sasahige’s set menus all include an otoshi; appetizer; vegetable, fish and meat courses; and dessert. In place of a rice or noodle dish, the chef offers up an expertly made okonomiyaki with the works. Diners looking for just a quick bite, or those who want to choose their own food, can explore the a la carte menu, which features everything from housemade tofu (¥700) to 14 varieties of grilled vegetables (all ¥500) to lobster (¥3,200) and Japanese beef (¥2,000-¥2,800).
Sasashige further stands out because of its deep wine list. Some 80 bottles from France and the New World are available, starting at around ¥5,000 and climbing upwards of ¥50,000. The by-the-glass house wines are fantastic, especially the red, a Zweigelt-Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Marko wineries in Austria (¥1,100).
Our ¥10,000 prix fixe menu started with a simple amuse bouche of pickled udo and nanohana (broccoli rabe) with a dollop of walnut miso, followed by a cleverly presented appetizer of chilled crabmeat, served in the shell. We’ve always thought that a reliable way of judging teppanyaki restaurants is by how they handle the delicate task of cooking vegetables, and Sasashige passes this test admirably. Our yasai course comprised thick disks of bamboo capped with shiitake buttons, and a pair of hefty asparagus spears stacked like cordwood. These and subsequent dishes were accompanied by a condiment array that included yuzu-flavored miso, sesame salt and a Dijon mustard-shoyu mix.
After a lovely fish course of tai topped with shiso leaf and ume, we cooled our palates with a grapefruit granité before the main course: wagyu chateaubriand. Yamamoto clearly respects the top-quality beef, gently seasoning the meat and cooking it just long enough to get the juices flowing. Served with raw onion, garlic chips, and grilled moyashi and spinach, this dish is a worthy of a top-flight grill.
Sasashige’s interior strikes a smart balance between elegant and welcoming, with subtle spotlighting and tasteful furniture. A semi-private lounge is shrouded by hanging beads, and a small picture window looks out on a tiny space crowded with greenery. Counter seats provide a front-row view of all the teppanyaki action. Place settings include classy stainless steel hashi-oki (though we could have done without the disposable chopsticks), and all dishes are tastefully presented on classic ceramic dishes.
The crowd during our visit included a genki group of co-workers in the lounge and, at another table, a foursome that included a well-known celebrity transvestite. To say that Sasashige attracts a diverse crowd is an understatement; to say that it pleases them all is a guarantee.