In Shimbashi, where the backstreets are full of tiny bars and restaurants, it can be hard to stand out. Txiki Plaka, a new addition to the Michelin Guide’s Bib Gourmand list in Tokyo, has addressed this by creating an entrance composed entirely of windows trimmed in a soft, welcoming blue. Visitors step through the glass door and into a 10-seat tapas-style Basque food experience.
Txiki Plaka (pronounced tee-kee plah-kah) opened in October of 2017. The restaurant is produced by Luuvu Hoang, who previously produced food trucks in Tokyo offering authentic Vietnamese food, including bánh mì and Vietnamese coffee. “The concept for Txiki Plaka began with the space,” explains Hoang. “I had a couple of concepts in mind, but I chose this because it reminded me of my first trip to San Sebastián. When I was there eating, I felt it was similar to the old Japanese eating style—standing bars in tight spaces. Those kinds of restaurants still exist today, even in Shimbashi. The small street we’re on is known for high-end Japanese food; I wanted to do something that would stand out but would match the neighborhood and the clientele while maintaining high quality. The name Txiki Plaka means ‘small plate’ and fits the concept. We like small food, the space is small and the street is small. It’s cheeky.”
The tiny restaurant can be enjoyed in two forms; either book all 10 seats for a private party—for which a long table is set in the center of the space—or book one or two counter seats for a solo or duo trip. Chef Hachi, whose background is in French, Spanish and Italian food, works alone at a constant, focused hustle. While only 10 seats may not seem like much to cover, each dish takes time to prepare, and as the menu is tapas-focused, she is always on the move—creating beautifully presented and wonderfully balanced bites.
Each item on the Pintxos & Montaditos menu is a single piece. Chevre cheese, artichoke and dry tomato pintxo (small Spanish snack) is a beautifully balanced trio of flavors atop a toasted baguette; the first flavor is the gently charred, rich goat’s cheese—followed by the brightness of tomato and the heartiness of artichoke. An outstanding start to the meal. The house tuna and ham serrano with mushrooms pintxo is a meatier choice, but the tuna is served as a spread atop the baguette, forming a background to the serrano and mushroom.
From the cold appetizer menu, the sardine and vegetable lasagna is as striking visually as it is in terms of flavor. Chilled lasagna rests atop an herbal tapenade, and slices of tender sardine are dotted with edible flowers and pink pepper accents. From top to bottom, the dish is a journey in flavors. The sardine is not briny or fishy; it adds depth to the lasagna and cuts through the richness of the cheese.
In heavier fare, the pork spare rib offers tender meat in a gently sweet sauce. Two ribs are served with membrillo sauce, a quince-based, lightly fruity accompaniment to the pull-apart soft pork meat. The buñuelos (described loosely on the menu as cod and potato croquettes) are a comforting, fried pleasure and are a far cry from Japanese-style croquettes. Four freshly made fluffy—and slightly doughy—cod and potato-filled balls are lightly salted and served in a wire basket; a playful presentation of this deep-fried food.
Reservations are essential, as seating is extremely limited. Txiki Plaka is great for a two-person dinner visit (or for an intimate party, splash out and reserve all 10 seats). It’s a nice spot for solo diners and is a great place for curious eaters to discover new flavors. Budget ¥5,000-¥6,000 per person (more if exploring the drink and dessert menus, which feature sherries from the Basque region, Basque-style cheesecake and crema catalana; also, note that the glass-bottled mineral water offered is not free). A respite from the harsh lights and buzzing noise of Shimbashi, Txiki Plaka offers an exciting glimpse into Basque cuisine.
“Tokyo is known for amazing food, but a lot of it is not affordable,” remarks Hoang. “Basque food is one of my favorites in the world. I wanted to create something affordable and amazing. I don’t want it to be a white tablecloth place. Getting recognition from the Michelin Guide validated all of the thought that went into developing the concept. Txiki Plaka is not just a random, fashionable restaurant like so many other places we have right now.”
2-15-13 Shimbashi, Minato-ku
Monday-Friday 6pm-10pm (Last order 9pm)
Saturday, Holidays 6pm-9pm (Last order 8pm)
Closest Station: Shimbashi