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Pizza Studio Tamaki: A challenger for the title of Tokyo’s best pie?

by

Special To The Japan Times

Tokyo’s best new pizzeria is not hard to find. Just a brief stroll from Akabanebashi Station, it faces out onto a quiet open space ringed with trees. You can’t miss it: the neon glowing over the door proclaims “Pizza” and, in smaller letters, the acronym “PST.”

Pizza Studio Tamaki may be easy to reach, but don’t expect to walk right in, least of all during the peak dinner rush. Places at the 10-seat counter are at a premium. Not only do you get to see and smell the wood burning in the squat black-metal oven, you are also treated to an up-close master class in the craft of preparing premium pizza.

Owner Tsubasa Tamaki cut his teeth as a pizzaiolo at the much-lauded Savoy in Azabu-Juban, later moving to its Mishuku branch. But it was the four years he spent as the man in charge at Strada (also in Juban) that really put his name on the map. So when he opened PST in late February, he already had a strong following ready and waiting. He also had a full repertoire of recipes. Three months later, many of his fans would say his pizzas are better than ever.

Tamaki doesn’t subscribe to the narrow Neapolitan precepts governing the ingredients, techniques and styles of pizza. In fact, he has never visited Italy. Instead, he follows the lead of pioneering Tokyo pizzaiolo Susumu Kakinuma, who set the template at the original Savoy in Naka-Meguro and then raised the bar even higher at his essential, must-visit Seirinkan.

While Tamaki never trained directly under Kakinuma, the lineage is evident from the kind of oven he uses — so different from the decorative tiles of Naples — and his incessant focus on perfection. By his own admission, his pies were only about halfway to his ideal level when PST first opened and even now he still sees plenty of room for improvement.

More than anything, you can taste the Kakinuma influence. The dough at PST, made with a blend of Japanese and U.S. flour, has a terrific balance of flavor and texture that makes you want to finish every last crumb.

He fashions the pies roughly, forming protrusions around the rim that singe as they cook, lending a crisp smoky-bitter counterpoint to the chewy carbo-sweetness of the crust. Combined with the tomato base and artisan Mozzarella cheese he has flown in from Campania, southern Italy, each is a miniature tour de force.

PST’s pizza menu runs to over a dozen choices. Where to start? Go for the self-named Tamaki, featuring cherry tomatoes, freshly smoked Mozzarella, Pecorino Romana hard cheese and basil leaf. He also makes an impressive Bismarck, scattered with homemade sausage and with a still-runny farmhouse egg at its center.

But to really appreciate his skill, sink your teeth into his Marinara. Simple but superbly satisfying, it is evidence that the student may have overtaken the master, and that Tokyo’s best new pizzeria might now be its very finest of all.

Irregular closing day once a month; Pizzas from ¥1,550; appetizers from ¥590; wine from ¥790/glass, ¥3,790/bottle.; English menu; English spoken. Robbie Swinnerton blogs at www.tokyofoodfile.com.