|

Salmon & Trout: Delectably eclectic free-form dining

by Robbie Swinnerton

Special To The Japan Times

Three things you need to know before seeking out Salmon & Trout: It’s a 10-minute walk from the nearest suburban station, both inside and out, it looks as much like a bicycle showroom as it does a restaurant, and rarely — if ever — will the two namesake fish appear on the menu.

Also, don’t expect anything as orthodox as an actual written menu: Chef Kan Morieda’s extensive and hugely enjoyable meals are far more free-form than that. You squeeze in at his intimate seven-seat counter, and he busies himself in his narrow open kitchen, producing one dish after another. Everyone gets served all at once. Then he gives you a rundown of what’s on your plate.

Over the course of the evening, this will be repeated a dozen times or more. From the opening appetizers to the final sweet nibbles some three hours later, Morieda moves constantly between the counter and his simple three-burner stove. Focused yet relaxed — and always dressed casually — he still finds time to pause, look up and discuss details about his ingredients.

Whether it’s the blue Araucana eggs supplied by a nearby farm in Setagaya Ward, percebes (goose barnacles) from the coast of Kochi Prefecture, or wild deer shot by his friends in the uplands of Yamanashi Prefecture, each has a provenance and story behind it. Morieda incorporates them all artfully into his confident contemporary cuisine.

Still in his early 30s, he already has an impressive resume, from the much-lauded Tetsuya’s in Sydney to Kogetsu, a Japanese restaurant in Tokyo’s Aoyama district, followed by a stint at the Tapas Molecular Bar in the Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo. But he also worked with stalls at the pioneering 246 Commons, an outdoor street stall encampment in Aoyama, and there is a similar down-to-earth quality in many of his dishes at Salmon and Trout.

A signature starter is his take on the classic corn dog (“American dog” in Japanese). Instead of a simple hot dog sausage, he blends local Setagaya pork with other meat, such as venison. He has just the right beer for this, too: Scotland’s Punk IPA on draught fits the bill nicely.

Expect at least one course featuring those unusual blue eggs. Last week Morieda had so many he was scrambling them with plump Akeshi oysters and makomodake, a wild rice plant that looks and tastes a lot like bamboo shoots.

Another of Morieda’s trademarks is fish and chips, which he made with whole ayu (sweetfish), the very last of the season, which were batter-fried until their bones were tender. He makes his own chips (American-style, not British) from thinly-sliced sweet potatoes of varying hues and his tartare sauce with foraged warabi (bracken fern).

If Morieda’s hunter friends have been successful, your main course may well be his classic venison katsu (breaded cutlet) artistically arranged on a splattering of beet and raspberry. If you get very lucky, dessert will be his marvelous mousse made from sweet sake lees with a dab of quince jam.

It’s a remarkable meal that blurs the line between fine dining and fun comfort food. Yet questions remain. Is the hassle of reaching this out-of-the-way location worth it? Can a meal of this quality really cost only ¥6,500 (plus ¥3,000 for the drinks pairing)? And is this one of Tokyo’s most satisfying, eclectic dining experiences?

Yes to all three.

Robbie Swinnerton blogs at www.tokyofoodfile.com