On the face of it, Fukushima is a fairly typical (and bland) ward of Osaka, the kind that you find replicated across the country. Highways, intersections and train lines run every which way in between residential housing and businesses. But, spend just a few minutes traipsing the neighborhood and you’ll quickly realize that it’s an eater’s paradise. There are (orderly) lines at all hours of the day for the myriad restaurants and cafes spread across the ward, and there’s everything from Michelin-starred restaurants to outstanding soba, ramen and udon noodle shops.
On paper, the setting for Liaison, a French-inspired restaurant that’s on the upmarket end of eateries of the ward, is ordinary. It occupies the ground floor of an apartment block on a side street lined with offices and homes. But it rises above its quotidian setting. A whitewashed brick wall covered with greenery camouflages the exterior of the apartment building, and creates a small courtyard. Inside, you must walk past the open kitchen at the front of the restaurant to get to the half-dozen tables at the back, bathed in natural light.
Liaison opened in November 2017 with chef Hideyo Dezaki leading up a young and ambitious team, helped by his English and Japanese-speaking sommelier. From kitchen to table there is a focus on presentation, and chef Dezaki likes to get a little molecular with his creations.
The first course on the lunchtime prix fixe menu came clouded in smoke, trapped under an upturned glass. Reminiscent of a magician’s act, the glass was upturned, and the puff of smoke vanished to reveal two dice-sized salmon croquettes. Separately, accompanying the croquettes, embedded in seeds, was a gourgere, a dainty cheese pastry from Burgundy that was served with cake sale — a tiny square of dark, moist bread — for contrast. Certainly these creations had flair, but they were so diminutive that they left me wanting.
The velvet-textured cauliflower veloute that followed was far more substantive, a deeply satisfying soup, served alongside what looked like a macaroon with a foie gras filling. In a matter of two servings, Dezaki had gone from playful to being full of intent.
There were, as seems pro forma for haute cuisine, plenty of outsized plates to follow, with more than their fair share of empty space. But this created room for the dazzlingly-colorful arrangements that were aimed at making the diner feel as well as taste. Midway through lunch, Dezaki pulled out the equivalent of the hassun course in kaiseki dining, a dish that’s informed as much by the season as it is the chef’s creativeness.
With this, Dezaki delivered on both accounts. Stems of rapeseed had been reduced to a bright green sauce; a simmered slice of Chinese radish was used as a bed for scallops topped with strands of deep-fried onions. Elsewhere on the plate, sweet onions from Awaji Island were served in little mounds of cream with thin slices of bright red and pink Kumamoto radish.
There are already so many good reasons to visit Fukushima Ward; Liaison is most definitely another.
Lunch from ¥3,500, dinner from ¥6,000; English spoken
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5