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Test Kitchen H: Reliving the glory days of glam Italian cucina

by Robbie Swinnerton

Contributing Writer

There’s nothing self-effacing about Test Kitchen H. Occupying a considerable swath of real estate just off Kotto-dori, this low-slung, newly built, free-standing Italian restaurant exudes the kind of suave swagger most of us thought had faded along with stone-washed denim, Dragon Ball manga and memories of Juliana’s discotheque.

H is for Hiromi Yamada, the chef who, more than anyone, spearheaded the Italian cuisine boom that engulfed Japan in the 1990s. This former Iron Chef challenger has been out of the spotlight in recent years. Now he’s back and absolutely loving it.

His huge, gleaming kitchen forms the focus for the massive dining room. Open on three sides, it affords theatrical views of his squadron of cooks as they go through their paces, with nary a sound or stray whiff of garlic.

The basic dinner menu comprises an antipasti plate of homemade charcuterie; pasta that’s brought to the table and divvied up straight from pan to plate, with plenty of bottarga (cured mullet roe) to pile over it; and a main course, such as Yamada’s signature roast ham. Dessert and coffee are optional extras.

Back in the day, this was seen as cutting edge cucina. Now it seems like high-caliber comfort food.

The best news of all is its affordable price (for this area, at least). Break open the Prosecco and raise a toast.

Dinner from ¥5,800; Japanese menu; little English spoken