Tokyo restaurants don’t get more inscrutable than Sowado. From the street, all you see is a featureless concrete wall. No name, no noren curtain, no window, no clues, just a plain, slate-black metal sliding door.
If you haven’t got a reservation, don’t even think about going any further. If you do, congratulations; this is your portal into one of the hottest (and hardest to book) new venues in the city.
Chef Hideaki Sakai’s highly anticipated second restaurant strikes a very different note from his first, the hushed, intimate Sakai Shokai. Sowado is spacious, busy and theatrical, with counter seating running along three sides of the open kitchen in the center of the dining room.
The most prized seats are those at the apex of the kitchen, where Sakai himself presides. His menu (all in handwritten Japanese) is longer, but retains many of the signature dishes that, in just two years, have made Sakai Shokai such a favorite among those in the know.
From the substantial, appetizing obanzai starters to Sakai’s trademark Unzen ham katsu (breaded, deep-fried “cutlet”) and the excellent seafood he sources mostly from Kyushu, you will eat well. And if you want to linger, you can adjourn to Sowado’s smaller and quieter bar area for further shōchū, sake, natural wine or other post-prandial tipples.
Hiroo 1-12-15, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0012; 080-8040-4822; bit.ly/sowado-ebisu; open 5-10 p.m. (L.O.); closed Sun.; a la carte (around ¥5,000-6,000/head, plus drinks); takeout not available; nearest station Ebisu; nonsmoking; major cards accepted; Japanese menu; some English spoken
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