[Tokyo] 神楽坂 石かわ Kagurazaka Ishikawa

神楽坂 石かわ Kagurazaka Ishikawa (3 Michelin stars)

Add: 1F, 5-37 Kagurazaka, Shinju-ku, Tokyo 東京都 新宿区 神楽坂5-37 高村ビル 1F
Tel: +81 (0)3 5225 0173
Hours: Mon-Sat 5:30pm-12am
Price: JPY22,000+ (+8% tax and 10% service charge)
Visited: September 2016
Will return: Yes

Tucked away in a quite little alley in Kagurazaka, Ishikawa is one of the top 10 kaiseki restaurants in Tokyo on Tabelog, holding three Michelin stars for 10 consecutive years ever since the Michelin Guide Tokyo was first published in 2008. My dinner there last September was one of few surprises but endless enjoyment.


There are tasting menus that make you wish for a bed to fall into, followed by a glass of detox juice in the morning. Ishikawa’s made me feel more awake, the food so expressive that I felt like they were drawing me into a conversation. Delicate pieces of pike eel thrummed beneath a tangy casing of yuzu and Japanese vinegar. Soft-shell turtle was fried between two wafers of lotus root, its gelatinous texture a delightful symphony with the crunchy lotus root, meaty shiitake mushrooms, and soft ginkgo nuts. A fillet of horsehead snapper took a gentle swoosh of darkness from a bed of grilled eggplant that fell apart at the touch of my fork, softened by a sweet broth.

IMG_7798-Edit-EditPike eel, red plum paste, cucumber, yuzu jelly

IMG_7799-Edit-EditFried soft-shell turtle, lotus root, shiitake mushroom, mitsuba greens, ginkgo nut

Sashimi here was so much more than sliced raw fish, gaining an eloquence that was as magical as it was unlikely. Flatfish coursed with energy with the addition of seaweed. Pearls of salmon roe picked up a lyrical sensibility in a light marinade of yuzu and citrus. Sea urchin was served without embellishments, but Chef Ishikawa intensified the flavors by presenting two different kinds of sea urchins side by side – briny, umami-rich Kita Murasaki uni from Rebun Island, Hokkaido and sweet, creamy Aka uni from Karatsu, Kyushu. The combination was miles better than the sum of its parts.

IMG_7815-Edit-EditFlatfish, fresh seaweed, Japanese herbs

IMG_7825-Edit-EditKita Murasaki uni from Rebun Island, Hokkaido, and Aka uni from Karatsu, Kyushu

IMG_7829-Edit-EditSalmon roe with yuzu citrus
造り:生 いくら

Over the course of three hours and nine courses, nothing screamed for my attention. Everything was presented almost unadorned, yet I had no doubt that I was tasting each ingredient at its best. A small disc of abalone liver lent depth to slices of tender, flavorful steamed abalone. Thick slabs of fresh water eel were gently grilled, its natural sweetness intensified by the sweet crust, and by the crunchy petals of caramelized onion and the contrast of bitter grated radishes.

IMG_7830-Edit-EditSteamed abalone, abalone liver

IMG_7835-Edit-EditFresh water eel, sweet onion, grated white radish

Much of the cooking was expressed in the language of broth, in which Chef Ishikawa is well-versed. A thick, glossy one coated pink, tender slices of duck breast and soft wax gourd. A crystal clear one surrounded delicate shreds of horse hair crab loosely molded into a ball, topped with a rich, creamy dollop of crab butter and paved with seasonal vegetables. A bowl of steamed rice laced with slivers of blackthroat seaperch was accompanied by a miso soup of improbably depth. You wouldn’t expect these broths to be all that different from one another, but they were in fact so distinct, the contours of their flavors so precise and nuanced, that changing a single thing about them doesn’t bear thinking about.

IMG_7840-Edit-EditJapanese duck stew, simmered wax gourd

IMG_7843-Edit-EditHorse hair crab, seasonal vegetables

IMG_7853-Edit-EditIMG_7854-Edit-EditSteamed rice with blackthroat seaperch, miso soup, pickled vegetables

There is no ego to be found in Chef Ishikawa’s food. Nor is there a desire to dazzle and impress. Instead, what you experience is every ingredient at its simplest and most natural, cooked with all the heart and respect they deserve.

IMG_7867-Edit-EditFresh grape and pear, almond jelly, coconut cream

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