|An elegant corner of Szechwan Restaurant Akasaka, Tokyo, Japan.|
Szechwan Restaurant Akasaka has been serving Szechwan cuisine in Tokyo since 1970, and is famous as being the first restaurant to introduce Szechwan cuisine to Japan. The current owner, Chen Kenichi - son of the founder - is also famous as the "Iron Chef Chinese" on the Iron Chef TV series.
Kenichi's son, Kentaro, runs another of the several Szechwan Restaurants in Tokyo: the Szechwan Restaurant Chen, in Shibuya.
A group of us went to Szechwan Restaurant Akasaka last Sunday for dinner, and we chose it because one of us is a vegetarian, and Szechwan Restaurant, with its extensive choice of tofu-based dishes, has a reputation for particularly vegetarian friendly Chinese food.
|The delicious start to our meal at Szechwan Restaurant Akasaka, Tokyo.|
Szechwan Restaurant is on the 5th and 6th floor, with a somewhat elegant entrance, albeit in that heavy, wooden Chinese style, but relieved by being bright and spacious. Inside the restaurant is quite plain, with just a few big paintings and pieces of calligraphy on the walls as decoration. For friends, the atmosphere is great: unpretentious and friendly, but the lack of sophistication in the decor might not make it the ideal spot for that someone special.
|Plain and simple interior, Szechwan Restaurant Akasaka, Tokyo.|
This lack of pretension extends to the food which could also be described as quite plain, but the kind of plainness you know would be fiendishly difficult to reproduce yourself. The accent is on the innate flavors of the ingredients.
There are course meals (about 20,000 yen with a minimum order of two people), but we went for a la carte, served in a pot from which everyone helped themselves, or which we got a waiter to dish out for us.
First up was eggplant in pickled chili pepper sauce, stewed to tenderness without any mushiness, together with sliced onion, and served with a slice of lemon. The browned string beans with ground pork were still quite firm and with some crunch, and accompanied by a very crunchy deep-fried rice cracker.
The two most memorable dishes for me were the chicken wings, which were stewed to a really nice tenderness and which, like everything else, were not over-seasoned. The other, the spicy tofu dish, was memorable for being incredibly spicy - too much for my liking, it actually made me cough and sneeze (and I'm basically a big fan of spicy, as in Indian food!)
|Tofu, the spiciest dish of the evening at Szechwan Restaurant Akasaka, Tokyo.|
Some of us had the mango shaved ice for dessert, others the rice cake with coconut.
One other flavor that will stick in my mind - along with that chicken - is the pu-erh tea served at Szechwan Restaurant Akasaka. It was superb: the perfect balance between a no-nonsense cuppa and exotically fragranced tea. It was so good I asked if I could buy a jar, which they graciously let me do.
|Mango and shaved ice at Szechwan Restaurant Akasaka, Tokyo - with that delicious pu-erh tea.|
Lunch at Szechwan Restaurant Akasaka starts at about 3,000 or 4,000 yen per head, with dinner starting at about 5,000 or 6,000 yen.
Hours: 11.30am-3pm (last order 2pm), 5pm-10pm (last order 9pm), open every day except at Year End/New Year.
5F, 6F, Zenkoku Ryokan Kaikan, 2-5-5 Hirakawacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-0093
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