After working for Michel Troisgros in Roanne, chef Takeda opened his little restaurant in Azabu. At Liberté à Table de Takeda, he cooks French food that fully utilises the wealth of Japanese products.
Liberté à Table De Takeda is a small restaurant. No more than 10 tables fill the beautifully designed dining room that stretches along a small water path lined with bamboo, giving an almost rural, calm feeling to this restaurant. The service here is swift, elegant, and professional, with a wine list that is full of highly sought after producers, and smaller, lesser-known gems from around the world.
Takeda’s cooking is remarkably flavourful, and perhaps more gourmand that you might imagine when considering that he spent time in Roanne. It is more in line with the food philosophy of the Pourcel brothers, with whom he also worked. Ultimately, however, he has developed a style that incorporates a number of influences, and fully utilises Japanese produce. A small dish of gratinated shirako with a mild curry sauce serves this most Japanese of all products in a French manner. The gratinated milt makes contrasts with the creamy texture of it, and the curry sauce spices it up a little. For anyone who has never had this, and might have his or her qualms about it, this preparation might be an ideal introduction.
That Takeda can execute French classics perfectly is demonstrated by a pigeon served with truffle jus, and leeks. The meaty bird is perfectly timed: juicy, pink, and tender, it is richly flavoured, and the intense truffle jus adds an earthy element to the otherwise slightly gamey meat. The sweetness of the leeks completes the picture, and shows that this is a textbook rendition of a classical combination of flavours.
One dish that really shows the quality of Takeda’s cuisine is a piece of sea bass. Served as part of a dish that combines a number of flavours, this piece of fish epitomises what most travellers to Japan probably hope to see here: fish cookery of the highest order. To begin with, the quality of the line-caught sea bass used here is impeccable. You would struggle to find fish like this served in Europe in restaurants other than Hedone, or a handful of other addresses on the continent. The cooking is so perfectly timed that you have a reflection that resembles mother of pearl on the surface of the fish. This is a rare treat, which he see all to rarely. The meat itself is perfectly seasoned, and has a texture that is both firm, and yielding. Whilst it almost looks undercooked, it is in effect cooked so beautifully that this counts as one of the most assured pieces of fish cookery we have seen in Tokyo and easily deserving of three Michelin-stars.
Takeda’s cuisine is hedonistic, full of flavour, and utterly delightful. The restaurant’s intimate, and warm atmosphere are the perfect background for it, and it is really difficult to find anything to criticise here. The only thing that might make the restaurant even more compelling would be a more coherent menu. Whilst dishes such as the pigeon are a pure delight to eat, they seem a little out of place here, and less unique than ones such as the sea bass, or shirako.
A restaurant of this quality would undoubtedly be given a second Michelin star anywhere else in the world. In Tokyo it “only” holds one, which makes a meal there all the more surprising. The quality of the food served at Liberté à Table De Takeda is without doubts very high, and leaves us with only one wish: taste a piece of sea bass as good as the one we ate here again.