Soul Kitchen

Soul Kitchen

The Nihonbashi Club’s head chef explains why creativity is a key ingredient in every dish.

"Sometimes, boom, a new dish works,” says Yasuharu Nakajima. “Sometimes, we’ll modify it two or three times, add some acid or a fresh, new ingredient. The more we collaborate, the better the result.”

As the Nihonbashi Club’s chef de cuisine, Nakajima has been instrumental in shaping the satellite facility’s culinary philosophy since it opened in March 2021. But to presume that the testing and tasting ended when the first meals were presented to diners would be a mistake.

“It’s crucial for our chefs to put thought into every dish before they start making it,” explains Nakajima, 44. “Everything from how it tastes, how it looks and how it’s eaten has to be considered.”

Overseeing a team of 10 chefs, Nakajima emphasizes innovation and high-quality, seasonal ingredients over rote reproductions of long-standing recipes. During lulls in service, chefs are encouraged to experiment with the freshest meat, fish, vegetables and herbs to conjure up such dishes as Brillat-Savarin cheese, strawberry and prosciutto crostini and lamb chops with earthy lentils and local maitake mushrooms

When they’re content with their creations, the chefs present them to Nakajima and Antonio Villasmil, the Nihonbashi Club’s services manager, who decide whether a dish requires fine tuning or is ready for inclusion on the menu of weekly specials.

This inspired, exploratory approach to cuisine has not gone unnoticed.

“One dish that stands out in my memory was a catch-of-the-day, Japanese-style white fish in dashi soup from the weekly menu,” says Nihonbashi Member Akiko Kaito, a lunch regular. “The weekly menu is always different, and I look forward to it every time.”

Truly exceptional dishes are reserved for the Nihonbashi Chef’s Table, a monthly, multicourse dinner complete with sommelier-selected wine pairings in the intimate confines of the American Room’s private dining space.

The concept, which launches this month, came about after a request for Nakajima and his team to be given carte blanche to craft a new menu.

“We have one chef who, if we need an amuse-bouche or some starters, he’ll put it together in five or 10 minutes,” says Villasmil, 45. “He’s so good at what he does, and when our chefs are given that kind of freedom, Members can tell.”

Come February 21, diners can discover why creativity in the kitchen results in elevated fare in the dining room. After all, the best meals are so much greater than the sum of their parts.

“A recipe has no soul,” Thomas Keller, the legendary chef behind The French Laundry in Napa and New York’s Per Se, once said. “You, as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe.”

That’s an ingredient available in abundance in Nakajima’s kitchen.

Nihonbashi Chef’s Table
February 21 (every third Monday) | 6–10pm

Words: Owen Ziegler
Top image of Yasuharu Nakajima: Kayo Yamawaki