Tokyo, Japan

Poetry on the plate from a musician-turned-artist of the kitchen


On the Pass

Yusuke Namai

Who and what? Chef Yusuke Namai opened Ode in September 2017. It’s his first self-owned restaurant, but his talent and inventive modern cuisine were already on show at his previous location, the diminutive but much-loved Chic Peut Être, where he won his first Michelin star. It took him just over a year to repeat the feat at Ode.

Stylish but welcoming: Chic but casual, Ode’s decor is a meditation on the colour grey, from the front door to the ceiling, walls and countertop that runs the length of Namai’s open kitchen. The same monochrome colourway even extends to some of the dishes on his multi-course omakase menus.

Any standouts? Namai brings a depth of visual artistry and playfulness to his cuisine, best expressed in his signature grey-on-grey sardines with wagyu beef and anchovy meringue. Other dishes reference pop culture influences from his youth.

Any other influences? A self-taught chef, he was especially struck by the books of Michel Bras. In the kitchen, it was the experience of working with pioneering Japanese chef Masa Ueki in the mountains of Nagano.

Long and winding road: Namai did not start cooking for a living until well into his 20s, when he began helping in the kitchen of a music club where he used to play. The chef's first love was rock: he’s a guitarist (and self-professed Keith Richards fan) and still keeps his instrument close at hand in the kitchen.