From ¥4,000 (per person without drinks)
The cozy wine-cave like room is romantic
Oyster risotto; smoked duck breast with rucola and parmigiano
It’s a long walk from Kiba station
2F, 5-11-2 Toyo, Koto-ku
Nearest station: Kiba (Tozai line)
Open Tue-Sat 6-10 pm (LO), Sun 6-9pm (LO). Lunch is by reservation only two days in advance, noon-1:30pm. Closed Mon, second Sun of the month and Tue lunch
Across the Sumida river, in a quiet residential neighborhood of Koto Ward, is a little corner of Firenze. Trattoria i’ bischero feels like a country inn—open and airy, with an uncluttered, spacious interior rich with wood and stone.
The owner and chef, Tomoya Hayakawa, started his working life in a Tokyo chemical company. But after a couple of years he got restless, so he quit and went to Italy to knock around. With no formal training, he was lucky enough to land a job in Trattoria Pandemonio, a small family-run eatery in Firenze. Hayakawa had to learn everything from scratch by doing all the chores—washing up, cleaning, shopping, prep work and, finally, cooking.
He stayed there four years and, by eating each meal with the family and staff of the trattoria, Hayakawa totally re-educated his tongue to Italian tastes. Every dish, he said, was fresh and simply prepared. He takes the same approach in his own restaurant: simple tastes, but a little sophisticated, with no extra arrangement or garnishes.
Some great dishes to try this season are the oyster risotto (¥1,600), which balances creamy rice, properly al dente, with the sparkling fresh taste of the sea; or the risotto al gorgonzola e radicchio rosso (¥1,700), which marries that savory cheese with the satisfying bitterness of the vegetable.
Carne lovers should try the filetto d’anatra affumicata con rucola e parmigiano (¥2,600): tender duck breast, lightly smoked, and glazed with the subtle sweetness of honey, then sliced and laid on a bed of fresh rucola with generous shavings of parmigiano cheese. Or perhaps the classic steak dish, tagliata di manzo (¥2,800), a wonderful cut of beef, freshly grilled, sliced, blessed with salt, pepper and olive oil, then presented on a plate of bright green rucola.
One dish that I order every visit is Hayakawa’s take on fagioli bottarga de muggine di Sardegna (¥1,400). How he gets those white beans to stay firm, yet tender, infused with the amber, almond-like briny taste of the gray mullet roe is a delicious mystery. His pastas too, such as the spaghetti di cecco pomodoro fresco e carciofi (¥1,500) with fresh tomatoes and artichokes, are always expertly prepared. Relax, take your time, and pick and choose your way through the à la carte menu. It’s perfectly OK to share a dish too.
Hayakawa chose his off-the-beaten-path location on purpose. “Only those people who care enough about Italian food to come to Kiba will find me,” he says. He was right.