The head chef of Zouk’s latest dining venture shares the places he frequents in Tokyo when he is back home

Japanese chef Ryoichi Nakatani brings a wealth of experience to the kitchen, having been in the culinary industry for over 20 years. Originally from the Chiba Prefecture (near Tokyo), Nakatani spent his first few years as a chef-in-training doing random tasks such as deliveries, cutting fish and assisting with preparations for restaurants. He continued to pursue his craft at the famed Tsukjii Fish Market (now called Toyosu Market) in Tokyo, where he found his niche in Edomae sushi (also known as Tokyo-style sushi). Today, he helms Sushi Ichizuke in Singapore, the modern sushi-ya where diners can have a taste of his traditional Edomae cuisine.

While Nakatani is busy cooking up omakase delights for his guests, he can't help but be reminded of home. He takes a trip down memory lane and shares what he longs for now that he is far from home. 

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When was your last trip back home? How did you spend your holiday there?

Ryoichi Nakatani (RN): I haven’t returned to Japan since I moved to Singapore four years ago. However, when I do go back for a holiday, my main focus will be to spend as much time as possible with family and friends. 

What do you miss most on the food/drink front when you are away from home or haven’t been back for a while?

RN: Definitely the Yakitori and Izakaya restaurants that I used to go to often, which I enjoy pairing with sake. 

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If you have visitors/guests with you, where do you ensure you always go to give them a real taste of home?

RN: I would take them to a kaiseki restaurant in Kyoto which showcases Japan’s food culture and seasonality.

What are your favourite heritage dishes and where are some of the places you go to find them?

RN: I love yakitori and would regularly ask my colleagues and industry people for recommendations. I frequent the Ningyo-cho and Nihonbashi areas.

What is the first dish you eat when you return and where do you go for it?

RN: Sushi. I will go to the restaurant I used to work at in Tsukiji for it. 

Do you have a favourite restaurant at home? For fine dining and for more casual experiences? 

RN: I really enjoy Kitcho, which is a fine-dining Kaiseki restaurant. And for something more causal, Ichiran Ramen is my pick.

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Where do you like to meet up with your old friends for food/drinks

RN: My friends and I love visiting a standing Izakaya in Nihonbashi, which is located under the railway.

Is there anywhere else that you never miss visiting when you are back?

RN: I will most definitely be paying Ise Shrine and Fushimi Inari Shine a visit. I used to go there frequently to pray. 

What do you always take back to Singapore with you when you leave home?

RN: Japanese whisky, which is much cheaper and easier to get in Japan. And, household items which I can’t find here.

Where do you go to find authentic flavours of home where you live?

RN: I enjoy going to Yakitori Yatagarasu (Circular road) and Yakitori Uma (Cuppage), where it feels and taste a little bit like home.

I am also always on the hunt for new places to try and would ask other chefs for their recommendations or check the Japanese Community Magazines.   

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