Mar 3, '24

Celebrating Japanese scallops at Roketsu, Europe’s best kaiseki restaurant

Scallops are often defined by their unique visual beauty, shape and distinct colour duo, and found within a pearly sheened shell, which can be used to make ornaments and the like. Yet they are also abundant in nutrients, rich in protein as well as vitamin B12 and minerals and low in fat. With a brilliant sweetness and flavour, they can be eaten raw, used in sushi or sashimi, but also be grilled, sautéed or as an ingredient in pasta or risotto dishes. 

Japanese scallops grilled in three different ways: soy glazed scallop, with grey mullet bottarga powder and white miso with yuzu at Roketsu, London

London’s premier kaiseki restaurant, Roketsu is currently featuring a special collaboration menu using Japan sourced fish and scallops in partnership with the Japan Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries until the 15th of March. The limited-time tasting and kappo menus showcase the finest Japanese seafood, including the exceptional scallop. 

Chef-owner Daisuke Hayashi, having trained at the legendary Kikunoi ryotei in Kyoto under owner Yoshihiro Murata since he was eighteen, is a leading figure among the new generation of Japanese chefs. He brings a fresh, modern perspective to the Kyoto culinary culture, often seen as insular.  Actively involved in promoting Japanese cuisine culture, he also serves as vice-chairman of the Japanese Culinary Academy UK. 

Japanese scallop tempura in three ways: in fine crumble of rice crackers, wrapped in nori seaweed and in shiso leaf at Roketsu, London

Roketsu’s union of culture and haute cuisine is exemplified in the recent highlighting of this particular Japanese delicacy: the scallop, particularly the large and meaty scallops from Japan. These scallops, with their firm and elastic texture unique to Hokkaido, are presented in two distinct dishes that emphasise their unique flavour profile: Japanese scallop tempura in three ways (in fine crumble of rice crackers, wrapped in nori seaweed and in shiso leaf) and grilled in three different ways (soy glazed scallop, with  grey mullet bottarga powder and  white miso with yuzu).

If there is one place famous for its scallops in Japan it’s Sarufutsu village. The history of Sarufutsu village’s scallops is one of community and agricultural philosophy transformation. Situated in Hokkaido’s remote Soya region, the village played a crucial role in Japan’s scallop industry’s revival post-World War II. Spearheaded by the Sarufutsu village Fisheries Association, a pioneering initiative involved large-scale stocking of young scallops, transitioning from traditional fishing to sustainable cultivation practices. Despite financial challenges, the village mobilised support, from both residents (many of whom were living in poverty at the time) and organisations to finance the ambitious decades-long plan, resulting in the restoration of scallop populations and a steady annual catch of approximately 40,000 tons in recent years.

The name ROKETSU derives from an old story by Zhuang Zi, “得魚而忘筌、得兎而忘蹄” “Once you catch the fish, the net does not matter. Once you catch the rabbit, the snare does not matter”. Yet, I we wonder whether the scallops we savoured tasted even more succulent thanks to sustainable practices harnessed by an entire village for their regeneration. And if the dining experience is more intense and special, knowing it was crafted by a true master, in an ambiance of true mastery.

By combining the culinary mastery of Chef Daisuke Hayashi, the use of Japan sourced fish and scallops, and the exquisite interior created by the Nakamura family, Roketsu truly embodies the appeal of Japanese cuisine. Don’t miss the opportunity to indulge in this extraordinary dining experience and to savour the enchanting flavours of the scallops, a true testament to the allure of the sea’s bounty.

Lounge at Roketsu, London
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