The Capitol Hotel Tokyu, located in the heart of Tokyo, prides itself on offering guests the best homegrown ingredients with its food offering across its three main restaurants. Every year, the chefs at its Chinese restaurant Star Hill head to different locations across the country to discover the very best of what Japan has to offer.
In the fourth and final part of this series, the chief chef at the Chinese restaurant Star Hill Hiroaki Tsukamoto takes us through his journey to Kumamoto; a major city on the west coast of the island of Kyushu, a two hour flight from Tokyo. The prefecture is known for its mountains, including a number of active volcanoes, and its western shoreline, which is how it became known as the city of forests and water. Kumamoto is agriculturally rich thanks to its climate, experiencing large temperature fluctuations between summer and winter. It also has a great source of clean, natural groundwater that supports a bountiful amount of naturally bred livestock products and delicious natural agricultural products, which are then distributed throughout the rest of Japan. Furthermore, there is a large assortment of seafood available in Kumamoto, thanks to its western coast. It was this blessing of nature that inspired Chef Hiroaki Tsukamoto to create a menu full of ingredients from Kumamoto, including Amakusa Daiou chicken, Japanese red cattle beef fillet, and a seedless and sweet shiranui citrus. Other key ingredients included in the Kumamoto fair are salt tomatoes, characterised by their high sugar content and cultivated in soil that contains a high amount of mineral, Japanese tiger prawns, Japanese cutlassfish, dried phantom shiitake mushroom, burdock root cultivated in paddy fields, and the famous local dish “karashi renkon”, which is deep fried lotus root filled with mustard miso paste. The menu was based on which ingredients would be available in the first quarter of 2021, to give customers the most optimum taste of Kumamoto’s produce.
Chef Hiroaki has had an interest in food since he was a child and has been working at The Capitol Tokyu Hotel’s Star Hill for 30 years. When asked about what discoveries he made in Kumamoto on his search for ingredients, Hiroaki said: “At the Amakusa Daiou chicken breeding facility, chicks are raised in calm, peaceful spaces while listening to music. By doing so, they can be raised without stress, increasing their productivity, and making their meat more tender. I’ve never seen such a way of raising chickens before. There is also the local red cattle beef which is a little fat in terms of meat quality, making it lean meat, but you can still enjoy its taste.” Chef Hiroaki’s favourite dish on the menu is the Japanese red cattle beef fillet, steamed in lotus leaves with sticky rice, dried shiitake mushrooms and dried bamboo shoots. The dish has a beautiful rich fragrance and flavour that is typical of Chinese cuisine. As his other recommendation, the sweetness of the cuttlefish is just right for the texture of the lotus root, and the harmony of the mustard.
Chef Hiroaki gave his top tips for visitors to Kumamoto:
Located in Aso Kujū National Park in Kumamoto prefecture, Daikanbo is the name given to the prime viewpoint of Mount Aso, situated on the northern edge of the caldera wall on the highest of Mount Aso’s peaks. From Daikanbo, you can enjoy a 360-degree panorama, and if the weather is nice, you can see a mysterious sea of clouds from autumn to winter.
Photo credit: https://kumamoto.guide/spots/detail/211
Amakusa Gokyo (Pearl Line)
Amakusa Gokyo, or Amakusa Five Bridges, is the collective name of five bridges (Tenmon-bashi, Ooyano-bashi, Nakano-hashi, Maeshima-bashi, and Matsushima-bashi) which connect the mainland of Kyushu and the Amakusa Islands, a total distance of 12 kilometres, and are renowned as the “Amakusa Pearl Line”. Each bridge has a different designer, giving each its own unique appearance and structure, making it a regular tourist attraction and a popular driving route.
Photo credit: https://kumamoto.guide/en/spots/detail/11519
The Capitol Hotel Tokyu, which has recently celebrated 10 years of luxury, has been described as an elegant cocoon of Japanese comfort. The hotel boasts 251 rooms with 14 luxury suites on offer. The hotel also features a number of exclusive restaurants, art installations and architecture designed by Kengo Kuma. Next door to Hie Shrine - one of Tokyo’s most important religious buildings - the hotel offers guests the unique opportunity of experiencing shinto traditions up close. In the other direction lies Japan’s Diet building - workplace of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga - and views over the high-rise filled metropolis. A regular haunt of VIP visitors, politicians and famous faces, The Capitol Hotel Tokyu offers guests a discreet space in which to relax. Within its walls the hotel offers three restaurants, between them serving a variety of teppanyaki, kaiseki, sushi, Chinese and modern Japanese favourites. The all-day dining restaurant, ORIGAMI is another favourite of the locals and travelers. A pool, spa, bar and pastry boutique are all in-house for hotel guests keen to unwind at the end of a long day of discovery in Japan’s metropolis.