Zaiyu Hasegawa: The One to Watch

“It’s pointless to engage in any debate about which city has the best food without mentioning Tokyo. You know why? Because of the Japanese cooks. They take and they polish and shine and they make [everything] better.”
Heady words from David Chang in Lucky Peach, but it’s an opinion hard to argue with.

Tokyo boasts more Michelin stars than any other city in the world. The Japanese are infamous for their exacting standards when it comes to the art of cooking - especially seafood.

In 2016, The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list crowned one of these chefs the One to Watch: Zaiyu Hasegawa. We’re thrilled to have him part of our MasterClass line-up this year when eight chefs who featured on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list will cook live on stage while they’re in town for the awards.

Hasegawa’s restaurant, DEN, is currently ranked number 11 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017 list. While it can be described as a traditional kaiseki in some ways (a multi-course dinner involving small intricate dishes), Hasegawa most definitely departs from tradition by expressing a real sense of humour into his food.
He describes his restaurant as “Japanese ‘fun’ dining”. Although his food is obviously and firmly rooted in tradition, almost all the dishes he sends out have a comical element about them. “I like to see people having fun,” he says, “so I’ll always try to make my dishes fun.”
Take his signature DFC, or Dentucky Fried Chicken. It comes served in a faux-KFC box with the chef’s face superimposed where the Colonel’s should be, and a tiny flag from the diner’s home country. Then there’s his signature salad, made from 20 different vegetables with tiny smiley faces cut into them. Or his take on a monaka, a wafer-like snack, normally sweet, but here filled with fois gras, Japanese persimmon and smoked radish.

The combination of playfulness with intricate technique resonates well with diners. DEN is undeniably popular – their newly relocated restaurant is booked out at least three months in advance.
Make the most of Hasegawa’s Melbourne appearance and come watch him cook live on stage. He’s so secretive – he won’t even let us tell you what that is! (he wants it to be a surprise).

Zaiyu Hasegawa at MasterClass, 1st April, 4pm, $35