Assistant Eater


“This is my son!” Zaiyu Hasegawa exclaims as he brings out Puchi, his cute chihuahua, to greet the customers. Both are visibly enjoying this and clearly know the drill – after all, making people feel welcome is what Puchi and his owner know best. Dining at Den feels very much like a family affair, or at the very least, like having a meal at friend’s.

The restaurant is cosy and well hidden away. Forget about finding it without the handy instructions sent by the staff: we rescued some fellow diners by pointing out that Den is in fact behind the door that says Le Gaulois. Can’t help but think that it’s all part of the experience – you are so relieved by finding it that it makes you feel instantly relaxed and at home once you sit down.

Zaiyu’s cheeky personality is in every dish. From the starter that is meant to look like a traditional Japanese dessert, to the signature DFC chicken served in a takeaway box with chef’s face on it, to the salad with smiley faces.

The staff don’t need to ask what people think of their dishes – Zaiyu can easily see the smiles on our faces from the open kitchen. So when they offer a second portion of rice with mushrooms to anyone who wants a top up, I’d kick myself if I did not have more of this delicious goodness.

The food they serve here is modern kaiseki, the style of Japanese cuisine involving a series of small dishes. There are many loyal regulars. In fact, getting a booking at Den is an adventure in itself – they like to know their guests before they arrive. If you do manage to book a table, whether or not you are a well-travelled foodie, you will enjoy it. Den’s hospitality has been noted numerous times and it has the awards to show for it. What strikes me is the character and the perceived simplicity of dishes. Nothing feels out of place. It’s authentic and homely and fun.

Den is again on the World’s 50 Best list, this year featuring as number 11. They are also number 3 on Asia’s 50 Best restaurants. My friend Google tells me that they have two Michelin stars. Surprised? Not at all. I only wish it was my local.

Taste of London is, in the words of the organisers, a “showcase of the capital’s best restaurants, top chefs and leading food and drink brands”. For me it is something else. It’s an opportunity to spend a few hours outdoors (preferably not in the rain) and to sample different food, often from the places I did not know existed.

The next one is going to be in November, at the Tobacco Dock. Are you coming?


Mirazur is a contemporary restaurant in a quaint French town of Menton, just a stone throw away from Italy.

The location is anything but perfect. The main dining room of the restaurant is overlooking the sea and the old town with the small harbour and a clock tower. It’s a perfect spot for a romantic dinner, even if you are not into fine dining.

The restaurant is a short distance away from the town centre. You can come here by taxi, or you could stroll along the sea front, as we did. It’s not crowded like Nice or Monaco. And you can enjoy the Azure Coast views and the evening sea breeze all by yourself.

The chef, Mauro Colagreco, has been on San Pelegrino’s Best Chefs list for at least five years. The restaurant earned its first Michelin star in 2007, and the second one in 2012. Yet, Mirazur is not the name that springs to mind when I think of the world’s top restaurants. To admit my ignorance, I did not know it existed until my partner booked a table for dinner there. Now, that I’ve been there, I have a theory why that is.

The dishes are delicate, well executed, but somewhat understated. If you are expecting an Argentinian flair, you will not find it here. As the chef himself described in one of his interviews, he “left his cultural and culinary past behind him, so that he could start from scratch”.

His signature dish – Beetroot and oscietre caviar – is refined and unusual. Kudos also go to the sommelier; the wine paired with this course and most of the others worked wonderfully.

We chose the set menu with the chef’s classic dishes. Scampi with garden vegetables and chamomile consomme, Oyster Gillardeau, Hake fish and Pigeon from Marie Le Guen were equally well executed.

The chef’s understated style is also noticeable in deserts. Apple Granny Smith soup was my favourite.

As I am writing this post, the results of the World’s 50 Best awards is out. Mirazur takes the 3rd place, overtaken only by Osteria Francescana and El Celler de Can Roca. Well deserved? Perhaps. Am I surprised? For sure.

So, you’ve made it to our Travel section. Well done! But this is of course not really a travel blog, so do not expect a list of attractions to visit. You can find plenty of those on TripAdvisor and Having said that, I cannot resist this quote from The Independent, as I can echo what it says, but from the food perspective.

“Copenhagen is regularly voted the happiest city in the world, and has in recent years become something of a beacon for hipsters, given its eminently Instagrammable streets and the supremacy of Danish design”.  – The Independent

And why not be happy? Rene Redzepi and Noma not only put Copenhagen on the tourist map again. But they also contributed to this city’s exploding food scene. Former sous chefs, apprentices and mere admirers. The new Nordic cuisine is a force to be reckoned with.

So, here’s my list of the places to try. Bear in mind, the reservations for the first two may be tricky (to say the least).

  1. Noma: Refshalevej 96, 1432 København K
  2. Geranium: Per Henrik Lings Allé 4, 8, 2100 København Ø
  3. Stud!o: Havnegade 44, 1058 København K
  4. Amass: Refshalevej 153, 1432 København K
  5. Bror: Skt. Peders Stræde 24A, 1453 København K
  6. Hija de Sanchez: 8 Slagterboderne, 1716 København V
  7. Restaurant Shonnemann: Hauser Plads 16, 1127 København K

It’s not your usual cookbook. The back story to this one is as remarkable, as the recipes it contains and as the chefs that contributed them. The Expo 2015 in Milan had a theme “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”, which gave Massimo the idea to set up a pop up serving food cooked with the waste from Expo.

“I invited friends and colleagues to cook during the six months of Expo. I called forty chefs in one day asking for their support. Most of them said, “Yes, we will come,” even before I posed the question. Far too often at our restaurants and the food festivals we attend, we are only speaking to the converted. I asked them all, “Wouldn’t it be refreshing to cook for people who had no idea who we were?” – Massimo Bottura

And so they came. The rock stars of modern cuisine – Ferran and Albert Adria, Alex Atala, Joan Roca, Rene Redzepi, Matt Orlando, Alain Ducasse – just to name a few.

Each chapter has a story about the chefs in question, often with funny anecdotes about their experience in Milan. You can almost hear Massimo’s voice, as you read through these nostalgic and warm memories. It’s his tribute to his friends, as much as a contribution to the good cause.

The recipes , some simple, some not so simple, have one common theme: making extraordinary food out of less then perfect ingredients. See, for instance, Ragu of Everything (Ferran & Albert Adria), Chicken on Sticks with Soy Sauce and Popcorn (Alex Atala), Salmorejo (Joan Roca), Hamburger alla Parmigiana with Eggplant chips and Apple Puree (Antonio, Alberto & Giovanni Santini).

The two I already tried are Summer Vegetables and Beans and Pasta with Mint and Breadcrumb Pesto, both by Massimo Bottura himself. The last one can also be viewed on Munchies. So many more to try!


Ever since this place opened in 2016, it’s been on our list of places to visit. The time has come and we finally managed to get ourselves over there this Easter.

The venue is great, in a typical Nordic modern style, very spacious and cool. The restaurant is adjacent to a quaint bar with the same name, where diners can have their pre- or post- dinner drinks.

The place already has a Michelin star, so we decided to go for a 8 servings tasting menu to try as much as this restaurant has to offer. And what a big mistake.

Neither of the first two courses (Lumpfish Roe & Baerii Sturgeon) were particularly impressive. The Yellow Beets that followed were interesting, but rather oily. The Lumpfish Head to Tail was the only course of the whole menu that I actually liked. With every subsequent course that followed the promise of an enjoyable meal got fainter.

As we were waiting for the courses to come, I was reading this review in The Telegraph and wondering to myself which restaurant that writer visited, as I failed to match his description to my immediate experience. At the end, presented with the €200 per person bill, we had nothing but a soured feeling of being cheated. So, is it the new Noma? Definitely not.

Having been to the Osteria now 5 times, this last visit was the best of them all. Not just for the dishes, but how the whole experience evolved in the last couple of years. The wine pairing went from strength to strength. And the service, as always, is impeccable.

Unsurprisingly our motley crew went for the Tutto menu, which is translated as Everything.

It starts with the Insalata di mare, not your usual kind of course. This variation reminded me of the earlier Caesar salad, much improved and full of flavour.

The next act, Mediterranean sole, is equally memorable. It’s light airy texture immediately associated with the title, which is no doubt a word play.

Then comes Burnt. As explained by the waiter, it’s meant as a jest towards one of the regions of Italy, where nearly every dish is a roast, and nearly every dish is… burnt.

Autumn in New York comes in a shape of big apple. It’s full of colour and flavour.

And then, of course, the legendary Five ages of Parmigiano Reggiano. To start with a cliche, you haven’t lived if you have never tried the Five ages, the dish with a back story so wonderfully explained in the Netflix series.

Simply divine. The flavours and textures are hard to describe. Soufflé, sauce, foam, wafer and air are combined in one dish in perfect harmony. And while this is a classic, for me it’s truly a pinnacle of the experience.

The menu is not finished yet and still more dishes to follow, but the rest of the evening for me is a bit of a reminiscence of the five ages that finished so quickly and an anticipation of the next classic, the Lemon tart. As our waiter points out, Oops, they dropped it again.

Osteria Francescana

Via Stella, 22

41121 Modena


Tel. +39 059/223912