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Features

Chef on Location: Darren MacLean

Darren MacLean
Shokunin, Nupo, Eight
Calgary

WHAT IS IT ABOUT JAPAN THAT MAKES IT YOUR GO-TO TRAVEL SPOT?

Japan is a gastronomic paradise, from the very cheap to the heights of Michelin.

WHERE DO YOU LIKE TO STAY?

I like Shinjuku. It’s right in the heart of Tokyo and close to one of my favourite places to eat. Omoide Yokocho, where you can eat yakitori till you’re almost bursting, and for just a few dollars. I like to stay in APA Hotels. They are small business hotels and with incredible service and amenities, and they don’t break the bank.

WHEN A FRIEND IS VISITING, WHERE DO YOU TAKE THEM?

Shinjuku Station. It’s Japan full-on — busy, load, full of blinding lights and intoxicatingly delicious smells. There is literally every type of amazing food to try at a beginner level and some serious ramen shops littered throughout.  

WHERE DO YOU TAKE VISITORS FOR THEIR FIRST DINNER?

Dinner would be at Yoshinobu Kimura’s restaurant, Sushi M. He is one of the world’s best sommeliers and the restaurant pairs wine with the fish, which is unusual in Japan. It’s an incredible way to experience sushi and wine and cocktails together in an intimate and high-end setting. Lunch would be at Narisawa, headed by one of the best chefs in the world. As an introductory lunch, it’s perfect as you will taste specialties [from] all the Japanese islands, presented in beautiful and intelligent ways.

WHERE DO YOU GO FOR MORNING COFFEE?

Cafe Obscura. It’s a tiny shop that specializes in siphon coffee. It’s amazing to watch the whole process and I think [it’s] the most delicious way to have coffee. Think French press in a vacuum, with all the esthetics and experience of pour-over but on steroids. Or you can hit the Shinjuku Starbucks just to see the view of the center of Shinjuku.

AND LATE-NIGHT DRINKS?

Mixology Salon is my favourite cocktail bar in Tokyo. They focus on the infusions of different teas into alcohol, and it’s all presented in the finest glassware you have ever seen.

IF YOU HAD TO PICK A SINGLE FAVOURITE DISH IN SHINJUKU, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Yakitori. It’s literally the best reflection of precision. Like sushi, it requires a tremendous amount of knife work. Then it’s cooked over fire with up to 20 different cuts of chicken being cooked at one time. It is the soul of all the cuisine in Shinjuku for me.


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