On September 15, 2017, Gastronomia Yamamoto opens in Via Amedei 5: the restaurant that finally offers Japanese home cooking without sushi.
Milan boasts many Asian restaurants, many Japanese. And the authentic Japanese? Too few. Although the fashion of Japanese cuisine has meant that there is a sushi restaurant on every street corner, actually eating good Japanese is almost a challenge. And those who love this kind of cuisine know it well. Most restaurants, by the way, have on the menu a whole range of dishes very different and distant from each other; this in Japan does not exist since there are different venues precisely for type of food served (ramen bars, sushi restaurants, izakaya…). Untangling yourself in this labyrinth of compromised authenticity is often a daunting task, much more so because in many kitchens chefs don’t even come from the Rising Sun. Yet in a city where uncertainty reigns supreme, there is a restaurant where the promise of home-made food in a familiar and welcoming environment is kept for real. But as is to be expected, the road ahead is long to achieve a great result.
The protagonist of Gatronomia Yamamoto is the young Aya, born in Tokyo and moved to Milan when she was four years old with her family for her father’s work needs. The latter died in 1998 and Shih Chy, the housewife mother, decided in 2004 to open Zakuro, the first restaurant in Milan without sushi or sashimi on the menu: a crazy and brilliant decision at the same time. Crazy because already at that time Italians thought of Japanese cuisine only and exclusively in function of sushi, brilliant because it would be the first restaurateur to unveil the culinary Japan of everyday life. Aya, after studying in London, returns to Milan to try her hand at giving a new course to her mother’s previous project: she opens Yamamoto Gastronomy, the first washoku cooking venue. It is a series of dishes cooked daily by grandparents and wives for children and family, recognized by Unesco as a World Heritage Site.
Initially Gastronomia Yamamoto was a place designed for takeaway. Of this premise remains the large counter at the entrance where at lunch you can see the various bento-boxes intended for sale to take away. In fact, the choice to leave the counter was dictated by the need to show customers what is possible to eat in this place: in fact, there is still a great distrust on the part of Italians towards a Japanese food that does not present fish Raw. It seems almost impossible for the Japanese to eat anything but sushi and so it is important for Aya Yamamoto to show what is prepared in the kitchen. Many customers have been convinced and appreciated this home cooking, so much so that many are regulars that the Yamamoto family knows by name.
The restaurant consists of two simple rooms, minimalist. Illustrations and photographs by several authors are displayed on the walls. They are renewed every season to give space to authors who demonstrate a strong sensitivity and passion towards Japan. The idea behind this choice is to want to be a home even for those who want to show the Rising Sun from another point of view. There are two chefs in the kitchen: Himeno Shun, formerly Sushi B, and Yasuhiro Matsumoto, originally from Kyushu and formerly Osaka. The preparation of both is of the highest level, as well as the raw materials: the meats and vegetables are strictly from Lombardy. For more specific ingredients found only in Japan, chefs turn to trusted suppliers. The staff in the room is kind, fast and attentive. Takara Sato is very prepared and will be able to advise any dish or drink to your taste. Aya, who kindly wanted to answer my questions, also enlightened me on the staff’s closeness and how mutual collaboration is also fundamental in the choice of menu:
I “study” cooking as a self-taught — I have a lot of cookbooks at home, when I travel I always try to go and do a cooking class and then I always watched my family cook! The staff took place through word of mouth and for personal knowledge.The core team (so we, cooks and room) begin the research about 4 months before the launch of the new menu. We sit down, think about a basic theme to get inspired, then we start creating a list and then do the tests in the kitchen to see if it’s feasible.
As anticipated, at Gastronomia Yamamoto you can order the bento boxes (which change daily) at lunch; both lunch and dinner menus change depending on seasonal foods. And both are presented as in Japan with a colorful and plastic cover. At lunch, for example, you can enjoy grilled salmon with salt, donburi, curry, tonkatsu sandwich, chicken teriyaki and una-don. All dishes are presented as sets that include miso soup, rice, tsukemono and often salad. At dinner, however, the menu offers kabocha no nimono, potato salad (prepared according to the traditional recipe, of course, which includes mayonnaise Kewpie), hijiki with aburaaghe, kiriboshi daikon, eggplant and peppers sautéed with miso, edamame, onigiri, mackerel miso , wa-fu steak and chicken tempura. The deserts are handmade, there are cakes, dorayaki, matcha tiramisù and sorbets. Drinks include Japanese beers, sake, umeshu, Italian wines, shochu and Japanese whiskey.
My final judgment on Gastronomia Yamamoto is positive as regards the goodness of the preparations and the choice of fresh and genuine ingredients. But unfortunately it is not enough. However, since it is essentially home cooking, it is almost impossible to find Japanese among the customers, since the dishes offered are those that are usually cooked and eaten at home in Japan, not at the restaurant.
The environment is illuminated with a very strong light, there is no atmosphere (everything reminds me of a child's bedroom or a kindergarten room ...). The final price is also decidedly high, almost certainly due to the position. I will not return.