In the constellation of the best restaurants in Milan that offer Japanese cuisine as faithful as possible to that present in the Land of the Rising Sun, Iyo Omakase shines with a particularly lively light.
This is the latest project born from the cosmopolitan and visionary mind of the entrepreneur Claudio Liu, who distinguished himself in the Milanese panorama in recent years for his Iyo Group brand which includes Iyo Experience (in 2015 it was the first ethnic restaurant in Italy to receive a star Michelin) and Aji (innovative and modern delivery, opened in 2018). 2019 was the year of the opening of Iyo Aalto (during 2021, in full pandemic, he obtained a Michelin star) located inside the first floor of the prestigious Torre Solaria, in the square dedicated to the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto.
Iyo Omakase is a "restaurant within the restaurant" because it is located right inside the Iyo Aalto structure: it looks like a precious and mysterious soundproof box, made of canaletto walnut bosierie, embellished with details in brass, glass and leather, overlooking the Libreria degli Alberi and Bosco Verticale.
Iyo Omakase presents with only one menu, called omakase ("I trust you"): it is the sushi master who chooses which courses to prepare, the customer lets himself be guided in a path of tastes and emotions.
Claudio Liu's project was in fact from the very beginning to bring the typical Tokyo gastronomic ritual to Milan, without compromise: the mission is to discover the origin of true sushi in pure Edomae style. The roots of this particular style date back to the Bunsei era (1818-30), the final phase of the Edo period (ancient name of the capital Tokyo).
The Edomae-zushi is characterized by an obsessive attention to the raw material (the menu changes daily depending on the availability of the market and the seasonality of the ingredients) and for the preparation of sushi. It is a ritual that has nigiri as its main protagonists, prepared one by one by the sushi master and tasted at the moment using the hands (as per etiquette) in a climb of fatness and umami (white, red, marinated and finally cooked fish), without the need for additional toppings. Everything is interspersed with soups, meat and fish dishes, fresh vegetables and sashimi.
The working tools are also part of this experience: the knives, the shark skin wasabi grater, the sumibiyaki grill, the soy sauce containers depicting Mount Fuji and the Itsukushima shrine, the boiling oshiboro and the port vegetable shaped ceramic chopsticks (exquisitely kawaii element).
In the dining room, the customer has his back to sake barrels, which make the environment even more characteristic. The solemn silence at the beginning of the journey is interrupted only by the precise and cordial gestures of Miwa Saito who, in kimono, pampers those present with countless attentions. The all-Italian savoir-faire (in typical Iyo style) is the prerogative of the sommelier Savio Bina: the knowledge of him to say the least sartorial will allow you to enjoy the path with the best possible combinations. Not only sake, tea and infusions, at Iyo Aalto wines are one of the most exciting peculiarities: there is in fact a spectacular wall cellar capable of holding up to 1600 bottles with six different temperature zones.
The sushi counter is instead a project by Maurizio Lai. From a retractable door appear as if in a theater the sous chef Ivano Borracino (humble, precise and skilled entertainer of Apulian origins) and the sushi master Masashi Suzuki.
Japanese from Tokyo, Suzuki san started working in Yamanashi prefecture. He moved to Milan in 2001, working at the desk of Tomoyoshi Endo, Sol Levante and Osaka before joining Iyo Omakase.
The chefs work quietly and concentrated, but as the tasting proceeds, we unbutton ourselves a little, exchange a few words or show our appreciation with our eyes.
The omakase begins with kombu broth, umeboshi and gold leaf.
A perfect entrée to reset the palate.
We proceed with the sakizuke, or the tastings.
The first is composed of squid divided into its parts, sesame, pea puree, katsuobushi, ginger, soy, dashi broth with soy separately.
The second is sake mussels with their sauce, mussel water with yuzu zest aside.
Then the sashimi of red tuna and yellowtail seared on the grill and smoked in hay is served. The dressing is based on soy, white sesame oil, daikon, kizami wasabi. Aside, soy sauce and ponzu sauce.
The path is broken by the owan served in urushi, precious hand-lacquered bowls of enchanting beauty. Inside is a dashi broth soup, clams, scallops, asparagus, courgette flowers and lime.
This is followed by the prized gindara, Alaskan black cod in miso sauce (active fermentation) accompanied with edamame seared in extra virgin olive oil and sesame oil.
At this point begins the emotional climb of nigiri.
After this moving path, it's time to cleanse your mouth with dezato, a sweet with an evanescent consistency, made with yuzu, sudachi and a delicate crumble.
Then comes matcha tea (connoisseurs like me will appreciate the goodness of this so refined ceremonial quality), accompanied by small pastries: black chocolate truffle and tonka bean, coconut marshmallow.
How best to conclude if not with an alcoholic? Here the customer is given the opportunity to choose their own glass sakazuki (the choice is difficult because they are all wonderful) to toast to the sound of "kanpai" with the chefs and the rest of the diners, opting for sake, umeshu or shochu.
Reaching such a level of perfection is not simply for everyone: behind this experience there is a lot of research and hard work. This omakase is free from smudges and defects, I recommend it to all those who love Japanese cuisine in a visceral way and know how to appreciate an immersive and all-encompassing experience.
If you want to give this tasting to a loved one, gift cards are also available (one includes wine pairing).
The price is obviously important, but totally justified. You will leave Iyo Aalto after trying Iyo Omakase ecstatic, moved and, I can assure you, already nostalgic. Really congratulations!