Despite being hidden in a small alleyway next to a convenience store, Den may be one of the most interesting Japanese dining-spots out there. The Tokyo restaurant first made Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list in February at 37th place. Now, the World’s 50 Best has marked it as this year’s ‘One To Watch’ – due to chef Zaiyu Hasegawa’s unique and playful vision of traditional kaiseki cuisine.

Hasegawa started off at a ryotei (a traditional high-end Japanese restaurant) where his mother was working. He grew dissatisfied with the traditional style of cooking – noting in an interview that formal Japanese cuisine “lacks range… It’s not like haute couture where everything fits each customer perfectly”. With this new vision of hospitality (or, in Japanese, omotenashi) to accommodate each diner, he opened Den in 2007.

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The small intricate dishes that can be found within the restaurant have a vision of inventiveness that goes beyond many chefs out there. One of the signature dishes includes a garden salad made up of 20 different vegetables. Another is a ‘moss rock’ desert actually served on a shovel. The eight-course menu changes with the seasons.

The ‘One to Watch’ award is presented to the restaurant thought to have the most potential to move up the list of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants in the near future. Hasegawa will receive the distinction on June 13 during The World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards in Manhattan.

You can check out Den’s website over here.

Images courtesy of World’s 50 Best List. This story was written in-house, based on an AFP report.

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