'Toshiro': the student becomes the master

© Saskia Vanderstichele

It’s a moving, almost biblical, moment when the student becomes the master. Formerly Sang-Hoon Degeimbre’s right-hand man, Toshiro Fuji is now following his own path. And it’s sublime.

An exceptional evening without the slightest faux pas. That’s what we experienced one Saturday night, when we tried the eponymous restaurant run by Toshiro, the devoted chef who, for a long time, lived in the shadow of Sang-Hoon Degeimbre. Everyone knows Degeimbre, that two-Michelin-star talent who revitalised the restaurant scene in Wallonia with L’Air du Temps. It’s a beautiful story of transmission, situated in the same premises where another chef, Saburo Inada, for a long time created exceptional dishes.

The place’s modesty strikes you. The minimalist decor is suggestive of Japan, with its bands of material attached to the walls, natural wood beams framing the space, and well-designed details, such as the natural stone counter where they place the plates. On the ceiling, they have achieved an aesthetic stroke of genius, through the juxtaposition of a myriad of lights with off-white lampshades. The kitchen is at the back, behind a glass wall which, through its coloured filter, actually hides the ovens rather than displaying them. We interpreted that as the choice of a modest chef who prefers to disappear behind his dishes.

So let’s talk about those dishes: they carry you away; they take you on a journey. In the evenings, there are two menu options for people who love a top-notch dining experience, one with five courses (€70, or €100 with the selection of wines) and one with seven courses (€90, or €140 with the wine pairings). We opted for the shorter one, which was an absolutely flawless wonder. We will describe just three of the highlights, so as not to spoil the surprise for those who are curious.

First, an astounding dish with cuttlefish and cauliflower prepared three ways (roasted, raw, and with vinegar). We particularly enjoyed the cuttlefish, which was extremely finely sliced, like thin laces, and served with a cuttlefish-ink sauce. The skrei, the famous cod from Arctic waters, was even more astounding. It was cooked to perfection and presented like an abstract painting paying homage to springtime. It was flavoured with bottarga, celery, and a citrus fruit that is not easy to use, combava.

We were equally blown away by their desserts, which included a dish that combined rice pudding, a biscuit base with matcha tea, shiso sorbet, and rich praline. Every one of Toshiro’s dishes is a world of its own and employs the entire vast range of flavour delights, from crunchiness to freshness to creaminess. What’s more, the service is discreet and attentive, and the sommelier fetched a vintage Anagramme (a gem for only €38!) from the cellar of the former owner of the premises. Inada can rest assured, the fruit of his life’s work is in good hands.

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