KOTARO MEGURO - Abysse
Updated: Jun 22, 2021
"I really can’t stand cooking the same dishes all the time."
Why do you cook?
My grandfather was a chef in Shinbashi; he had his own kappo [traditional Japanese restaurant] there. I really, really loved my grandfather, especially when he was cooking. He passed away when I was seven. I wasn’t interested in the food because I was too young, but I just remember how fascinated I was watching him in the kitchen. When I was a high school student, I decided to be a chef. I was always interested because my mom is a nutritionist, so I grew up around food. And when I had to decide what to do for the future, I decided it would be cooking. In the second year of high school, I decided to go to culinary school instead of university. Another reason is that because most of my high school friends when to university, I wanted to do something different.
Tell me a bit about how you formulate dishes.
I notice many small things in my daily life. Like when I’m having tea, I’ll suddenly think what would it be like to make consommé with tea. And like now, I’m looking at your tea and thinking about making consommé and drinking it like tea. I like red wine and bonito, blue cheese and red wine; they all go together well, so this will be a new dish. Bonito is in season right now. I made blue cheese powder, grilled the bonito, added some walnuts and raisins.I change my dishes depending on the season. I change little by little over time. I really can’t stand cooking the same dishes all the time.
Why a seafood-only restaurant?
The first reason is because I wanted to do something that no one was doing. And I love fish; I’m good at cooking fish.
What motivates you to keep moving forward?
Other chefs really, like Hiroyasu Kawate and Shuzo Kishida who I used to work for. I feel that if I focus on fish, perhaps I can become better than they are one day. I am eager to improve and advance in my career. I can see what I am going to become, and that my food is getting better and better.
What is your earliest food memory?
I loved karaage [fried chicken], especially from my grandfather. I can still remember the taste of it. I was about four or five years old. My grandfather really liked to drink, so my family often went to a favorite izakaya to eat. The karaage was from this izakaya. I would always sit next to my grandfather, and he would share his karaage with me.
Who do you admire in the food world?
Hiroyasu Kawate is really intense about food and enjoys it so much. Shuzo Kishida, my former boss, of course, at Quintessence - I am always only thinking about food, just like him.
What was one of your most valuable experiences living in Marseilles?
I wanted to work in a Michelin-three-star restaurant in France. I wrote to them all—forty of them—and Le Petit Nice-Passedat replied. Some others did, too, but I accepted the first one that replied. I stayed in Marseilles for one year. Le Petit Nice-Passedat focused on fish, so working at this restaurant helped me decide to focus on seafood when I came back to Japan.
For you, what does it mean to be Japanese?
Our attention to detail. Everything we create is so detailed, and I am proud of this. I bring this into the kitchen.
What do you like most about Tokyo, and what do you think makes it different from other cities around the world?
I can do anything I want here. There are so many possibilities in Tokyo. If I do something unique, it’s okay here. Often in Japan, people are followers. People avoid being unique themselves, though they like unique people.
If you could share a meal with anyone, who would it be?
Ichiro, who now plays for the Miami Marlins.
Kazutoshi Sakurai, the lead vocalist of Mr. Children, a Japanese rock band.
Yutaka Take, a jockey. He’s very smart.
What cause or charity is most important to you?
I am not yet involved with a charity, but I care about food for children. I have two young children, so that’s important to me, that they eat quality food. We should be more focused on the quality of what we eat.
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Abysse has 1 Michelin Star and is listed as #38 on OAD Japan.