Secchu Yokota
2016-12-25
Secchu Yokota

Secchu Yokota

Secchu Yokota

Secchu Yokota

Secchu Yokota

Secchu Yokota

Tempura omakase course offered at a reasonable price in a theater-like setting has quickly become the talk of the town

By Aya Ota

At the east end of the East Village district on Alphabet City which is not really an ideal location, there is a restaurant that has been consistently having a good flow of customers since its opening. It is “Seccu Yokota”. There are 8 counter seats only, and rotations are limited to only 2 per day. They serve a tempura-based omakase tasting course at $65. The restaurant gained popularity very quickly as “A place where you can get a high-quality course meal with many different dishes at a reasonable price”. They do not advertise or even have a sign in front, but they are always busy with customers who come from far away, frequent repeaters who often come monthly, etc.

The owner/chef, Atsushi Yokota, shares how the name of the restaurant came about, as “the principle of Japanese cuisine is wayo-secchu (blend of Japanese and Western style), and so is mine”. He grew up in a circumstance where both his father and the grandfather were chefs, so it was natural to get into the cooking world for Mr. Yokota who developed a delicate palate since childhood. In Japan, he started his cooking career in French cuisine. After coming to U.S. in 1998, he has continued to create imaginative and original wayo-secchu cuisine by working in various different restaurants, and by blending world-wide ingredients and Japanese and Western techniques.

The course starts with two appetizers which are full of seasonal ingredients. Mr. Yokota goes to a farmer’s market himself to procure the food ingredients, comes up with a menu according to what he purchased, and makes everything from scratch. The signature appetizer is the “Oyako Pâté”. This dish was hinted by the “Oyako Donburi” which is a very familiar dish to Japanese people, and served with pâté made from aged sashimi-grade fresh chicken mixed with soft-boiled eggs. This harmony created by the combination of pâté and eggs is superb, and represents the extracted concept of wayo-secchu. Next, you get 7 to 8 different tempura pieces consisting of vegetables and seafood cooked right in front of you. Since the restaurant is not a tempura specialty restaurant, the imagination is unconventional. Sometimes unique tempura where no other restaurant ventures such as of seaweed-marinated flounder, miso-marinated butter fish and others are served. To end the course, a rice or soba dish is usually served, but occasionally, things like tongue stew, lamb chop, curry rice, or meunière are served, which will surely tempt you to visit again. The dessert is ample in volume, and satisfying. The Japanese sake selection changes often with the season, and the volume is generous compared to other restaurants, yet the pricing is lower.

What makes it possible for them to offer such a high-quality course meal at such a reasonable price remains a secret of efficient operations and cost management. Only three staff including Mr. Yokota; 2 chefs and 1 server, works there. They share every task from dish washing to paper-work equally amongst themselves. The number of customers are set, and the menu is omakase style, which minimizes the waste of ingredients. The fixed costs such as labor and food are very well managed. Even the customers need to accept the restaurant’s system. To limit the rotations per day to 2, which starts at 6pm and 8:30pm, the cooking won’t usually start until all 8 seats are filled. If you are late, you may trouble the rest of the people waiting, so every customer needs to be conscious about punctuality. Not only for efficiency in operations, but this rule is also essential to serve temperature and time-sensitive tempura and other cooked food at the best possible timing. The restaurant can accommodate for the allergies of customers, but not for other details such as likes and dislikes in foods. They take reservations only by phone so they won’t miss explaining the system firmly in advance. “It is alright to accept only the kind of customers who love our food, and accept the system.” It sounds a bit too optimistic to me. It is a different attitude, and they are a unique presence in the restaurant industry in New York where you may find many arrogant customers at times. “The customers and the restaurant should be equal. I would like to create a trusting and respectful relationship with the customers,” Mr. Yokoto continues.

“Our restaurant is like a theater where people buy $65-tickets to enjoy a 2-and-a-half hour show.” He is confident that no one can mimic his cooking which is based on indisputable techniques and experiences. I heard that many chefs in the same industry come, and enjoy exchanging information. Please try to go “Secchu Yokota” where you can find something new and be impressed every time.


劇場型・天ぷらおまかせコースをリーズナブルに提供、瞬く間に評判に

 イーストヴィレッジ地区の東端、決して地の利がよいとは言えないアルファベットシティ付近に、開店以来、客足が途絶えることのない店がある。『折衷よこ田』―ここでは、カウンター8席のみ、1日2回転限定で、天ぷらを中心としたおまかせテイスティングコース(65ドル)を提供している。「高品質で品数も多いコース料理を、リーズナブルな値段で食べられる」と、瞬く間に評判になった。一切宣伝もせず店頭には看板もないが、口コミだけで、遠方からはるばる訪れる客や毎月のように足繁く通う客で、あふれている。

「日本料理の原点も、自分の原点も和洋折衷」と、店名の由来を語るのはオーナーシェフの横田淳志氏。祖父も父も料理人という家系で育ち、幼少の頃から繊細な味覚を養ってきた横田氏が、料理の道に進むのはごく自然な流れだった。日本では、フランス料理からキャリアをスタート。1998年に渡米後は、数々の店で、世界各国の食材と日本・西洋両方の技術を駆使し、創意工夫に富んだ和洋折衷料理を創り出してきた。

コースは、季節の食材をふんだんに取り入れた前菜2品からスタートする。横田氏自らファーマーズ・マーケットに足を運び、食材を調達し、食材に応じたメニューを考え、毎日すべてスクラッチから作っている。定番の前菜は「親子パテ」。日本人にはなじみ深い親子丼に着想を得た一品で、刺身として食べられるほど鮮度の高い鶏肉を熟成させて作るパテに、温泉卵を絡めて食べる。パテと温泉卵の調和は見事で、まさに“和洋折衷”のコンセプトが凝縮した一品だ。続いて、目の前で揚げてくれる野菜や魚介類の天ぷらが7~8品登場。天ぷら専門店ではないので発想は柔軟。昆布締めの平目や味噌漬けの真魚鰹など、他店にはない独特な天ぷらを出すこともある。シメの料理はご飯ものや蕎麦が主だが、タンシチューやラムチョップ、カレーやムニエルなどを用意する日もあるそうで、「また来たい」という気持ちがそそられる。デザートもボリュームがあり満足度が高い。日本酒は、季節に合わせて頻繁に入れ替えるそうで、他店と比較して量が多めでかつ安めの価格設定にしているという。

これだけクオリティの高いコース料理をこのリーズナブルな価格で展開できている背景には、効率よいオペレーションやコスト管理が隠されている。従業員は自身を含めてたった3人。シェフ2人、サーバー1人という構成だが、皿洗いから事務作業まで分け隔てなく分担する。また、客数もあらかじめ決まっており、メニューはおまかせなので食材のロスがない。人件費や食材など固定費をしっかり抑えている。客にも、同店のシステムを受け入れてもらう必要があると考えている。毎日2回転、6時または8時半の回があるが、原則、8人全員が揃って着席してからでないと始めない。うっかり到着が遅れると他の客に迷惑をかけてしまう仕組みなので、客は気を抜けない。これは効率面だけでなく、温度や時間管理が繊細な天ぷらや各種料理を、最高のタイミングで提供するためでもある。また、客のアレルギーには対応するが、好き嫌いなど細かいリクエストへの対応は控える。予約は電話だけで受け付けて、事前に同店のシステムをきちんと説明するように心がけている。「この店の料理を気に入って、システムを受け入れてくれる客だけが来てくれればいい」と若干強気とも取れる態度だ。時には傲慢な客も多いニューヨークのレストラン業界においては、異色な存在かもしれない。「客と店は対等。信頼して尊敬しあう関係を作りたい」と横田氏は続ける。

「店は劇場で、コース料理は、65ドルのチケットを買って楽しむ2時間半のショーのようなもの」――確かな技術と経験で作る自身の料理は、誰にも真似できないという自負がある。レストラン業界のシェフたちも多く訪れ情報交換を楽しむことも多いという。訪れる度に、新しい発見や感動がある『折衷よこ田』、ぜひ足を運んでみてほしい。



Secchu Yokota
199 East 3rd Street
New York, NY 10009
Tel: (212) 777-1124
http://www.secchuyokota.com/

Mon–Thu: 6:00pm–11:00pm
Fri-Sat: 6:00pm-12:00am
Closed on Sunday


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