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11-12-2023

With Luca Fantin in Japan, where food producers are considered heroes

The community appreciates the hard work of food artisans as much as that of an intellectual or a manager. Even more, in fact. From tuna to saffron, here is how the chef picks his ingredients

Luca Fantin at the fish market in Tokyo

Luca Fantin at the fish market in Tokyo

It’s not always easy to adapt to new worlds and new realities, but Luca Fantin has managed perfectly. Born in 1979 in Treviso, he’s been the chef at Bulgari Ginza Tower since 2009. To this day, he runs this “magic bubble” of starred Italy in one of the most beautiful and luxurious neighbourhoods in Tokyo, giving a contemporary and elegant take to Italian traditional cuisine.

Even though the starting point is his homeland – with a nice selection of Italian wines and olive oil – it’s clear that the fresh products must be Japanese, if anything, for a matter of sustainability.

The tuna selected by chef Luca Fantin 

The tuna selected by chef Luca Fantin 

«In these 14 years, I have given more depth to my knowledge of this magnificent country and its producers –Chef Luca Fantin explains-. What strikes me, now as then, is the reverential respect that everyone, not just chefs, has for small producers. They are considered heroes of the land and the sea; they are listened to with respect, the way you would do with an old, wise man. When they talk, and they talk about their products and how they produce them, they are listened to in respectful silence».

«Here, food is art, starting from the product, which is as important as the final dish. At the fish market in Tokyo early in the morning, you will see how every fish is considered sacred. I often go to pick the tuna with my brigade, assisting, sometimes, to scenes that may seem “crazy”: one day, for instance, I saw a seller throw away two tuna fish worth thousands of euros just because he didn’t consider them good enough. “Today the sea is too hot; I cannot sell you tuna”, he kept saying, shaking his head. For them, it’s first of all a question of self-respect: if the product is not perfect, they lose credibility».

Luca Fantin divide gli stimmi dai fiori di zafferano con i suoi produttori giapponesi di fiducia

Luca Fantin divide gli stimmi dai fiori di zafferano con i suoi produttori giapponesi di fiducia

Tuna and more. «For instance, in Ōita, the capital of the homonymous prefecture, in the north-east part of the island of Kyūshū, I buy saffron from Nobuhiro Hasegawa, a producer who preserves the Taketa method, which is over 100 years old and allows, thanks to controlled temperature and humidity, to have the saffron flowers blooming even in darkness, protected in greenhouses. The result is a fine-quality saffron with an intense aroma. They treat the flowers with a unique delicateness, the stigmas, very fragile, are brushed with extreme care. The control is constant: the producers look and study every shade of yellow to understand if the aroma will have the right intensity. I work with them, we extract the three stigmas and then we talk».

Bulgari Ginza Tower in Tokyo

Bulgari Ginza Tower in Tokyo

Nobuhiro Hasegawa

Nobuhiro Hasegawa

«I often travel around Japan to discover some ingredient to transform into dishes – Fantin ends -. Like in Italy, even here every place has its precious pearls, if you want to discover them and enhance them. For instance, in the winter menu, I’ve included a carpaccio of Aoriika, a sort of calamari that is very soft and delicate, paired with cauliflower, Botan-Ebi prawns with onion and pine nuts, steamed Kue fish with fish sauce and spinach, beef Akaushi fillet with Jerusalem artichokes».

The love for Italy remains, on top of the inspiration of the dishes, in the wine list which includes excellences such as Franciacorta Annamaria Clementi from Ca' del Bosco

The love for Italy remains, on top of the inspiration of the dishes, in the wine list which includes excellences such as Franciacorta Annamaria Clementi from Ca' del Bosco

«At every trip, the dialogue with producers opens new worlds because you cannot really understand Japanese dedication unless you live here. Unfortunately, my Japanese is not very refined, but in the end, by working together we understand each other without the need to speak. Silence is precious in Japan and a crucial component of professionalism: only with the utmost focus on what you’re doing can you reach excellence. And without the use of words».

Bulgari Restaurant Luca Fantin

 Chuo City, Ginza, 2 Chome−7−12 

Tokyo, Japan

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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