Mr. Tadaaki Shimizu​​​​​​​​​​​​​​










We walked into the FCCJ kitchen to find Tadaaki Shimizu making bread: rows of unbaked buns – kneaded and neatly rounded – laid out on trays ready to be popped into the oven. Then he turned his attention to the soup of the day, simmering away in a pot and sending the sweet aroma of pumpkin and sage wafting through the kitchen. It was only when he was satisfied that his assistant could take over that he turned to me and the photographer and, with a broad smile, apologized for keeping us waiting.

Shimizu is the new head chef of FCCJ restaurant and bar service. He is the proud owner of a Michelin star, gained during the 12 years he spent at the opulent and historic French restaurant La Tour d’Argent. Shimizu served as the second chef at the restaurant in Paris before becoming Japanese chef at its branch at the Hotel New Otani in Tokyo, where his long list of notable diners includes the Showa emperor. The FCCJ restaurant staff include Shimizu’s brother, Tadahisa, who has a long career as a wine sommelier and manager, and Champika Bandara, a professional chef who has worked at the Club before and won fans for his tasty, wholesome dishes and warm hospitality.

salmon dish Chef Tadaaki Shimizu
Cheese Chicken disjhPHOTOS: ©FCCJ / JULIO SHIIKI

The response among diners since the trio took over in January has been overwhelmingly positive. The new Correspondent`s Lunch is proving particularly popular. Available between noon and 2pm, it comprises a main dish of either fish, meat or pasta, accompanied by soup, bread and coffee.

The dishes come with an elegant and colorful flourish, garnished with fresh herbs and accentuated by the lightest of sauces. The attractive ONE TO DINE OUT ON prices, to go into effect in February, are a bonus: ¥900 excluding tax, with the option of a dessert for an additional ¥400.

Club members are delighted with the quality of the food and the value for money they are getting. “With the coronavirus scare, the Club is the best place to dine given its exclusivity,” said Kazuko Drake whose favourite seat is at the long Open Table in the bar. “And now we have such great and affordable food. My plan is to eat here five days a week.”


The FCCJ’s new head chef, Tadaaki Shimizu (second from left), with, from left, Tadahisa Shimizu, Champika Bandara and Mohammed Hanif

​​​​​​​Dan Slater, a regular at the restaurant, told friends he had just eaten “the best meal I’ve had for a while” at the Club. Bradley Martin, a longtime member, could barely believe the new price of his favourite tiple – a gin martini – which has dropped by almost half to ¥450. “That means I can order a double,” he said.

Shimizu’s approach to cooking, honed over 45 years in the catering industry, suggests there will be strong demand for a table in the restaurant.

He insists on using the freshest ingredients and cooking every dish from scratch. “By following these rules my cuisine stands out for its perfect flavors,” he said. “That is more important than even visual presentation, which some other chefs put before everything else. The greatest reward is when diners not only tell me they’ve enjoyed their meal but keep coming back.”

Shimizu’s time in France taught him that for many people dining out is something akin to a spiritual experience. He recalls French diners spending hours talking to friends over lunch and dinner. “That tradition has become an important part of my career,” he said.

His day begins at 4 a.m. with a trip to Toyosu wholesale market to source ingredients, with an emphasis on seasonal produce. His team is now putting the finishing touches to their FCCJ fine-dining menu, which should be available as soon as Covid-19 restrictions have eased.

Shimizu, though, is aware that the unique atmosphere of the FCCJ will keep him and his staff on their toes. “We are catering to a global membership with diverse palates and expectations,” he said. “In addition, the Club isn’t a public space, so our business must put the needs of our customers above everything else.”

Devising a bold new menu for a discerning clientele and instilling a new approach to dining at the FCCJ will be a challenge. But it is one that Shimizu and his talented team are relishing.

● Suvendrini Kakuchi is Tokyo Correspondent for University World News in the UK.