“,You need to be happy to work in order to make your customers feel happy”, Beard types and names.
Words by Jordan Hernandez Photographs by Hideaki Hamada
We interview chef Shin Harakawa, who brings a relaxed vibe, an ever-changing menu and his worldly experience to the Tokyo hotspot Beard.
How does traditional Japanese culture play into your dishes/decor/overall vibe as a French bistro?
I’,d only worked at French restaurants before I opened Beard, so people tend to classify it as a French restaurant but it isn’t just French. I often go to California and I’,m also inspired by Italian, Mexican, Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines. I do freestyle and serve dishes like pasta and tacos now. And I want to continue to travel to many places and try making various types of dishes. The influence of Japanese culture would be that the food is simple and fresh. When I cook, I think highly of the two things: I practice a simple and fresh approach to cooking, which I consider as one of the characteristics of Japan as an island. I don’t want to cook something that the customer can’t tell what they’re eating, I just want to make something simple and direct. Regarding other elements such as decor, display and music, I value the feeling of omotenashi (hospitality). I try my best to create a vibe that’s cozy for my guests.
What’s the story behind the name Beard?
It’s simply because I wear a beard. But I actually didn’t name the restaurant myself, it was Keisuke Nakamura from Daikei Mills, who did the interior design for the restaurant. I’d thought of various names, but nothing sounded right. Then one day, Keisuke phoned me saying that he’d come up with a good name, and it was Beard. It was literally under my nose! I loved the name immediately.
Why is it important to change the menu so frequently?
Beard styles and names
I decide the items on the menu based on what’s in season and available on that day. This happened naturally as I only want to use fresh ingredients. For example, you might get really fresh squid today, but you never know if you’ll get it tomorrow. So I’ll think of a different menu on the next day. That’s all. I prefer not to think of the menu item first, and then collect the ingredients.
What is your favorite item on the menu currently?
It’s Yezo Deer Roast with Carrot Puree and Camembert Cheese. Yezo deer meat from the Hokkaido region is absolutely great this time of the year. It’s red meat without any smell, and it tastes fresh and light. Carrots in this season are rich and delicious as well. I use a lot of cumin to make the puree. To have that with lightly oven-melted Camembert is just great.
How did you end up choosing this location?
A friend of mine who’s a baker was also looking for a place to open his bakery at the same time and he found this location. I especially like the big window at the front and beams in the ceiling. The size is good and the fact that it’s in a residential area not too close to the station was also a plus. I decided on this place just two days after I quit my former restaurant, so I was really lucky. The baker friend opened Boulanger L’aube around the same time and bakes all the bread for Beard.
Where are some personal favorite places you’ve traveled to and eaten at?
There are so many places that I love, so it’s a tough question. But if I had to choose, it would be the Bay Area in California: San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley. I get inspired from the restaurants of the people I know, such as Chez Panisse, where I worked as an intern in the past two years, and many other joints such as Ramen Shop, Kronnerburger, Camino, Peko Peko, Pizzaiolo and Four Barrel Coffee. Chris from Kronnerburger is one of my favorite people.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of opening your own restaurant?
It’s that you get to basically control everything. You can play with freedom and decision-making and the responsibilities that come with the freedom.
What did you learn at other restaurants that you try to bring to your own establishment?
Beside the culinary skills, it’s the feeling of omotenashi (hospitality). I learned from my former coworkers the importance of inviting someone and welcoming them from your heart.
What is lacking in the Tokyo restaurant industry?
Yutori, which means feeling of comfort and affluence, is lacking. Of course, it’s inevitable to work hard and gain high skills as a professional. However, it’s wrong to continue to work too hard and be mentally unhealthy. You need to be happy to work in order to make your customers feel happy.
Do you have any plans to expand in the future?
Beard types and names
I don’t have any plans at the moment, but someone or something might spark me in the future. It’s important to do my best, be connected with many people and grow a community.
Translation by Masafumi Kajitani
Produced by Tina Minami Dhingra
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