When Pignon is closed it’s likely to remain unnoticed by passers-by, but when the characteristic graffitied garage door is stowed away from the early evening and the intoxicating smell of fish grilling on the charcoal wanders down the street, it is impossible to miss. Chef/owner Rimpei Yoshikawa set up his restaurant on Shibuya’s Kamiyamacho-dori almost 11 years ago, and it fast became a lively box of excellent food and wine, and super-chill surfy vibes.
Rimpei is constantly seeking new inspiration and nature is one of the biggest treasure troves for him. As an avid surfer, he heads to the beach in nearby Chiba usually once or twice a week. “I learned from surfing to have an attitude of facing nature in earnest, which means I’m always trying to stay humble both to the waves and ingredients. I try not to be egoistic when I cook; I’m listening to the voice of the ingredients. I think it is futile to struggle with nature.”
For Rimpei, surfing is a way to stay grounded and to provide his friends and customers with the type of cooking he wants to share, nothing stuffy or too technical.
Rimpei has known since he was 19 that he wanted to cook. After working for six and a half years at a French restaurant in Tokyo, he moved to France to further refine his culinary repertoire. While there he traveled extensively, and it was in doing so that he was able to establish his cooking philosophy.
“I think it’s really important to understand your own tastes to make something be delicious, which depends on your eating history and background. Then, you have to know what’s good and what isn’t. When I’m cooking I mix up all of my experiences, not only of food but of things like trips, surfing, and music, and combine them to make the plate.”
To the untrained eye, it may seem French, or Moroccan, or even Japanese, but the restaurant doesn’t belong to any particular country or culture, rather to Rimpei himself and his experiences. In other words, to learn about Rimpei is to learn about Pignon.
When you leave, rosy-cheeked from the summery heat of the grill, don’t forget to hold on to this laidback feeling as you reenter crazy Tokyo.