Seiichi Honda

Owner-Chef, Zurriola

Chef Honda’s “Zurriola”—a famous Basque restaurant that attracts people from all over the world to Ginza—is constantly evolving from his application of expertise in French cuisine and Japanese culinaary sensibilities to Basque cuisine. We interviewed Chef Honda about his passion for cooking and his encounter with Akaito Saffron®︎. (Akaito Limited, Yoko Takagi)

1976 Born in Chiba Prefecture, Japan
Graduated high school in Japan, and worked in his first French restaurant

1988 Went to Europe
Vonnas, Bresse, France: Three Star “Georges Blanc”, 
Lyon, France: One Star “Pierre Orsi”
Geneva, Switzerland: Two Star “Domaine de Châteauvieux”
Basque region, France: Sous Chef,  “Le Fronton”
San Sebastian, Spain: Chef, “Casa Urola” 

2006 Returned to Japan after 9 years of training abroad
Met Chef Carme of “Sant Pau” during his time at Japanese restaurant, ”Ryugin”

2008 Sous Chef at “Sant Pau” in Tokyo

2011 Opened “Zurriola” in Azabujuban, Tokyo.

2015: Moved and opened “Zurriola” on the 4th floor of the Ginza Koshun Building

Basque cuisine restaurant, not Spanish cuisine

When I told Chef Honda that he was the first Akaito Artist of Spanish cuisine, he responded, “We are not Spanish cuisine. We don’t serve paella, ajillo, tapas, and so forth” which immediately come to mind when one thinks of Spanish food. In fact, Chef Honda has only eaten paella a handful of times. The people of the Basque Region live with pride as Basques, and Chef Honda is particular about the Basque cuisine he experienced in San Sebastian.

Golden threadfin bream with Akaito Saffron®︎ sauce

Chef Honda puts everything that he has developed as a chef into his cooking

Chef Honda adds, “Before I got into Basque cuisine, however, I did French cooking until I was 26, so of course that is my base.” He has diverse culinary training and practice, first in France, then he moved towards the Basque region in Spain, and after total 9 years in Europe, he returned to Japan. He also worked in Japanese cuisine before opening his first Basque restaurant. His Basque cuisine – still rare in Japan – is created from his basis as a chef that was cultivated during his French cooking days and, of course, his Japanese culinary sensibilities and experience at Japanese restaurants. The charm of Zurriola lies in the one and only taste that only Chef Honda can create.

Arroz caldoso with tiger prawns and Akaito Saffron®︎ flavour

Encounter with Akaito Saffron®︎

Chef Honda says that his first impression of Akaito Saffron®︎ is that it is “beautiful.” During his training in Europe, he was familiar with Spanish saffron, which was of course fresh and of high quality, but the length and shape of Akaito Saffron®︎ stigmas were unequivocally longer, larger, and straighter than saffron from overseas. He was surprised at first sight. After having returned to Japan, he had been using saffron from overseas, which had a much lower taste, aroma, and appearance than that of the real thing, but he had become accustomed to it. “Now that I know Akaito “Saffron®︎”, says Chef Honda, “I can never go back to foreign saffron.”

Crispy skin grilled chicken grunt with Akaito Saffron®︎ sauce

Q. Recently Ginza has been overflowing with inbound tourists, but is the restaurant different from before?

Chef Honda says that Ginza has always had a large number of foreign tourist customers, but what they are looking for has changed. Before, many visitors to Japan used to say, “I’ve come to Japan for the sushi and tempura.” Chef Honda says that now, however, more people want to enjoy delicious meals that can only be had here, regardless of the genre of cuisine. After the corona virus epidemic, and with the drastic depreciation of the yen, Chef Honda says that foreign visitors to Japan account for 20% of the restaurant’s customers on weekdays and 60% on weekends.

Q. If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Choosing his words carefully, Chef Honda answered with a smile, “I would tell him to go into the culinary field after graduating from junior high school instead of going to high school.” Chef Honda said that his high school teachers and friends would be angry with him, but he still feels that he should have entered this world a little earlier. He also said that it is a good idea to go to a technical college while aiming to become a chef, indicating the young staff at his restaurant as an example.

Q. How do you feel when you are able to make a dish that you are satisfied with?

He was about to say that he was satisfied at that moment, but Chef Honda replied, “But satisfaction is fleeting and never stays that way.” Chef Honda says that he cannot move on to the next dish if he is still satisfied, and that he does not have that kind of leisurely pace in his daily life as a chef. He changes his five-course menu for lunch and 11-course menu for dinner every two months, and says he is always thinking of new dishes.

Chef Honda is always looking ahead, and his cuisine continues to evolve on a daily basis. Zurriola will continue to attract people from all over the world who gather in Ginza in search of gastronomic delights, both from the East and the West, in its unique world that Chef Honda has created.

Kosun Building 4F, Ginza 6-8-7, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0061 Japan