Claudio Liu brings the old sushi art to Milan

Golden reflections of the lost Edo, hints of coal and miso, expert, artistic gesture as if they were crane wings: IYO Omakase it is a small place with a big disk where they can sit only eight guests. But what it offers is a glimpse of something enormous. The power to not only transport your guests in the most authentic, faithful and elegant experience that can be lived in Italy on authentic Edomae-style kitchenbut also the gift of stopping time.


Japan, early 19th century: when Tokyo was called Edo and it was not the cosmopolitan capital we know of. But soon Emperor Meiji Tennō he would have transferred the imperial seat from the city from Kyoto to Edo, which from that moment would be called Tokyo, literally “the eastern capital”. As far as we know, however, it was not just the name that changed. Its culture, form and streets were also influenced by its expansion. A more charged life, business and city news pushed the chefs to free increasingly dynamic kitchens that utilize the fresh produce from the daily catch.

Among these pioneers, cooks Hanaya Yohei was the first to suggest a new idea for sushi. He remembered the current street food, but at the same time he used very fresh ingredients that come from Tokyo Bay, then known as “Edo-mae”. History teaches us that it was Yohei who invented the techniques and tools to preserve fresh fish, to prepare and serve it. It was always him who told us how to cook the vegetables for the broth and how to make toppings marinated in vinegar and salt for the fish. It was short that “father of sushi“. And his style was born and consolidated with the name of Edomae-zushi“, It is the method of preparing sushi as in the time of the newborn Tokyo.

Over time, The Edomae style has solidified. He has increasingly carved out his own standards, to become today synonymous with freshness and elegant virtuosity. For this reason, in Edomae zushi, the real protagonists are usually nigiri, the purest and most iconic combination of sushi: rice under, fish over. But this is just simplification: nigiris, like the Edomae style, portrays one refined sensory journey. They represent the committee of the ingredients, strictly fresh and high-end, up to cooking and spices, which contain ancient knowledge and gestures in a single, perfect creation. Inside and outside, the philosophical view of the balance between two opposing elements is handed down, between the purity of the rice and the tasty gifts of the sea. Each nigiri is a tribute to Japanese tradition and culture. IS and sansehaiku, which only the sushi master can prepare in front of the guests. Only he can make them follow, directly from his hands, one after the other. In a coded sequence of increased obesity and umamiin a bite and without the need for additional spices.

Forget the inflated “all you can eat”: in the Edomae style, pleasure is not measurable in how much you can eat, but in What eat. Its most inherent quality, its truest nature, its essence wisely represented by the sushi master. In this, IYO Omakase he did so without compromise.

The restaurant

Claudio Liu had always had a dream: former patron of starry fine dining AALTO and the same starry, iconic IYO, Liu has always strived for unite two worlds through the universal “language”, the one we all talk about when we eat. First with the creation of IYO, the only “Japanese” restaurant in Italy starring, then with the creation of AALTO in 2019 in Porta Nuova, in the secular heart of Milan. Liu has always united, or rather, “Braided” the two worlds, the multicolored of Milan’s capital and the multisensory of oriental cuisine, especially Japanese.

Claudio Liu, patron of Iyo

But with Omakase, the flight is the other way around. Japan no longer arrives in Italy, they are Italian guests who go to meet the Japanese cuisine.IYO Omakase is a journey into the rituals and tastes of the most authentic JapanLiu comments. “And it starts with crossing the threshold to space with a dedicated counter: only room for 8 and 2 sushi masters who cook for their guests, bite after bite. IYO Omakase is one “Restaurant in the restaurant“, shares the entrance with AALTO and opens like a secret restaurant only the doors after reservationthat immerses guests in a new, exciting and enveloping dimension.

Guided by the sushi master’s hand and experience Masashi Suzuki and, on the other side of the disk, by grace of Miwa Saito, ready to help and accompany guests at any time in her perfect traditional dress. To complete the experience, the “Made in Italy” service in pure IYO Group style, where the sommelier stands out Matteo Cinowidely able to know how to advise its guests with a well-chosen combination of wines and even sake, selected from the selection of a basement that boasts more than 600 references“.

Inside IYO Omakase, nothing is left to chance, and everything is associated with modern Japanese sophistication. Howeverthe design of the restaurant was the only Italian project that had gone into Shortlist for the 2020 Restaurant & Bar Design Awards in EuropeRestaurant category: wood and gray-green porphyry form the partition that separates the IYO Omakase sushi counter from the dining room of the gastronomic AALTO restaurant, the warm details on the walls and the interior elements, such as. the barrels of sake (in Japanese “taru”) that will be behind the guests, are some of the details that characterize the care and attention reserved for the restaurant.

If you pay attention, you will find that even the ceramic chopstick rests in the form of vegetables, the dishes, the hot oshibori offered to the guests upon their arrival, even the dishes reserved for soy sauce, which reveals Mount Fuji and Itsukushima Shrine, silently display a resounding excellence and uniqueness.

The kitchen

Omakase literally means in Japanese “I trust you“: This term is actually often found in local Japanese menus to indicate the path that the sushi master chooses each day. Change daily, follow the chef’s creative flair and daily availability. In the land of the Rising Sun, ordering an “Omakase” is not synonymous with an unresolved order, it is above all respect, trust, and entrusting oneself in all respects to the hands of the master. In IYO Omakase you will not be offered a fixed menu, but let yourself be guided by the wisdom of Masashi Suzuki: you will find him concentrated and attentive during the service, in the omakase discs in Tokyo, after all, the sushi master does not talk to customers, he will remain immersed in his work until the end of The service. His gestures and dishes will speak for him.

To make it easier for customers, IYO Omakase provides the list of courses: it always starts with one sakizuke, a small taste that marks the beginning of the omakase menu. That’s normal a hot, essential dish that prepares the stomach for the global experience, mentions the research and the aesthetics of the details. A Japanese amuse bouche, an extrapolated taste, almost a cherry leaf between the lips. Follow zensai, the appetizers that precede the sashimi, and in Japanese cuisine show the skill of the sushi master in combining ingredients. They can not be too complex not to ruin the omakase path, and they can not be too simple: they must show extreme harmony in small preparations to be enjoyed before entering the path completely.


After we are prepared, he enters the stage as a great Kabuki actor, the sashimi, today’s catch: to be seasonal and an expression of excellence among the raw materials available in the daily market;is sensitive to variability. During our tasting, we experimented the amber jacket, lightly roasted with sumibiyaki, followed by smoked tuna with hay. Both are freshly processed to preserve their quality and flavor. In the hands of Suzuki-sensei, their wealth has been able to introduce the palate to the taste of the Japanese tradition very well.


Then comes the time for the interlude, and just as if it were a play, it is served owan in a beautiful, scenic hand-painted bowl. This mildly tasted soup, consisting of one dashi-based broth and from a solid component it also varies according to the order of the seasons. For us, it was one symphony of lightly steamed white sea bass, in a white turnip leaf, accompanied by fresh yuzu shells and edible flowers.


A poem dedicated to the memories of a spring under the sakura. A balanced prelude to the next dish, the Gindara, that we dare define a large signature of Suzuki-sensei.


S.i is one of the oldest preparations in the Japanese tradition. Alaska’s black coal is marinated in ishio miso, from the still active fermentation, to guarantee a special taste. The preparation takes place slowly, through the fire in sumibiyaki grill located behind the sushi master. Each piece melts in your mouth, leaving a pleasant sweet-salty contrast in the palate. Only wagyu or maguro can equate its fatness and delicacy.

Nigiri carabinero

Despite the refined delicacy, the road continues in its apical expression: eight nigiri who take turns in front of the guests. When happiness smiles, you can taste among the nigiri a triptych of tuna which tells three flavors, three shades of color, three completely different textures that emphasize the versatility of the meat.

Nigiri squid
Nigiri- otoro

After these great actors, the sushi master always ends with one temaki, served by his hands. Here you are that Negitor, the abdomen scraped with a knife on the part surrounding the spine of the tuna. It’s the one-way ticket directly to old Tokyo, to Edo at that time Bunsei. A combination of marinating and maturing the fish that could not otherwise be defined as “ritual“.


And it is by following this strict rite that Suzuki-sensei finally finishes Omakase with the right dessert, of course also seasonal. This is accompanied by Cha no Yu, matcha te, served after the movements of the ancient Japanese families. “I love all kitchens, each one has its own beauty and its own nuances»Says Claudio Liu. “In Italian cuisine there is love, in Chinese there is a lot of technique. Japanese cuisine is balance, cleanliness, exaltation of the raw material and a convulsive search for umami. For a Japanese, the most complicated is quite nigiri: complex simplicity“”.

Ended the experience from Omakase, which always ends with a “kanpai”(The Japanese toast), you leave speechless and confused when you are not used to the taste of these levels. One wonders how it is possible that Liu is right that one can really exist complex simplicity. And the secret is just hidden in the memory of Japanese culture, which is not served in Omakase. It is lived.

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Tel +39 02 250 62 828



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