When I go to interview chef Takeo Sato, at first, I have trouble finding his restaurant, Shibuyatei (2971 Sexsmith Road). I eventually locate it next to a car wash business, remote from any other eateries in town. The room itself is non-descript, with basic tables and chairs, and photos of menu items adorning the counter.



It would be easy to mistake Shibuyatei for another ordinary ramen and sushi joint, but, in fact, the place is dominated by the personality and impressive talent of Sato. He greets me with enthusiasm, gesturing me to sit down. I ask him whether he’s willing to share his story and he responds, “You ask. I tell.”

Sato’s long and varied road to opening a restaurant in Richmond begins in Gifu Prefecture, Japan, where Sato was born and grew up. Young Sato avidly enjoyed watching his mother cook, as well as learning basic skills as a Boy Scout.

Interestingly, Sato moved to Tokyo to pursue a degree in architecture. During his studies, he honed his cooking craft on the side. “When I was in university in Tokyo, I lived by myself and cooked. I was also working in a kitchen, learning how to hold a knife, and those kinds of things,” he explains.

Upon graduation, Sato foresaw toiling for little pay if he stayed in Japan. Instead, in 1975, he accepted a job in Edmonton, Alberta, making $600 a month, a very generous salary for a newbie, given that the minimum wage was $1.75 at the time (ah, how times have changed). During the late 1970s, he also worked for an architectural firm in Victoria, BC, mostly doing draftsman work. At both places, however, Sato continued to pursue his side passion by serving and cooking in Japanese restaurants. At one point, his boss in Edmonton even offered him $200 extra per month, just to quit his restaurant job.

After a brief stint running a gift shop in Banff, Sato was called back in 1978 to Japan after his mother passed away. He operated a manufacturing business, but had a sense that the Japanese economic boom wasn’t going to last. “I liked food. I knew many North Americans liked instant noodles. My friend’s uncle told me that Canadians were buying Ichiban noodles by the box. So, I decided I wanted to make real food.”

Sato was eager to launch a restaurant in Canada, but wanted to first perfect his culinary skills before leaving Japan. In Ebisu, a district of Shibuya-ku in Tokyo, he opened an eatery around 1986 that specialized in ramen and gyoza. Over the course of seven years, Sato perfected his techniques, drawing inspiration from friends, books, and television.

At this point in our conversation, Sato proudly points to magazine clippings affixed to his front windows. “I was famous,” he declares. The clippings are evidence of the significant critical acclaim that he achieved in Japan for his outstanding cooking. Sato’s restaurant was featured in dancyu, a top Japanese food magazine, and was lauded by renowned food critic Masuhiro Yamamoto, who makes an appearance in the popular documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. “I was proved to be a real profession, and then I decided to come to Canada,” he says.



His dream took some time to be realized, however. Duty called again and Sato had to return to his hometown. It was only after his father passed away in 2005 that Sato was able to leave Japan and move permanently to Canada. And finally, in 2010, after decades of perseverance, he found his current location in Richmond and opened Shibuyatei.

Sato’s cooking philosophy is simple: “Go with natural.” Unlike other establishments that rely on MSG for taste, Sato relies on the natural flavour of good quality ingredients. His pork gyoza, for example, contain 100% pork, with just a bit of chives and salt for slight flavour enhancement. He says that people with palates that are used to amped up chemical flavour don’t always appreciate the subtleties of his cooking. “No chemicals. No strong taste,” he explains.

In order to differentiate himself from other ramen joints, he calls his noodles and soup, “larmen.” He offers both shio (salt) and shoyu (soy) broth, simmering them for five to six hours in order to maximize flavour, without losing fumi, the natural, delicious aromatics of the ingredients. Sato says the key is to pay attention to balance.



“My food is not easy to understand. Only 10% of people will understand it. I cook seriously, which takes time,” he says. In a competitive marketplace, Sato offers his gourmet food at low prices, showing his pure love for cooking. Both his cooking and his personality exude passion, dedication, and expertise. I bid him goodbye (for now), with a deeper appreciation for the complexity and richness of his story and his broth.

Takeo Sato’s recipe for katsu (breaded deep-fried cutlets)

Use your choice of meat (eg chicken, pork). Sato recommends 1” slices of pork shoulder.

Prepare your own homemade breadcrumbs. Sato says that store bought crumbs will not be the same. Instead, buy a loaf of bread, dry it in the oven at a low temperature, and, either by hand or with a food processor, break it into small crumbs. Sato says that the size is important. Try to find a middle ground between powder and bigger chunks. You want texture to your breading.

Dry the meat with a paper towel. Then, season it with salt and pepper.

Prepare a mixture of egg and milk. The ratio should be roughly one egg to 100-150mL of milk.

Dredge the slices of meat in flour, then dip them into the egg and milk mixture. Finally, coat them with homemade breadcrumbs.

Deep-fry until golden and crisp.