February 17, 2015
At the age of 19, Yoshihiro Narisawa moved to Europe where he worked in prestigious restaurants, including Girardet, Bocuse and Robuchon. Eight years later, in 1996, he returned to Japan and opened a restaurant in Odawara, on the coast SW of Tokyo. After seven years, he moved the restaurant to Tokyo, where he has earned much praise, including being rated The Best Restaurant in Asia in the 2013 San Pellegrino list. The French influence is evident, but the ingredients and spirit are Japanese. The menus change with the seasons and reflect them. Linda and I went to Narisawa for dinner on October 31, 2014.
We started with glasses of Sélection Narisawa Champagne. Narisawa was serving its Autumn Collection 2014 “Evolve with the Forest.” You will see the forest theme (including charcoal) in many of the dishes.
Bread dough was put on the table in a little cup. A young woman arrived, put the dough in a ceramic bowl and kneaded it with a wooden spoon. It was heated at a high temperature over a little burner and then allowed to rise for twelve minutes between two square oaken planks. It was served warm with moss butter, the illusion created with a finely chopped parsley coating and a parsley sprig on top.
Essence of the forest and Satoyama scenery
We were asked to sip the water mildly flavored by oak and the cedar cup which held it. The dish centered around grilled burdock root. There was yoghurt underneath the mound in the upper right and leaves of ten different green aromatic leaves on top (one of them in tempura.). The forest floor scattered around the plate was made with Japanese soy pulp mixed with green tea powder and black tea powder mixed with bamboo powder. Lovely.
“Okinawa” was based on a broth made from a black roasted Okinawa sea snake; one was shown to us. The soup included a variety of ingredients including Kagoshima pork and a yam dumpling which helped soak up the umami broth. It was quite nice.
A beautifully cooked body of a squid was on top of a red stripe of paprika and chili. The ash was created table-side from a mix of olive oil, lemon juice and liquid nitrogen. It was spooned around the sides which released a cloud across the plate. “The scene of the seashore concept is to represent the typical Japanese fishermen returning with their catch, the misty ocean at night and the smell of charcoal as they cook the day’s bounty.” Aside from the dramatic effect, this was delicious.
Conger pike·Pear·String bean
A tempuraed piece of hamo was served with pieces of pear, kabosu citrus, foam and green beans. The lovely flavor came from the white sauce underneath.
Tilefish with matsutake mushrooms and sudaichi citrus were served in a papillote. It had been cooked under very high heat for seven minutes.
A piece of wagyu beef had been slow cooked with carbonated leek powder to resemble a chunk of charcoal; it was presented to us on a faux grill above real charcoal. It was taken back to the kitchen where it had been cut in two. It was served with Japanese peppers and gingko nuts. The flavor of the beef was excellent. Alongside was a little dish of sake granità to serve as a palate cleanser.
The whole meal was superb. Taste had not been sacrificed for the dramatic presentation or technique. The ingredients were mostly seasonal, local and top quality. The combinations all made sense and continued a theme. The French and modern influences were at just the right level. The service and pace were good, although the waiters could get somewhat pretentious in their presentations. The ambience was elegant, relaxed and quiet. Bravo.