Saturday, 29 June 2013

Narisawa, Tokyo - 20 November 2012

Outside the restaurant
During my trip to Tokyo in November last year, I had the opportunity to have lunch at Narisawa, which is located in the upmarket suburb of Aoyama-itchome. Narisawa has received many awards and accolades from international guides including recently being awarded the title of San Pellegrino best restaurant in Asia and the 20th best restaurant in the world. It has been on this list for many years and high been as high as number 12 in 2011. Narisawa is also rated 2 stars by the Michelin Guide ("Excellent cooking, worth a detour").    

Narisawa does French cuisine and utilises the best ingredients that Japan has to offer, which is locally sourced and seasonal. Narisawa’s philosophy is “bringing nature to a plate”. This is achieved through the presentation of visually stunning food inspired by nature and also through their commitment to the environment and sustainable living, a commitment that earned them the 2013 Sustainable restaurant award from San Pellegrino.
The menu
I came for the 4-course lunch meal that was priced at 7,350 yen. This is a bargain compared to their 10 course meal served at dinner, which is priced at 21,000 yen. For those on a budget and want to experience Michelin-star food, lunchtime is always the best bet. Narisawa has since changed the lunch course to match the dinner course and is now priced at 12,600 yen, which still represents value.  
Do I eat off this?
Chopsticks and French food?
Dough rising and bubbling away
Dough goes into 'oven'
Bread 'oven'
To start off the theatrics of dining at Narisawa, the ‘bread of the forest’ is baked at your table in a stone pot scented with oak and yuzu. Once the yeast has risen with the aid of candlelight, the dough is placed into the pot and covered with a wooden board and baked for about 12 minutes at 300 degrees.    
Bread of the forest
This is the freshest bread that you will have at any restaurant. It was a nice, fluffy bread and the citrus flavour from the yuzu that has been infused into the bread was very pleasant. For me, although this was very good bread, I prefer a well-made sour dough. However, the ‘moss butter’ was amazing! The flavour of the butter was just as sensational as the presentation. A dehydrated black olive tapenade and green basil powder coated the whipped butter.  

Normal bread we were served later

Amuse bouche

Onion in black charcoal
For amuse bouche, I was served with this sweet onion tempura, the batter made of leek charcoal powder, which gave it a depth and nuttiness to such a simple piece of food. A pleasant snack!

Zucchini in a bread casing
My wife was served with this zucchini tempura. Another pleasant snack!

Course 1

Kamo nasu, eggplant
The first course was an eggplant that has been cooked 3 ways: pureed, fried and roasted. This was a very beautiful dish, garnished pine nuts, black olives, flowers, parmesan, shitake, and wrapped in tomato water gel. The flavours in this dish are very subtle and attempt to the showcase the natural flavours of the vegetables. While I really appreciate how technical this dish is, I felt like it could have done with a bit more seasoning.    

Bonus course

Bowl of 'ash'
Ash, spear squid
Next up was a complimentary course that was titled ‘Ash’. Yay for free food! Turns out this was the dish of the day, a ‘WOW’ dish in bold, capitalised letters. This was a truly impressive dish, with great balance of flavours and perfectly cooked squid. With dramatic presentation to boot! The squid was grilled over a mix of cherry wood and charcoal, and served with a paprika sauce and vinaigrette. The vinaigrette was served as a frozen powder, resembling ash, and was generously spooned over the squid on the table, creating a veil of mist. The squid was fresh and tender to the bite. All the components work with each other, the vinaigrette creating that “wow” factor that you come to expect from a top Michelin star restaurant. 

Ash, paprika
For my wife’s course, she was served a smoked red paprika instead of squid. She too enjoyed this course as much as I did!

Course 2 

Suzuki 'sea bass', maitake mushroom
Next up was a “Suzuki” Seas Bass with maitake mushroom that came wrapped in the bag that it was cooked in, and cut open in front of our very eyes. I really enjoyed this dish because the flesh of the fish was very tender and moist from the gentle cooking technique employed. The bag also locks in the flavour ensuring that no flavour is lost from the cooking process. Another top quality dish, although not as outstanding as the squid course.  

Tagliatelle, mushroom cream sauce
In place of sea bass, my wife was served a tagliatelle with creamy mushroom sauce. My wife enjoyed the al dente pasta and liked how it seemed like a nice, simple course. It had mushrooms and my wife loves mushrooms, so she was already pleased the moment this dish was served. The sauce did get quite after a while.   

Course 3

Free range pure bred pork, Kagoshima
Next up I was presented with this pork which was cooked using a traditional French technique of basting the meat in its own fat and olive oil. My first reaction was that the pork looked a bit underdone due to its pink centre but after the first bite I knew it was definitely cooked. The meat was tender and had amazing flavour. Yet again, another great course!

Assorted vegetables, buckwheat risotto
This was my wife’s 3rd course, which looked stunning. It was a mixture of leaves, Japanese tomatoes, vegetables and buckwheat risotto. This dish was absolutely delicious and was a plate full of fresh vegetables, which would keep any vegetarian happy.
Course 4
Waguri, chestnuts, apple

For dessert, we had this delicious chestnut Mont Blanc served with apple. We also noticed that there were salted potato crisps in this dish which was interesting but definitely added to this dish. The vanilla ice cream and granita were refreshing and rounded off a very nice dessert.

Petit Fours

Petit fours trolley

In dramatic conclusion, our waiter wheeled out this trolley.  Now this is what you call a petite four trolley! This was so awesome! So many things to choose from! This was our ‘kid in the candy store moment’. There must have been 10 or 12 things to choose and you can take as many as you want. We didn’t want to be greedy and take one of each but we probably should have. Oh well, next time. I don’t remember what each of these bite sized treats were (I have done my best), but they are absolutely delicious and make you want to go back for more.

Butter biscuit; Choux pastry, custard; Dark Chocolate macaron; Creme caramel

Sangria jelly, grape; Red bean paste, chestnut; Apple tart tartin :9

Highlight: ‘Ash’, the bonus squid course. A dish that would put any restaurant firmly onto the world dining scene.
Lowlight: Not much. Everything about this meal was great generally. The eggplant course could have done with a bit more flavour.
Overall: Dining at Narisawa is not just about eating. It is also a show. The food is presented in a theatrical and dramatic manner. The cooking is precise and flavours are amazing. A restaurant worthy of a detour, as the Michelin Guide would say. 8.5/10 (Excellent)