★ Narisawa, Tokyo

Visit to Narisawa is the 2nd culinary highlight of our Tokyo trip (1st being our visit to Quintessence). It was equally hard to secure a reservation at this Michelin 2-Star restaurant as booking can be made 1 month before the reservation month. However the process is relatively simple as their website allows internet reservations =)

I’ve been very lucky to secure the reservation as I noticed that it was fully booked immediately after I submitted my reservation request on the website~ *counting my blessings again*

However on the day of our scheduled lunch at Narisawa, we had an lousy and unfruitful morning which almost ruin my mood for the lunch… We spent 3.5 hours (since 8.30am) queuing in Tsukiji Market’s Sushi Dai but had to give up our queue in order to get to Narisawa in time for our lunch reservation. The waiting time at Sushi Dai way exceeded our anticipated wait time of 2 hours…I left Tsukiji Market famished, disappointed and sulking…

While walking to Narisawa Restaurant from the Aoyama-itchome Metro station, we passed by the Honda showroom and saw these lovely blooms…These flowers really helped to cheer me up slightly and freshen my mind to look forward to enjoying a wonderful meal at Narisawa.

Lovely flowers

After a short walk, we finally saw the sleek signage of Narisawa Restaurant which was understated yet elegant =)

Next we saw the logo used by the restaurant, painted on a dark coloured door. Upon entering the main door we were greeted warmly by the reception ladies in the lobby who promptly took our coats before leading us through a sliding door into the main dining hall.

On one side of the hall was a whole stretch of full length window allowing natural daylight to enter, making the place bright and cheery. On the other side of the hall was a clear glass partition which allowed guests to see the “live action” in the busy kitchen.

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Our table was set-up with a piece of glass placement in front of each diner. I found an interesting angle to capture a shot of both the inscribed and the diffracted restaurant name on the side of the glass placement~

We were presented with the menu “Evolve with the Forest” Winter Collection, 2013.  The first item was “Forest 2010” Bread of the Forest whereby the bread is freshly baked right at our table, this is one of Chef’s signature dish~ Even the proofing (final dough-rise step before baking) of the dough is also carried out right in front of us~

The dough was partially soaked in a water bath and placed above a small candlelight which was used to raise the temperature of the dough during proofing. When the dough had risen sufficiently, the maitre d’ pushed a trolley to the side of our table and placed the dough into a pre-heated stone bowl. The bowl was then covered using a wooden board and placed on our table for us to wait for the bread to be ‘baked’.

When the Chestnut and Cinnamon bread was ready, it was served on a wooden plank with Moss – which was actually butter covered with soy bean crumb and topped off with chlorophyll powder. It has to be one of the most well-disguised butter I’ve ever seen~

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While we waited for the bread to bake, we proceeded to enjoy more amazing dishes. First was Essence of the Forest followed by Sumi. Essence of the Forest was presented as if it was a scenic picture, with the “Essence” being the Japanese Cedar with Oak-infused Water in the shot-like holder.  The “soil” scattered on the wooden plank were made from mixing soy pulp and charcoal powder.

Sumi refers to a Japanese charcoal made from charred vegetables and is Chef’s signature treatment. The sumi was mixed into a batter and fried into a fritter with soft onion fillings in the centre (onion cooked in powdered charred leek).

From the start of the meal till now, we were constantly impressed and fascinated by the unique and creative presentations~

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Our next dish (yet another signature dish of Chef) – “Soil 2001” , was served on a rack with wired-like stems holding up glass globes filled with soup. The soup was actually made from distilled soil, hence it had a bittery-earthy umami. The recipe was shared by Chef at various culinary forums and its not difficult to find it online such as the one here.

After having a taste of soil, we were presented with Horse crab, Noto, Ishikawa. Satoyama (the mountain). Satoumi (the coast).  The horse crab with sake jelly was a refreshing dish. We were served more bread (not baked at the table): Japanese sourdough (left) and sourdough with red rice (right).

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Once again, the maitre d’ pushed a trolley over to the side of our table, this time round with a bowl spewing with mist on it, its in preparation for the next dish “Ash 2009” Scene of the seashore.

Initially we were presented with a whole charcoal-grilled squid on our table. But the drama started to unfold when the maitre d’ began to scoop and pour the carbonised ‘sumi’ paprika, vinaigrette and powdered olive oil mixture out from the bowl onto the plate. The pouring of the super-cooled powder mixture using liquid nitrogen over the hot squid resulted in a stunningly beautiful effect~

We were not only impressed by its presentation but also the texture of the squid which was firm yet chewy.

The next dish was served in a globe filled with smoke~ It was Sawara (Spanish Mackerel), Hagi, Yamaguchi and Onion essence, Amanohashidate, Kyoto. Sawara is considered as the best kind of Mackerel in Japan. The fish was accompanied by fried lotus and onion essence which was cooked with fermented rice (used for making sake). Its another one of the rare occassions where I enjoyed “fish” dish. The skin was crisp and the meat was moist. I must say the Japanese are really good at cooking “fish” dishes. I didn’t get the enjoy such nice fish dishes in other top western restaurants~

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Mid-way through our course, Chef Yoshihiro Narisawa came out from the kitchen to greet guests briefly. No offence to Chef, but at first glance I would think he looks more like a traditional Japanese sushi chef. Hard to imagine that Chef has such a creative and innovative mind behind his stern and serious looking face.

For the next dish, another strange looking rack hanging with glass bulbs (filled with broth) was placed on our table before we were presented with “Luxury essence 2007” Langoustine. The maitre d’ then poured the broth onto the langoustine and explained that the broth is the essence of the soup stock after long-hours of boiling “Jing Hua Huo Tui”(Chinese cured ham) and chicken. We slurped every single drop of the essence even after finishing the chewy and fresh langoustine~

We were very glad that we had the chance to savour the rare and expensive treat – Fugu (Blowfish), Hagi, Yamaguchi. The removal of poisonous parts has to be performed only by licensed chefs. The fried fugu was eaten with a dash of lime and wasabi cream sauce.

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Main dish was Organic grass-fed Kitasato Yakumo beef, Hokkaido. The sirloin cut steak was well-executed, tender & juicy. Perfectly seared judging from the thin outer layer of dark coloured beef.

Finally we reached the desserts: Donguri farm and Kuzumocih.Sakekasu.Strawberry

Donguri means acorn in Japan and its just my guess that the name of this dish is somewhat related to a green country project that focuses on sustainable living – something which Chef is also trying to advocate through his cuisines which emphasise harvesting food from nature. The dessert has yuzu and chocolate shavings in it, resulting in a well-balanced taste.

Kuzumochi are mochi cakes made of kuzuko, its a transluscent coloured, semi-glutinous confectionery. Sakekasu are the lees left over from sake production.

I enjoyed both the desserts~

Just when we thought that we would be ending our meal with some petits fours and coffee, we had a wonderful surprise seeing a trolley full of sweet treats by our table~ Full marks on presentation again~ It was a beautiful sight to see the pastries presented among tiered wooden planks, acorns and chestnuts scattered across the trolley. And there was no limit on the number of items that we could choose~ Really spoilt for choices.

But I’m sure the one which caught most people’s attention was the mini macarons with graduated intensity of cacao~

We also selected some of the other treats such as Green Tea Mochi, Chocolate Truffle, Chestnut Mousse.

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Even the brown sugar used for the coffee was grinded to fine powder form~

It was a remarkable meal which was well-thought through and executed, resulting in an unforgettable experience. From the unusual apparatus used, to the rendition of dishes, to the technicalities involved in Chef’s cooking, every aspects were simply phenomenal!

We left the restaurant feeling as if we had just completed a magical journey.

Akin to our visit to Quintessence, when maitre d’ knew that we were from Singapore, he also mentioned that Chef would be visiting Singapore to attend the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant Award Ceremony at Marina Bays Sands~

[Updates on 26th Feb 13]

Narisawa was ranked No. 1 at the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. Our heartiest congratulations to Chef Narisawa~

I’m glad that we manage to visit them before the announcement.  Even prior to this award, Narisawa was already ranked in World’s 50 Best Restaurants (#20, 2013). With the lastest accolade, it will be more difficult to secure a reservation at the restaurant in future~

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