Feb 21 2014



When I was choosing which restaurants to visit in Tokuo, Narisawa was top of my list. Narisawa is the 20th best restaurant in the world according to the St Pellegrino awards and number 1 in Asia (2 days after we visited it the new rankings came out and it slipped to number 2 in Asia). It has 2 Michelin stars and is run by Yoshihiro Narisawa who has inspired chefs all over the world. The restaurant opened in 2003 under the name of Les Creations de Narisawa in Minami-Aoyama, Tokyo, and in 2011 it became known as just Narisawa. Narisawa serves Japanese food with influence from France where Yoshihiro Narisawa has worked for many years.
Narisawa is known for its focus on environment and nature. The dishes are created in such a way to take environmental concerns into consideration. Yoshihiro Narisawa does not just serve you food, but reproduces seasons, which you can see in the way the menu is written. The menu that we got did not list the ingredients of the dishes, instead it was called “Evolve with the Forest” and description of the dish on the menu was supposed to get you into the right mood and did not really tell you what was going to be in each dish. This cuisine is called “innovative satoyama cuisine” and satoyama means a border zone or area between mountain foothills and arable flat land. Mr Narisawa does not just love the environment in his food, he also in his spare time works to help regeneration of forests and does activities to conserve the natural environment
Finding Narisawa was not easy. We had a reservation for lunch for a Friday (lunch cost 12,600 YEN and dinner 21,000 for the same food, so I saved money and I got us a lunch reservation and I prefer to have these sort of big lunches than dinners anyways). I had asked our hotel’s concierge to write on a piece of paper the address and the taxi driver took us to this place, which seemed like a small street with no Narisawa in sight. Initially I refused to get out of the taxi as I thought the driver had got it wrong, but then we called the restaurant, they reassured us that we were in the right place the restaurant was just behind the corner. A lady from the restaurant came and met us and walked us to the restaurant and said that many people can’t find it.
The décor in the restaurant is very minimalistic and reminded me of Noma. From the outside there were no signs that said Narisawa and I guess you just had to know how the building looked like (from pictures and their website). Inside the approach and décor was very minimalistic and the waiters were wearing grey which reminded me of the attire that the waiters in Noma wore. There were a few foreign waiters and a few Japanese ones and as we later noticed the foreign speaking ones would bring and explain dishes to the foreign guests, like us, and the Japanese waiters would approach the Japanese people in Narisawa. The waiters were nice but not as nice and helpful as in Noma and the service was good just a little bit cold, they did not want to engage in too many conversations and were not happy to be working there like the waiters in Noma are. The menu had 12 courses and the menu apparently changes 4 times a year, just like the seasons.
When we sat down and ordered our drinks the waiter brought us a big pot with a small glass inside it with stuff coming out of it and explained that it was bread dough and later they will cook bread in front of us. This dish was called “bread of the forest 2012” and later a lady came and mixed this bread dough inside a super hot rock plate and then left this on our table for exactly 12 minutes in which the bread got ready and cooked in this hot plate. We were encouraged to eat this bread without butter. The bread tasted interesting, it was heavier than normal bread and did have a sort of nature/ forest feel. After this bread they also brought us some “normal” bread which you had with moss/ soil looking butter, which was delicious.
Our next course was “Essence of the forest and Satoyama scenery” and “Sumi”. Sumi means charcoal and it is how the chef likes to cook a lot of his food. The waiter brought us a big round plate that had water that had been drained through a cedar tree presented in a little wooden cup and you were encouraged to drink this first. It had a slight hint of woodiness to it, but if you did not know it was soaked through a tree, you may not have noticed it. The plate also had mixed herbs, some tempura vegetables, white and black dust covering it and a little snowman made out of horseradish. The herbs, tempura and soil were delicious, similar to a soil dish I had at Noma. After this we were also told to eat the “sumi” and my boyfriend got a charcoaled oyster, and as I don’t eat oysters I had a charcoaled onion. It was black, even when you bit into it, proper charcoal although did not have the bitter taste that burnt things have.
The next dish was dried (poisonous) sea snake soup with some pork, potato yam dumplings and vegetables called “Okinawa”, which is the name of hundreds of small islands in the south of Japan. The reason for this is because in the old days in Okinawa people would boil this sea snake to have a delicious soup and Narisawa has recreated it. The taste of the soup was intense, pleasantly strong, pork was soft and the potato yam dumplings added some texture. The waitress also offered to bring us and show us the actual sea snake, which you can see in the picture and which looked ultra-scary, black and dried up. We were told all the poison had already been removed and the snake dried before they made the soup.
My boyfriend really liked the next dish, “Langoustines, Suruga Bay” (Suruga Bay is a bay in Japan). The waiter brought us langoustines (he called this warm sashimi) served in their shells, covered with vegetables, tomato puree and edible flower petals. The fish was fresh and delicious, and the added elements sort of reminded you of nature and forest, which Narisawa was trying to achieve.
The sixth course of our tasting menu was called ““Ash 2009” scene of the seashore” and 2009 means the year when this dish was invented and this dish was a charcoaled grilled squid with three different types of paprika sauces the main one being the ash sauce (which looked grey) and hence the name of the dish. The ash sauce was made in a liquid nitrogen pot in front of us by the waitress and she poured this sauce all over the squid. There was a show in this dish, the squid was beautiful to look at, super soft and great tasting, I very much liked it, although did not think the ash sauce tasted of much.
Next dish was “seafood soup” which I really liked. It was a thick soup served in a sort of peasant looking (but expensive clearly) bowl and had red snapper, monkfish and crab. Intense flavour and super delicious, one of my favourite dishes.
Our eight course was another fish course, “Spanish mackerel, hagi, buckwheat and root vegetable” and we were given a chargrilled (the chef clearly loves to chargrill) Spanish mackerel on top of a risotto with some lily bulbs. The dish was brought to us in this glass container full of smoke, and my boyfriend thought it was amazing how they managed to capture all this smoke, and when the waitress lifted the lid you could feel real smokiness, it was a great smell and the mackerel tasted a bit of smoke, it was a pleasant flavour and the fish was absolutely perfectly cooked, with slight pink in the middle. The risotto and the lily bulb were delicious as well.
Our last fish main course was “tile fish, hsgi, yamaguchi” so tile fish served with vegetables and crysantheum sauce. One of my least memorable dishes, although the fish was well cooked, nothing to fault.
The next dish was the one my boyfriend had been looking forward to for the whole meal, the meat main course, “Sumi 2009” Kobe beef. The beef had been chargrilled from the outside in the most amazing way with olive oil poured over it. It was absolutely black, but the black layer was super super thin. When you ate the amazing, tender kobe beef you could taste a bit of charcoal and I am still unsure whether I liked it or not. It was strong in flavour, peculiar and unforgettable at the same time. To balance it out as a palette cleanser we were given a sake sorbet, which tasted a lot like sake and I thought I could get drunk just from eating this. The beef was served with a small bit of spinach and some Bordeaux sauce. Before we had this the waiter had also explained that if we did not like beef we could have pork, pigeon or duck cooked the same way but also mentioned that if we have not had this dish before, we should probably go for beef.
Next we had two desert courses and the first one was “chocolate cappuccino” and in a martini glass we were presented with three layers of different sort of liquidy chocolate. Very chocolaty and if you like chocolate you would have loved it.
Our last course was “pear, warabi and mochi” and had a warm pear sorbet, pear and mochi and this was divine. There were a variety of textures and temperatures in this dessert and it was so interesting to see a pear based dessert as not often do you get them. Really enjoyed it.
After our meal the best bit followed, the sweet trolley. First we were given 9 tiny macaroons that started with white lavender chocolate taste and ended with 80% cacao macaroon and in between in ascending order went from white to dark chocolate. They were delicious, each tasted different. The actual sweet trolley that followed was impressive with various Japanese and French desserts and you can see pictures of the sweets we chose for ourselves.
I very much liked Narisawa, I liked the whole nature theme and therefore interesting and unusual ingredients (like the sea snake) and I also liked that the whole meal was not too long (sometimes these tasting menus can really drag on) and we were in Narisawa only 3h. Also I was super positively surprised about the price as we have had much more expensive meals in Tokyo and also similarly priced for much worse food, so the lunch menu is great value for money.
Date: 21/ 02/ 14
Price for 2 people with 2 glasses of champagne and service charge: YEN 35,000 (around 207 GBP)
Location: Tokyo, Japan

Maija rated: 




Minami Aoyama Minato
Narisawa Reviewed by Hungry Bee Maija on . Rating: 5