I was in Tokyo recently and for those of you who have been I am sure you know- this country serves some of the best quality food EVER. In general, the fish (sushi, sashimi) is good the meat (tonkatsu, pork, niku jagga). My only personal dislike is Okonomayaki (Seriously, why would you eat it when there are so many other better foods?). I digress. Tokyo’s culinary skill is through the roof. That city has more Michelin stars than Paris!
My friend and I decided to go to Narisawa because we had read it was rated 20th in the world (upon eating there, we found out they just got upgraded the day before to #14 in the world) on Perrier’s World Best Restaurants list.
Not only is Japanese food exquisite, its philosophy and presentation are all connected to the idea of seasonal food. If you have been lucky enough to visit Japan, you`ll probably know that they change the decorations, colors and the food according to season. Sakura (Cherry Blossom) kit kats can be found come spring time and this whole idea is generally connected to a sense of harmony, balance, and the experience nature evokes.
Chef Narisawa, like a mythical shaman of food, opened his restaurant Les Créations de Narisawa after training in Europe. His web site kind of doesn’t go into detail about where but by 2003 he was super famous for his vision, that we should eat and “cherish with our true hearts” the meal experience, he writes that guests should “fall under the spell of the season, they should not only be eating a meal, they should be absorbing life itself”. And, I can truly say this was an actual experience so much more than just eating. It was like eating in the forest, or eating the forest. It`s avant garde French food, served using Japanese ingredients. Conceptually it`s on another level, it’s modern, it’s art, it’s not gimmicky, and most importantly, it’s one of the tastiest meals you will ever have.
We started off with a glass of champagne made specifically for Narisawa. They also asked us for our preference for water. The waiter named five different bottles, of which I only knew San Pellegrino and Perrier (How do you have five types of sparkling water? Does one bottle have better bubbles than the other?) I picked the one with the most obscure name because why not, maybe it’s got hops! After the waiter left, my friend turns to me and says, “you realize you probably just ordered a $40 bottle of water right?” (It was $18)
Narisawa Spring Collection 2014:
Evolve with the Forest
Bread of the Forest
This restaurant is not only about eating it is about the whole immersive experience. This is a three part amuse bouche!!! Typically an amuse bouche is a single, bite-sized hors d’œuvre, but nooo, Narisawa decides he’s gonna serve three wildly cool dishes. An exciting way to set the tone for the meal, the waiter explains that what you see in the first picture is the sourdough mix, which he then dumps into that hot stone bowl which will cook the mix over the next 10 minutes table side while we get to enjoy part two of the amuse bouche.
Essence of the Forest and Satoyama Scenery
What looks like a forest is a bunch of herbs (some deep fried) that taste so clean and refined. That green and black powdery stuff? Chlorophyll which he extracted and dirt. Dirt!!! And it tasted really good! I tried to eat all of mine without making a mess. That wooden cup you see, filled with water so you can taste a part of the forest itself. What should be nasty and pretentious made for a really cool dish that you just won’t get anywhere else. Beautiful, tasty, and perfectly executed.
Chiayu, Sweet fish . Sakura on the river surface
I waited too long to write this review to remember what this tasted like 🙁 I just remember that the fish was crispy (duh) but nothing too outstanding in terms of flavor.
How’s this for ballsy?! That bowl of brown is actually a broth of soil, the same used for the essence of the forest dish, infused with burdock root…and it was good! Subtle, earthy, texture basic, nothing acidic. Damn cool to drink.
Remember the bread I mentioned cooking table side?
How can bread be so good?! Crispy on the outside, velvety soft on the inside, so tasty, and made from a bowl of stone?! Don’t you need a state of the art convection oven that can steam, roast, broil, crisp, bake, nip, tuck, and roll to produce something of this caliber? And that green guy with leaves sticking out? I specifically ate more bread throughout the whole meal just to devour this delectably delicious island of butter covered in chlorophyll with a layer of Olive Tapenade underneath.
Spring Mountain and Sea
Texture texture texture. Crispy skin, firm texture on the snapper, bamboo shoots cooked perfectly. The lettuce things on top with the balls of liquid attached to the leaves, also had a bite to them (I forget what they’re called 🙁 Japanese plant). You’ve got these earthy meaty textures with a slight acidic sauce to go with. So well balanced, so refined.
It’s just so good. I’d eat the butter with a fork and knife if the bread weren’t so good.
Langoustine, Surugs Bay
He does such a good job with flavor, texture, acidity, and balance that you can’t help but appreciate this stuff as art. What you can’t see underneath is the langoustine, mine had eggs with it 😀 Friend’s did not.
I really wish I could remember the wines, always hard for me to remember but typically when I take a picture of wine, it’s because I really liked it and want to record the bottle incase I’m able to drink it again in the future.
“Ash 2009” Scene of the Sea Shore
Liquid nitrogen is always fun table side. Squid with Paprika. It wasn’t icey cold like you would expect after having some liquid N poured on it. Firm but soft texture.
Kashu Pork, Chiba
Surprised at how simple it looks but in fact a lot went into it. They cook the pork in the oven for three minutes and then rest for five. Rinse repeat. Doing so gets the pork butter soft as well as getting the skin crispy without overcooking anything. The onions were interesting. They were really soft, like they were steamed. I liked them but my friend argued since the pork was so soft, the onions should’ve been crispy. Soft + soft texture usually doesn’t work.
Horse crab, Hokkaido*Monk fish liver, Ishikawa
He used expensive ingredients as well as saffron, which per ounce is more expensive than gold, but it surprisingly didn`t taste all that different from a Korean soup called Yukgaechang. I hope Narisawa doesn’t read this…
Spanish Mackerel, Hagi, Yamagichi
Smoked – came out under a bowl of smoke actually. The stuff underneath, a risotto-like texture. Mackerel full of flavor.
“Sumi 2006” Tajima beef
I am conflicted about this dish. The presentation is visually stunning, ashy textures like a Jurassic Park gourmet meal. The problem is upon biting into it all you get is completely tasteless mouthful of micronised powdery texture (carbonized leek). However, what did impress me was that this is an A3 Wagyu (A5 being the fatties/highest rating for steak). It was perfect. Texture, amount of fat, and flavor — that piece of meat right there is a real steak. I don’t know if it’s cooking method or quality of beef but for me that was one of the best pieces of cow I’ve ever had. Thank you cow for dying for me.
I really liked that Narisawa chose a more “humble” meat because he believed it to be the right choice for the meal, and knew how to bring out the full range of flavor and texture. Choosing a meat that is not of the highest rating flies in the face of any notion that expense is everything.
I don’t know why it’s called Salty Dog.
I can only describe this as strawberry goo poured onto Ice cream that’s melting because I was taking too long with my camera and that simply doesn’t do it justice.
I really do not like unfiltered sake but this guy was awesome. Yogurty kind of taste which paired really well with the dessert.
Since there was only one of each, we had to flip a coin for who got first pick. Bastard friend obviously picks the Cacao 80% first and obviously I get the Rose as last pick 🙁
That said they were very good miniature versions of themselves
yeah…Narisawa’s awesome. You get to pick however many desserts you want. All miniaturized versions of their original selves.
Me – being the glutton I am – I was like just give me the whole thing. That little cake burnt guy crispy guy on the left was phenomenal. Crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside…I’m craving sweets now…
The entire experience took three and a half hours. I think the lunch set was $150-$200, which is really good for value for the quality of food you’re getting. It was one of the most exciting and delicious meals I’ve ever had. I actually wanted to go again but there are so many other good restaurants in Tokyo that I’ll have to save a return trip for the far future. Definitely a must, especially for anyone looking to try something modern.