It’s hard to put a finger to Yoshihiro Narisawa’s cuisine at his eponymous restaurant sited at a ‘buried’ location in the motor showroom-heavy district of Minami Aoyoma. It’s definitely haute, but it’s also modernist, somewhat theatrical and highly sensitive to the harvests of nature.
To understand his cuisine – which is neither French nor Japanese - one has to dig into Narisawa’s past. At the tender age of 19, the young Narisawa packed his bags for Europe and spent time in Switzerland, Italy and France. 8 years after working his way through some of Europe’s most venerated kitchens – including those of Joel Robuchon and Paul Bocuse – he returned to Japan in 1996 and opened La Napoule in Odawara.
With the mountains, the river and the Sagami Bay at his doorstep, Narisawa had access to fresh and pristine ingredients and he began to weave the sensibilities of seasonality into his cuisine. 7 years later, in year 2003, Narisawa moved to his current venue in Tokyo and formed Les Créations de Narisawa. Whilst he is now closer to his Tokyo clientele, Narisawa has held on dearly to the philosophy of harvesting gifts from the forest, the coast (“Satoumi”), the garden (“Saien) and the mountain (“Satoyama”) – and these now form the basic tenets of his cuisine. The decidedly low-key, if minimalist, interior with white starched linen-blanketed tables against Philippe Hurel-designed chairs provide the perfect backdrop to engage in Narisawa’s thoughtful 10-course degustation meal.
In summer, the dinner may start with a “forest” drink of cedar and oak-infused water served alongside ‘sumi’ onion (onion cooked in powdered charred leek); then proceed with a “garden” green asparagus and pea pods consommé enlivened with passion fruit, ginger and apple jus then strewed with lashings of wild herbs; or a “mountain” dish of incredibly marbled Hida beef coated in a layer of ‘sumi’ made from carbonized leek. Most riveting, however, is Narisawa’s signature harvest from the “coast” (interesting enough, this is labeled on the menu as Ash 2009, Scene of the seashore, where Narisawa envisions fishermen creating a bonfire by the coast) – a whole charcoal-grilled squid with caramelized ‘sumi’ paprika, lemon jus and powdered olive oil that arrives at the table with a flurry of mist (thanks to the application of liquid nitrogen).
And though the ensuing trio of desserts – including a “salty dog” cocktail; rose ice cream with rhubarb and meringue; and the trolley of sweets – offers less theatrics than the fore courses, they are impeccable. After a ride through the forest, to the mountains, down the coast and to the gardens with Narisawa, the conclusion could not have been more perfect.
| 2-6-15 Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo | Tel: 81-3-5785 0799 | www.narisawa-yoshihiro.com |Lunch JPY 7,350/21,000, Dinner JPY21,000
Evelyn Chen traded her frequent flyer miles from her jet-setting corporate days for a critic's pen, and has been eating and drinking on the job ever since. She is a former Time Out food critic and current editor of Zagat Guide (Singapore); her food and travel features have published in CNN Travel, New York Times, Telegraph and Destin Asian, amongst others. Follow her on www.facebook.com/bibikgourmand or www.twitter.com/bibikgourmand for updates on where she's eating right now.