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What? The best restaurant in Japan is French?!


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Yes, I had the same reaction and was in disbelief, but my recent meal at Les Créations de NARISAWA has cleared all my doubts! Being the highest ranked restaurant in Japan, and in Asia, for two consecutive years on The S.Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, this is a restaurant where a passionate chef cooks with his heart and soul.

We were the first to arrive during a weekday lunch service. Not only was chef Narisawa in the kitchen as usual, but he had started early that morning in preparation for his lunch and dinner service. The elegantly designed dining room allows diners to observe the intense action and collaborated teamwork in the kitchen.

The menu, entitled Gift from the Nature, promises a full theatrical performance consisting of three categories: Forest, Mountain, and Sea. My first impression upon browsing through the menu was a merging of the style of Noma, the techniques of Mugaritz, the eye-openers of The Fat Duck, along with the strong seasonal flavours of Japan. However, once the meal began, I immediately sensed the originality of his cooking. This was neither Japanese nor French, but a Narisawa cuisine!

Narisawa1.JPG

A Forest bread-making demonstration was surprising and intriguing. This must be the first restaurant in the world to bake bread in the dining room and without using an oven! I thought the bread trolley of Robuchon was the epitome of bread presentation, but this freshly made bread beats them all!

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While waiting for the bread to bake, we enjoyed a short break to the Mountain for a tasting of fresh radish and sweetfish from the river before immersing ourselves into the Sea with a spiny lobster nested under a colourful garden of vegetables.

I have never been a fan of poached foie gras. I don’t know how, but chef Narisawa poached it like nobody else, resulting in one of the best dishes of my life!

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Back to the wildwood for our main dish: roasted quail with a raisin reduction and an edible decoration of fried potato skin, sakura leaves, and a black stick of fried gobō sprinkled with cassava powder. Impressive stuff!

Time to settle in for dessert after our fascinating journey through the Forest, Mountain, and Sea. ! A fresh strawberry topped with almond ice cream followed by an eye-appealing and mouth-watering trolley of petits fours.

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After sampling eight stunning creations by chef Narisawa, there is no question that he deserved a spot on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Chef Narisawa is not only an inventor, he is a culinary artist who can transform “Gift from the Nature” to an experience of a lifetime, and that’s what sets him apart from his peers. You can find loads of top-notch sushi or tempura all over Japan, but there is only one place in the world where you can experience the cuisine of Narisawa!

Click Here for photos and videos of the full menu.

Fine Dining Explorer

www.finediningexplorer.com

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  • 8 years later...

After nearly 3 years, I finally made a return to Japan this Summer. Unlike my previous visits, this time I came with my parents, spouse and son. It was still a very fun visit but as far as the food’s concerned, I had limited opportunity to dine at (many) “elite” restaurants. Even worse, I only had about 1+ month to search for restaurants thus many of the places I initially asked had been fully booked. One of the gastronomy places I managed to get in was Narisawa. I brought my father to this restaurant as it could cater to my dad’s dietary restrictions best.

 

Narisawa caught my attention when it has been consistently ranked high in “best 50 Asia restaurants”. Then, I think he’s the only chef I knew that had been trained by all 3 of Gault Millau’s chefs of the century. With such pedigree, theoretically, Narisawa-san had to be able to produce fantastic meals. So, how was it? The dishes that I really liked were …

-2 of his signature dishes were splendid. The bread of the forest, freshly baked table side for 12 minutes in the hot stone was great in both texture and flavor. In addition, there was high quality butter covered by black olive and green moss – this made the bread even more enjoyable. Another classic was Sumi beef; in my case, it was the rump steak from Kobe (prepared sous-vide) coated by leek ash, resembling charcoal. The middle part was perfectly pink with tender texture and delicate flavor, intensified by the sauce, which was concentrated and refined.

-For the soup dish, Chef Narisawa showed that he’s more than able to create top traditional Japanese dish. The dashi was clean, clear and flavorful like the one you would normally get at high-end kaiseki places. The main ingredient was Nodoguro with crispy skin, tender & ‘fatty’ meat. Furthermore, there were shinjo dumpling and junsai.

-The 2nd fruit-based (the 1st one was so-so) dessert was simple and good. Caramelized peach pine (like soft pineapple) was not overly sweet, accompanied by perfect mango sorbet and sauce from oak and cedar whiskey. A nice way to end the meal

These were very good dishes though not spectacular

 

The rests (as you could see from the pictures – please check the link) were mostly alright. Several of them were more beautiful than delicious – still appreciate the hard work & effort the kitchen team put on creating those dishes. The positive part … many of the creations were playful and innovative; good for fun experience (and probably for ‘instagram’?)

 

The service was fabulous; for me, this aspect was even slightly better than the food. Staffs were attentive, friendly and professional. My “maître d’” really paid attention to my father requests and Narisawa + team delivered with flying color. He mastered the details of the dishes well and answered any questions with ease – I could not recall the time when he’s unsure or had to check something with the kitchen. For the drink, I shared small portion of sake with my dad at the beginning. Then, I also tried a couple glasses of local wine … pleasant discovery. For instance, Toriivila ’16 with Koshu grape and tasted like Riesling; Inemankai (red sake) imitated the red wine taste and it accompanied my beef dish, a decent ‘pairing’

 

All in all, it’s not a bad meal at all. Narisawa deserved its 2-star Michelin. Yoshihiro-san had his concept + belief and he stick with them (beneficial and sustainable gastronomy). I think the restaurant can get better though I may not immediately return here in the future. It’s certainly a friendly place to foreigners and the booking was not complicated at all

 

Pictures of the meal: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/albums/72157702390761015/with/30332241267/

 

 

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