2002 Iron Chef Winner - Kimio Nonaga
My first restaurant review for the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan Journal on my favorite kaiseki restaurant, Nihonbashi Yukari.
http://accjjournal.com/nihonbashi-yukari/ (text follows)
If it’s good enough for the emperor, it’s good enough for me. Third generation Kimio Nonaga of Nihonbashi Yukari recently catered an event at the Imperial Palace for a meeting between the emperor and prime minister Yukio Hatoyama. Chef Nonaga captured the attention of foodies in 2002 upon winning the Iron Chef trophy at the tender age of twenty-nine. While he grew up in his family’s restaurant, he trained for seven years in Kyoto’s renowned Kikunoi under the tutelage of Chef Yoshihiro Murata. Murata is the author of the gorgeous book “Kaiseki,” published by Kodansha International.
Nihonbashi Yukari is just minutes from Tokyo Station’s Yaesu exit. The entrance to the restaurant, elegant and simple, is a stark contrast to the cheap restaurants and office buildings that crowd the area. Inside you are warmly greeted by kimono clad waitresses and are transported to an oasis. The inside is the classic sukiya style of wood and paper shoji screens. In the basement are private rooms for intimate dinners and groups. Diners range in age from young to old, and at lunchtime well-heeled ladies populate the space.
The best seats are at the counter, where you can watch the chef create cold dishes. Hot dishes are prepared in the kitchen. And, if you speak Japanese, Chef Nonaga will share with you the seasonal ingredients.
Nihonbashi Yukari is renowned for serving classic kaiseki cuisine composed of seasonal ingredients presented exquisitely over several courses. And great thought is put into pleasing the customer; for example, if it is a cold day your first course will be a warm dish.
The menu changes daily, depending on what Chef Nonaga has picked up that morning at Tsukiji Market. He is also a big proponent of local produce. No two meals are ever the same – and here is the challenge of suggesting favorite dishes.
The sashimi course is always a highlight. Chef Nonaga cuts the fish different in thicknesses or scores the flesh to create the best texture. I still remember fondly a creamy shirako (fish sperm sac) with a ponzu dressing and an owan (soup) dish of seasonal fish dusted with rice flour and deep-fried until crispy and served in a savory, thickened broth.
Chef Nonaga takes an unusual interest in creating original desserts, often based on Japanese ingredients. Kinako (roasted soybean powder) ice cream studded with black beans, or a cheesecake made with sake lees are just two examples of his creativity. The chef also has an original mugishochu and beer, both that are perfect beverage partners for his cuisine. There is also a nice selection of Japan wines on hand.
One of the great delights of Nihonbashi Yukari is that it is open for lunch, unusual for many kaiseki restaurants. Call ahead and reserve the bento box, as the number prepared each day is limited. For classic Japanese cuisine Nihonbashi Yukari is among the top in the city. If you go, tell him Yukari sent you.
Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 3-2-14
closest stations: Nihonbashi and Tokyo station Yaesu exit
closed Sunday and holidays