My friend, Jeffrey Merrihue, the founder of Chowzter, was in town recently to film a documentary on chef Yoshihiro Narisawa. Jeffrey followed chef Narisawa on a fishing expedition, a very cool imperial duck hunting adventure, and foraging in the woods. The end of his week of filming was a lunch at Narisawa and I was lucky to be Jeffrey’s dining partner for the meal. It gave us a time to observe one of Asia’s, if not the world’s, top chefs. More exciting for Jeffrey as he was with Narisawa when many components to our meal was collected. The restaurant also did an all Japanese beverage pairing of wine, sake, and some unique beverages.
I am not including photos of every course, but many highlights and all of the drinks that we had, as they are so unique and I can’t imagine anywhere else in the world that has all of these beverages in house. We were served by a sommelier who kept introducing us to new wines and saké. Having worked as a sommelier, I love watching a sommelier at work and we were in good hands. Very interesting selection of wines – all Japanese, if you can believe it. And, a handful of saké as well. Some drinks were old friends, but many of them, new to me. A treat and great adventure.
It’s a visually stunning meal, not only food, but how it is presented, much like kaiseki cuisine, so including leaves and such that remind diners the time of year. Including how we started the meal, Water in the Forest, Cuvee Narisawa. A gentle and refreshing, aromatic start to lunch.
The amuse was the Japanese forest in winter. An earthy dish including deep-fried burdock root, bitter Ishikawa herbs, snow made from okara (tofu lees), bamboo charcoal (chikutan) and even a snowman made from daikon.
2009 Toriivilla Imamura Cuvee Tradition 100% Koshu. A light, aromatic fruity white wine. (Katsunuma, Yamanashi) Narisawa’s signature Soup of the Soil
This is one of those dishes you read about and think to yourself, really? It’s a beautiful presentation. And, what caught my ear was that the chef said that there was no salt added to the soup, that the flavor is all natural. It was very delicious. It had a lot of flavor to it. Recently Narisawa was on a documentary on Japanese television and they show him making the soup from scratch in the restaurant. Burdock root is sautéed in a pan before the dirt is added and then the dirt is sautéed for a while before water is added. And, when I saw this being assembled, it all made sense. The soup does taste of the earth, but also of burdock root. It’s a great dish and something I would ask for again in the future.
2012 Edel Wein Riesling Lion (Hanamaki, Iwate)
Riesling Lion is a grape you’ll only see in Japan. A hybrid grape made from riesling and koshu. It tastes much more like koshu than it does riesling. A light, refreshing, and aromatic wine with some Japanese citrusy notes to match well with the deep-fried fugu (blowfish).
Suntory Tomi no Oka (Yamanashi)
This is the fish that Jeffrey went fishing for with chef Narisawa. It is called kanburi, or winter yellowtail. It is one of the most delicious fish this time of year. It is so good that my husband and I journeyed to this same area to see it at the fish market in Himi port for part of our honeymoon. Chef just seared it so most of it was still sashimi. Rich in fat and so delicious.
Chateau Gen 1981 from Mie prefecture. A unique sake made from genmai, brown rice. Rich, like wine and a nice match to the pork in this soup.
This Okinawa dish was one of my favorites. It is made with a delicate broth, rich in umami, made from irabu (Okinawan sea snake) that is dried. It was an elegant version of dishes I’ve had in Okinawa.
Domaine Sogga Pinot Noir Claret 2011 from Obuse Winery in Nagano
I had the pleasure of working with Takahiko Soga at Coco Farm and Winery in Ashikaga, Tochigi. Soga-san has since moved on to Hokkaido, to open up his own winery, Domaine Takahiko. Soga-san’s family runs Domaine Sogga in Nagano prefecture, known for their wines, and this lovely pinot noir. It was served with a roasted suppon. Suppon is something I see at Tsukiji Market when I do tours there. It is a soft-shell turtle that is considered a delicacy in Japan. I was a bit hesitant to try it, but what better way to try a new food than with a star chef like Narisawa. It was amazing. Meaty, well-seasoned, and not at all turtle like (imagining it would taste of a lake or be chewy).
2010 Torivilla Black Queen and 2009 Sumi Tajima Beef
Chō Nōkō Jersey Yogurt Shu from Miyagi prefecture was an unexpected surprise. A thick drink made from Jersey milk yogurt and saké. Perfect for this saké kasu, kuzu kochi and winter citrus fruit dessert.
At the end of the meal Jeffrey and I were talking about sweets that we liked. We both said that we loved any dessert with salted caramel. So, you can imagine how delighted we were to see this striking display of macaroons, with a caramel salted one. Our waiter kindly brought us a second one so we could each have one.
The staff kindly printed out the menu for us. I had the Ash 2009 instead of the Botan shrimp, Nanao Bay, which Jeffrey had. It was a lovely meal and would be great fun to go back in another season to see how chef Narisawa interprets a different time of year. I hope that soil soup is served again.
Thanks to chef Narisawa for a lovely meal, and to the sommelier (sorry, I didn’t get his name), who paired each course so wonderfully.
Chef Narisawa has recently collaborated with a historic and famous yōshoku restaurant, Tokyo Toyoken, that has just opened on January 15th, in Akasaka. The indefatigable chef shows no signs of slowing down. Looking forward to trying his new place and seeing what the future holds.