Have you ever stumbled upon the lists of top restaurants or most exclusive restaurants or most expensive restaurants in the world? I inevitably find them while surfing online every now and then and I remember a lot of those restaurants being in Japan. So, of course, when Mr. T was planning our Japan trip, I asked him to look into getting us into one of those uber ridiculous restaurants so that we could experience what the fuss was about (remember our trip to this restaurant? We love being entertained over a multi-course meal!). That’s how we ended up making reservations to Narisawa which was ranked as the best restaurant in Asia in 2011. In 2012, it’s the second best – second to a restaurant in Singapore.
Narisawa is like a sophisticated reprieve in the middle of the Tokyo chaos. The chef, Yoshihiro Narisawa, studied with some of the world’s most renown chefs and applied the techniques he’s learned to his creations while taking inspiration from the “zen” Japanese culture and nature. What results is a multi-course experience that is simplistic in its flavors (in case you’re wondering, it’s not traditional japanese food) and yet artful in its presentation. As cheesy as it sounds, I felt like I was “one with the environment” during the dining experience.
When we went, we enjoyed the Summer Collection tasting menu.
It consisted of about 10+ courses with purposely elusive titles and descriptions. The waiter told us that we wouldn’t know the order in which the courses would arrive as it was all a surprise, and he left the menu with us throughout the meal so that we could have a point of reference when the dishes actually arrived.
One of the most interesting items was this roll of dough which immediately caught our eye when it was placed on our table. We actually weren’t even sure what it was when we first saw it! Is it safe to eat?
As we were trying to figure it out, our waiter came and placed the bread into a stone pot which he left on our table. It baked for 12 minutes and it was delicious! Probably the freshest bread I’ve ever had a restaurant… and it was quite a sight to see it juxtaposed to that block of butter made to look like moss.
After the bread, our courses followed, and to give you an idea of what type of dishes you can expect, here are a few of our courses:
Saien caviar – we were hoping this was going to be traditional caviar but it turns out it was a veggie dish!
“Ash 2009” Scene of the seashore – This dish was actually a production and involved mixing that “ash” in front of us in a container that looked like it contained liquid nitrogen. In the picture below, the vapor from the concoction has already disseminated leaving only “ash” on top of a squid.
Kamo nasu, eggplant “Gion festival” – There’s something about eggplants in Japan. Mr. T normally hates eggplants but there’s something special about the ones in Japan because none of them actually tasted like traditional eggplant – including the one below. The “plastic wrapping” is actually made to taste like tomatoes!
“Sumi 2009” Hida Beef – I’m not a huge fan of beef, but even I will admit that this piece of hida beef was the most perfectly cooked piece of beef I’ve ever seen in my life (the picture actually makes it look more “red” than it really was)! It was super tender to eat as well – makes sense since Japan is known for its perfectly marbled wagyu.
Finally, check out our “final” dessert which was an assortment of macaroons in a lovely ombre (“gradation” in French) presentation! Mr. T, are you reading this? The chic ombre trend has even made it to desserts!
In all, the meal was quite good but we felt that the flavors were almost too simplistic for our tastes – especially for a restaurant that was bestowed such a prestigious distinction to be the best in Asia three years in a row! The presentation of the dishes, however, were like works of art and the overall dining experience was definitely in its own league. We also appreciated the chef’s desire to channel nature in all of the dishes so that wasn’t lost on us. All that being said, we just weren’t blown away… and maybe it’s because the bar was set so high before we got there. If you’re going to spend that much on a meal, wouldn’t it be fair to ask for the food to “wow” you as much as the presentation?