This was my first Michelin star experience in Tokyo and quite frankly I didn’t know what to expect. I knew there would be a certain standard with two starred Michelin restaurants but with the Japanese they take everything to another level.
Armed with 2010 Michelin Guide for Tokyo, I was spoilt for choice in where to go. What won me over for Les Creations de Narisawa was the fact that it is one of two restaurants in Japan who made it to The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2010. Yoshihiro Narisawa is trained in French cooking and learned through fellow World’s Best Restaurant Chef – Joel Robuchon. He is famed for bringing nature to a plate with themes of soil, water, fire, charcoal and forest.
I made my reservation through their website a week before and they called my hotel the night before to confirm my arrival. After a whole day of scouring the streets of Shinjuku, I was really looking forward to being pampered. As soon as we walked in the door, we were greeted with an army of waiters, one to take our jackets, one to cross our names off the list and two to take us to our table.
The theme for tonight’s 10 course meal is ‘ Evolve with the Forest. We were presented with a booklet which describes the inspiration for tonight’s meal. Chef Narisawa describes humans living in the forest and worked with the forest while protecting it. His menu tonight was his attempt to reconnect to the human’s past – our ancestor’s wisdom of living symbiotically with the forest – to the future. I was presented with a menu but was advised that it won’t come in any particular order.
First dish came in the form of a scented oil burner. I looked in the burner and instead of scented oils in the dish, there was dough mix with lilybuds, fermenting in front of us. The waiter explained this dish – Bread of the forest is actually cooked at our table. He would let the dough prove for 30 minutes and he would come back to cook the bread in front of us. I loved the extra detail the dish was presented with the twigs and leaves around the plate.
Whilst the dough mix was bubbling away, our second dish Oyster of the forest arrived, a leek crusted oyster, lightly fried. When the dish came out, I was expecting the black crust to be inedible. Our waiter explained to us that the black crust was made by chargrilling baby leeks until they turned black and it was ground into fine powder. It later turned out that Chef Narisawa used this leek powder in a few of his dishes.The leek crust was very earthy in flavour and resembled burnt shallots which have been left on the korean bbq grill for too long.
Next up was Hirame from Odawara, a coastal city 90 mins from Tokyo. Hirame is known as flat fish or sole and this was served sashimi style with baby salad leaves and edible flowers. You could taste the freshness of the fish and traditionally it is served with little lemon juice or yuzu, no soy wasabi here!
As one waiter was clearing our plates, another was wheeling a trolley with a big white marble bowl. “OoooooOooo I wonder what is in there?” I say excitedly. As the dishes weren’t arriving as the order of the menu I was trying to guess what it was. The bowl had roasted red peppers, oil and lemon juice which was frozen in liquid nitrogen to produce a sand like ash to put on top of the grilled squid. The squid dish looked like a high school science experiment as the frozen ash was giving off smoke. As I cut into the squid, I asked the waiter what was it stuffed with and he merely replied “Squid guts”. Now I usually take these out when I eat them at home and I was actually quite suprised it didn’t really have a distinct taste.
By this stage a stone pot (like the bimbimbap ones you find in korean restaurants) arrived at our table. The dough mix was transferred to the stone pot which had been heated to 250 degrees and covered with a wooden lid. 15 minutes later we had bread! It came out more like a scone and it was actually quite dense. We were also given the option of having normal bread with 3 variaties to choose from. The butter resembled like soil in a flower pot with little seedlings sprouting from the soil. The soil was made from dehydrated olives. Very cute!
This was the definite highlight of the night – Gift from “Satoyama” and “Le Potager”. Satoyama is a Japanese term applied to area between mountain foothills and arable flat land, Le Potager meaning the garden in french and the dish did come out looking like a garden bed. The foie gras had a crispy layer on the outside which provided a great contrast to the velvety goodness on the inside. The strawberry cut through the richess of foie gras, together they make the perfect marriage in foodie heaven. I could happily eat this everyday (cholesterol permitting of course!)
Luxury essence 2007 Langoustine resembled more like a science experiment when it arrived on our table. In each of the tubes it contained chinese superior broth made with jin hua ham and it was poured into a plate of poached langoustine with chinese broccoli flowers.
Today’s fish was tile fish pan fried with it’s scales, served with yuzu foam. Never had fried scales before and the texture reminded me of corn flakes.
We move on the final main course for the night – Sumi 2009 Hida beef. The beef is coated with the leek ash mixture creating the illusion of a piece of charcoal. The meat was cooked using a traditional French method of arroser, which is basting the beef continuously with olive oil for 1 hour with the oil at 80 degrees. The beef was served with a frozen sake granita.
Finally we move on to desserts – Kinkan chocolate and matcha. Kinkan is a fruit like kumquat and the citrus balanced the sweetness of the chocolate mousse. Matcha was Chef Narisawa’s version of french toast covered in green tea powder.
Needless to say at this point, I wanted to try everything on the petit four trolley but my stomach wasn’t just letting me. In the end I only picked 4 things.
We walked out of there very satisfied stomachs. I can see why it has 2 Michelin stars and received the highest ranking restaurant in Japan and Asia in San Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurant, Chef Narisawa not only shows off his classically trained french cooking skills but shows the diner an experience of seasons in his food.