Narisawa. A.K.A number 2 on Asia’s top 50 restaurants; truly worthy of its title. The staff at Narisawa was extremely tentative and most of the staff there could speak English. The day we went was the second day the Christmas menu was introduced; a little pricey but well worth it. Oh! And for once, a nice restaurant that didn’t charge me for water!!
They first introduced to us the “bread of the forest”. It sat in a nest of Christmas decorations on our table to rise during our meal and was later baked in front of us in a hot stone pot. The bread was light and fluffy, with a fragrant foresty scent. They sprinkled some chestnut sandwood on top before baking, which heightened the fragrance. It was an apple and walnut flavored bread, which made the bread slightly sweet. The bread was paired with dehydrated olive, and spinach chlorophyll butter.
Our first course was the “Essence of the forest and Satoyama scenery”. The dish was served on top of a wooden board, and the key essence was the water stored in a Japanese cedar cup. The water had been infused with the oak’s essence for hours, which gave it an extremely buttery, texture. The forest floor was made up of green tea, black tea, and bamboo powder. Creating a black and green forest. The forest was topped with some “bark”, and a cute radish snowman; it wasn’t just cute, but extremely flavorful too.
The soft shell turtle came with the forest, and was a seafood-like karaage. It was fried and seasoned to perfection, retaining the turtle’s natural flavour. Along with these dishes was the charcoal covered onion. The onion was caramelised to give the dish a sweet taste.
The next dish was a trio of spiny lobster atop of a red cracker, Omi beef atop of a white cracker, and sea snake soup with winter melon and potato. Before the dish came out, we had the chance to take photos of, and touch the charcoaled sea snake. The beef cracker had a smoky taste, the lobster was very fresh, and not slimy at all, but I would’ve preferred the crackers to be a little bit crunchier. The snake soup was an incredible concoction filled with great flavours and textures. The soup is created from Narisawa’s chicken and pork broth as the blueprint, with the added snake, potato, and winter melon. It was perfect for the cold weather in Japan.
Next up was the sea bream, salmon roe, and botan shrimp. The fish roe was amazingly fresh and popped with every bite, something I rarely get in Australia (please up your game). The visual appeal of the dish reminded me of an ocean, and took me straight to a fantasy land. I loved the bright deep blue plate, which enhanced the appearance of the dish. Everything in the dish was well harmonized, I’m usually unsure of what to do with bubbles on my plate (sorry zumbos), but these had a slight citrus flavour to them, adding depth, and heightening the flavours.
The Nagasaki oyster that we had apparently won national awards and was said to be “the best oyster in Japan”. With its flavour, texture, and appearance, I can see why it won. It was extremely smooth, juicy, and bursting with flavour. It was paired with a tomato, citrus sauce that enhanced the oyster’s natural flavours whilst adding a new flavour profile to the dish.
Langoustine shrimp. First off, the appearance: 100 points. I mean, just LOOK at it! The bowl perfectly contrasts the elements in the dish to bring out all there is to offer. The langoustine was topped with a bed of greens, and a slightly citrus vinegar. I was happy with just the salad, but the langoustine was an amazing work of art. Not only for my eyes, but also for my taste buds. The langoustine meat was soft, yet firm, extremely buttery, and filled with flavour. It was the first time I’ve ever picked up a shellfish leg with my hands and gnawed on the remains, but God was it worth it.
Next up: “luxury essence 2007” abalone. The abalone was served in a soup; the same soup base used to make the previous snake soup. The abalone was firm, yet extremely tender and packed full of flavour.
Next up was the blowfish, presented on wooden skewers. It had a woody, smokey fragrance, but the blowfish was quite soft, and broke apart from the skewers easily.
The Fukui crab was infused in a chawanmushi (Japanese steamed egg), topped with a dab of wasabi. The wasabi was not overpowering, and gave the dish the kick that it needed. The egg was silky smooth, with a layer of collagen floating on top, harmonizing all the elements of the dish.
The Omi beef was charcoaled, and sliced evenly between the table. It is said to be comparable to Kobe beef, but I firmly disagree. Kobe beef’s tenderness, and buttery nature cannot be compared. I also believe that the style of teppanyaki cooking brings out the full potential of the beef, as opposed to the charcoal method used at narisawa.
The matcha dessert surprisingly wasn’t as sweet as I thought it would be. As matcha is bitter in nature, many restaurants and cafes would add a lot of sweeteners to counteract this. However, Narisawa used the bitterness of the matcha to enhance the sweetness of the other matcha components. The senbei on top of the dish contrasted well with the sweetness of the matcha gelato and matcha cream within the dish.
The final pear dessert came out as if it were floating. Again, not too sweet and packed full of pear flavour, this dessert played on various textures to bring it to life. There were pear pieces, shavings, jelly, and a sauce.
When we thought we were done, there were complimentary petit fours. When the waiter pushed the cart around, I expected to be offered 3 or 4 from the cart but when he said “you can choose as many as you want”, my eyes lit up. I asked for everything on the cart, and I was in dessert heaven. My favourite dessert on the cart was the matcha sesame jelly on a stick. It had a perfect balance between sweet, and bitter.
We would highly recommend visiting Narisawa if given the chance. It is a bit pricey, but for Asia’s second best restaurant, and the best restaurant we’ve ever visited, it will definitely be worth the trip. The nature theme throughout the menu was executed immaculately, the service there is amazing, and they don’t charge for water :p
xoxo Robyn & Paula