Every time I am in Tokyo, I always head to Mikawa Zezankyo, my favourite tempura place, and in my last trip there in December, the Chinese chef that works there had highly recommended Harutaka in Ginza, a simple sushi restaurant that seats only 10 people, that his boss- Chef Saotome goes to almost daily. Plus, I also heard that Chef Seiji Yamamoto from Ryugin comes here and Chef Harutaka is also an alumni of the Suikiyabashi Jiro. I knew I had to check it out this trip.
8-5-8 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 104-0061, Japan
+81 3 3573 1144
What was so coincidental is we ended up bumping into Mikawa’s Chinese chef when we were here, I still didn’t know his name at this time. He was here with 2 other chef friends visiting from Beijing who could speak very fluent Japanese as well. He recognised me and he offered to help me translate to Chef Harutaka what I wanted to eat as he could speak a little English. We opted for a sashimi and sushi meal and was served a few courses of appetizers at the start.
I had a total of 14 courses I think, with some repeat add ons such as the unagi that I love so much. The sushi here was firm and nice very similar to what I had at Sukiyabashi Jiro, and the most memorable was the conger eel soup (oops no picture as I ate that so fast!) and the uni which was interesting as there were 2 colors of uni served. I learnt that the browner one originates from Nagasaki and the brighter orange is from Hokkaido. And of course, I had to have their tamago, which was so delicious! They didn’t try to copy doing that V-shape that Jiro does, but their tamago here was just as good I feel. The bill here came up to slightly more than 15000 yen which was pretty reasonable considering the quality and how much we ate.
2-6-15 Minamiaoyama Minato, Tokyo 107-0062, Japan
+81 3 5785 0799
After Y’s friend KS, another avid foodie had told her this is a must try, I got the hotel concierge to book this as early as possible. It’s got a No. 20 spot in San Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants and it topped their Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants this year plus 2 Michelin Stars under its belt. I was glad I managed to get a reservation for us, as rumour has it that after they received the accolade for Asia’s best restaurant this year, their phone was just ringing non-stop.
It was drizzling when we arrived at the restaurant. The hostess spotted us from a mile away and quickly opened the door for us. We felt a little shy as we entered the dining room, as we were in rather casual attire, having had no time to change after shopping the whole day in Omotesando, and the rest of the guests seemed to be rather decked out. We spotted Hidetoshi Nakata, famous retired football player sitting at another table.
Once seated, we just couldn’t wait to order some wine and start EATING! Chef Yoshihiro Narisawa is known for his inventive use of ingredients, in a modern French style but using Japanese ingredients. And I find that in his creation of the dishes, there’s a concept and story behind them as he brings the diners through an experiential journey.
I was greeted by a simple modern plate with his signature name once I sat down.
The wines were extensive, and well I typically have a sweet tooth for wines, so I asked the sommelier to recommend a refreshing fruity white, while LY had her red wine. The sommelier recommended the Beblenheim Riesling, which was lovely and refreshingly sweet.
In Narisawa’s Autumn Menu this year, he guided us through a journey through the “forest”, I liked how the menu said “Evolve with the Forest”.
1st course: ‘Bread of the Forest 2010’ and Moss
This was a rather interesting dish. First, they displayed this on the table after which they left it to proof and cook in the bowl at 240 degrees.
The result is this bread served in the stone bowl. This process was done while we ate the second and 3rd course.
2nd course: ‘Essence of the Forest and Satoyama Scenery’
There’s a type of mineral water sitting in the mini ‘tree trunk’ below with a Japanese essence, and paired with 2 types of tempura on the side which sits on a “bed of soil”.
3rd course: ‘Sumi’
We were served charcoal bread with onion.
We were also given sour dough bread and mugwort (we asked for 2 servings as they were so good), served with butter that had a chlorophyll spray to give it a moss effect. I devoured the breads so fast that I actually forgot to take a picture of the butter, but you can get an idea from the half eaten butter below.
4th course: ‘Okinawa’
Using Irabu, an Okinawan sea snake for this 4th course, almost gave me a scare when they showed us how it looked in its original state before being cooked. I almost bolted for the door with Y when we saw this, as we are really really scared of any kind of snakes. Even posting this picture now online, is giving me the goosebumps.
We were told that in the past, sea snake was considered a fine fish and often used and served in the royal courts in the olden days.
5th course: ‘Eggplant’
3 types of cooking style was used in cooking a simple eggplant, which resulted in a beautiful dish. It’s amazing how a simple vegetable can be cooked so interestingly. There was a thin transparent sheet laid over, actually made of tomato jelly. Amazing! *oops forgot to take a shot of this.
6th course: ‘Ash 2009, Scene of the seashore’
Appropriately, this was a seafood dish, mainly squid. What gave it a twist was they served what looked like ‘ash’ with a smoky effect after they served it on the table. Slightly theatrical, but why not?
7th course: ‘Langoustine’
Once we had a ‘taste of the sea’, Narisawa brought us to the shelled fish – Langoustine, one of my favourite seafood, this was served with beautiful delicate organic leaves with a sherry vinaigrette dressing.
8th course: ‘Tilefish, Matsutake Mushroom, Soft shelled turtle essence’
This dish was cooked in a special paper in the oven in 200 degrees.
9th course: ‘Oyster, Desert Island’
Continuing from the ‘sea’, we were served a beautiful plump oyster with smoked sakura, hence it was served covered with a glass dome, and lifted when placed in front of us. It had an interesting aromatic smell.
10th course: ‘Free range, Ezo Pork, Hokkaido’
The last dish of the main courses was a nice well cooked, perfect pink pork, served with buckwheat that was cooked in the style of risotto, which complemented the pork perfectly.
11th course: ‘Sakekasu, Kuzumochi, Strawberry’
12th course: ‘Chestnut’
Considering I don’t like chestnut at all, this was a lovely combination of all things chestnut.
And when we thought we were done with the meal, we were brought this tasting selection of mini macarons, where we were advised to start from bottom to top. We were pretty stuffed by this time, so we only sampled a few pieces. They were pretty nice, as they were crisp and not too sweet.
Oh yes, the ultimate bon bon trolley has to be from Narisawa. I think the effort in decorating it to make it look almost like it’s part of a forest is commendable, and the selections were pretty amazing. We each picked a selection of what we wanted to sample, rather than asking for all.
The meal per person was around 29000 yen including 4 glasses of wine that we had, which is so worth it! If we ate something like that in Singapore, we would be charged an ‘arm and a leg’ for it.
To sum it up, Chef Yoshihiro Narisawa’s food is well-balanced, harmonious, inventive and interesting, and was a joy going through each course, he brought us through a journey of the forest and sea. And of course the bon bon trolley at the end really topped it for us. LY joked with the staff she wanted to bring home the whole trolley. This was one of my most enjoyable meals in Japan other than Hajime in Osaka, and wouldn’t mind coming back here again 🙂