Guaranteed stimulation for all your senses, NARISAWA is the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in authentic Japanese culture. The pioneering chef has created something that is impossible to categorize, thus a new genre called “Innovative Satoyama Cuisine” has been born. It’s about gratitude for the forested Japanese landscape, nourishing and sustainable produce, and fine dining with exciting counter-like visibility. Each dish, each drink, each piece of cutlery has its own interwoven story, and as you dine here it becomes very clear why Chef Narisawa’s fan base spans not only the Japanese archipelago but the entire globe.
The broad Aoyama boulevard crosses the maze of wonderful small streets of Tokyo’s Aoyama neighborhood. Just a few footsteps away from the busy street and you find yourself in the tranquil space of Narisawa. By day, speckled light pokes through lush green leaves, and as night falls Narisawa is transformed into a chic space where time quietly passes by. White hues contrast with dark timber in a simple, clean interior totally void of objects and paintings, with neither background music nor scents. You are free to focus entirely on the cuisine and conversation with your fellow guests.
Chefs busy themselves in the beautifully polished kitchen – a sight to behold from behind a glass wall that shields any aromas. The highly functional kitchen with stations for hot dishes, cool plates and accompaniments, as well as the pâtissier space, is situated above an equally spacious underground stock room housing tanks for live fish, seafood, and other fabulous ingredients. And as even that is not enough for all of Narisawa’s concoctions, there’s a separate lab nearby.
The space was designed from the diner’s perspective, based on Narisawa’s own gourmet food travels around the world. Upon opening, it oozed innovative elements that chefs have been eager to imitate ever since: the spirit of Rikyu tea ceremony and the essence of wabisabi aesthetics, which Narisawa famously presented on at the 2012 “Maison et Objet” event in France.
Two magnificent sake cellars grace the dining room with striking visuals. Designed to showcase the beauty of the large isshobin sake bottles, the collection of mostly unpasteurized sake includes an original brand made by leading brewery Aramasa called Aramasa Sato Uhei NARISAWA. The libations are on offer in pairing courses of sake only, combined Japanese sake and wine, or overseas wines only, while non-alcohol pairing courses feature cocktails and tea in combination or standalone. Just around the corner you can find “BEES BAR by NARISAWA”, which opened in April 2018. In complete contrast to the restaurant dining room, the walls are adorned with images of the growing districts and ingredients that define Narisawa’s Satoyama cuisine, offering the chance to reflect on and savor what you’ve just devoured.
Innovative Satoyama Cuisine
Forested mountains run through the center of Japan flanked by seas, and its rich food culture is colored by the many blessings these forests and seas bear. Chef Narisawa has utmost respect for his Japanese ancestors who have lived in the Satoyama – on the edge of these wild expanses – and coexisted with nature for centuries, instinctively taking only what they need. NARISAWA’s “Innovative Satoyama Cuisine” is about taking those concepts and passing that through the chef’s unique filter to create food that is beneficial for the body and soul, while also proving sustainable.
In conceptualizing dishes, Narisawa maximizes each item of precious produce, taking boundless inspiration from his journeys. The stories told on his plates are snapshots of the stunning landscapes he has experienced in his search for ingredients. Each dish is breathtakingly beautiful with an equally deep message, going beyond simply tasting good to convey culture and aesthetics. Oscillating between delicacy and boldness, the dinner course of up to 14 dishes can even be altered to vegetarian and vegan preferences. To show the chef’s intentions and the integral nature of Japanese culture, the meal commences with a dish modeled on the Japanese national flag. A shallow red lacquer sake dish sits on washi paper with large visible fibers, and Chef Narisawa treats you to a taste from his premium sake collection in the formal tea ceremony tradition of hiki sakazuki, serving Aramasa Sato Uhei NARISAWA special order sake produced through the age-old method of cloth bag filtering.
Next is a dish that speaks of early summer with water shield plant and chiayu young sweetfish. Slippery water shield plant from deep in the mountains of Hiroshima float gracefully alongside young peas in a transparent liquid made from tomato extract and Kuragakoi kombu, a variety which is aged in a cellar over several years resulting in more mellow flavor and deeper umami. Behind, the refreshing sight of fish swimming playfully is recreated on a glass plate accented with pickled cherry blossom petals.
The chef’s signature dish “Satoyama Scenery” demonstrates irreplaceable aspects of Japanese culture and celebrates Japan’s fermentation traditions. Served on a timber plank and including a bamboo cup holding chilled clear soup extracted from cedar and oak, the dish reflects the landscape where the countless wild grasses served at Narisawa are harvested. Soil made from charcoal, sherry vinegar and dried onion powder, and moss recreated from okara soybean pulp, chlorophyll, perilla, green tea powder and olive oil are artistically arranged across the timber over soybean paste flavored with honey and sansho pepper buds. Deep-fried burdock root mimics the trees atop which sit the wild grasses seasoned with sweetened vinegar.
A course called “Bread of the Forest” served since 2010, puts the spotlight on microbes, made from naturally occurring forest yeasts from the Shirakamisanchi mountain region of northern Japan. Anticipation rises as you watch the fermentation process take place at your table, and it’s almost unbearable when aromas emerge from the stone oven cooking the bread at your table. From citrus to sakura and kinome sansho buds, the seven or so varieties each year offer a stroll through Japan’s distinct seasons.
Extremely poisonous Okinawan sea snake called irabu and soft-shell turtle are fashioned into meatballs. Pierced with a traditional wooden pick, the meatballs are served in a broth made in a pressure cooker through an intensive two-step process, first with sake and kombu, and then with pork, chicken and other flavor components for six hours. The bowl sits within a blackened coil which may give you shivers when you realize it’s actually the dried snake. Topped with pipache Okinawan island pepper, the highly nourishing dish beautifully showcases the regional flavors of Japan’s southernmost prefecture.
“Sumi” – a large chargrilled block of lean Kobe beef rump topped with chargrilled Shimonita green onion powder – was first introduced in 2008. Served on a plank of precious ubame oak charcoal, the sliced beef reveals a brilliant red center in a dish that questions the coexistence of man and forests, depicting the crumbled remains of a charcoal-roasting shed. The celebratory Owan dish was inspired by temari folk craft hand balls, an ancient Japanese pastime. Nestled within the stunning ball of colored root vegetable strips is a sumptuous prawn and scallop dumpling.
“Tsubaki & Koji” served since 2015, is a thematic dish featuring Aspergillus oryzae – the koji mold indispensable in Japanese cuisine and sake. Camellia leaves are reduced to only veins and crisped to perfection, accompanied by petal jelly and amazake paste to complete this dessert which contains not a single grain of sugar. Servers transport you to a sake brewery by mimicking the movements of toji brewers who sprinkle koji mold over rice thereby kicking off the sake production process.
The chef’s signature dish “Satoyama Scenery” first appeared in 2010 to demonstrate irreplaceable aspects of Japanese culture. The dish is a snapshot of the scenery in Kaga, Ishikawa, where the countless varieties of wild grass served at Narisawa are harvested. And it is the restaurant’s demand for such produce that promotes a healthy pace of rejuvenation. This is the concept that drives the chef’s search for premium ingredients including soft-shell turtles that thrive in the nourishing waters of Lake Hamana, Shizuoka Prefecture, where salt and fresh water cross paths; and langoustine, akaza ebi in Japanese, fished off the coast of Shizuoka Prefecture from Narisawa’s dedicated boat. They swim in underground tanks at Narisawa until they are prepped for service, making it possible to give guests the freshest flavors and textures.
Black abalone and bonito are the same items presented as offerings at the sacred Ise Shrine in Mie Prefecture. Kombu is of the Kuragakoi variety, aged over several years in cellars for more mellow flavor, and the chef uses soy sauce from the Sawai Shoyu company which has been producing in Kyoto since 1879. Hanazansho flowering sansho Japanese pepper from Shimane Prefecture is only available two weeks a year, making a visit to Narisawa during that time a precious experience.
Glass Plates and Knives
As you take your seat at a table covered in linen cloth, you will find only a sturdy glass plate engraved with “NARISAWA”. The plate symbolizes the counter found in traditional Japanese restaurants and sushiya, thus while the restaurant has the comfort and luxury of a lounge, it is designed to make you feel like you are being served by your chef from across the counter. And because the chef seeks to provide a personal experience for each diner, not a single glass or piece of cutlery is placed on the table before you begin. That’s the NARISAWA way.
From start to finish, the dining experience is steeped in Japanese traditions and culture, and the tableware is like an exhibit of Japanese craftsmanship. Knives from Fukui knife maker Takamura include a distinctive ripple pattern on the blade and NARISAWA’s signature bee logo on the handle. The knives are sharpened for reuse, and his lacquerware pieces are re-lacquered time and again, showing how dearly Chef Narisawa values them and the depth of his passion for all things Japanese.
- The price includes our booking fee of ￥8,000
- The price includes our booking fee of ￥8,000