A unique and perfect marriage of authentic kaiseki Japanese cuisine and exquisite wines. Nakasu Matsu is a wonderful story about the reunion of elemsuentary school classmates — a chef and a sommelier — who bring diverse skills to a brand-new dining experience in their hometown. The formidable pair weaves together cuisine, wine, ambience, and more to present extraordinary stimulation for all five senses through deeply satisfying dishes of Kyushu produce paired with wines from a breathtaking collection.
Nakasu Matsu was created by Takumi Aoki, a chef with eleven years training at Honkogetsu, said by many to be Osaka's best Japanese restaurant, and owner/ sommelier Shinichiro Matsunaga with seven years of experience at Nagoya's premier French restaurant, Reminiscence. “Matsu” comes from the latter's surname, and meaning pine and admired for its longevity, it ranks highest before bamboo and plum as one of the most auspicious plants in Japanese culture.
Flanked by two rivers, the buzzing Nakasu district comes alive after dark. Streetside food stalls abound in Kyushu’s largest and arguably the best night-life district in western Japan, but there are also plenty of hidden gems inside the buildings of this rapidly redeveloping area. A short walk from Nakasu-Kawabata Station, Nakasu Matsu stands out among an array of eateries for its striking elegance. Follow the whitewashed walls into the approach and feel your heart jump a beat as you wonder what lies beyond the antique sliding door.
Now inside, the modern Japanese timber interior creates a warm, welcoming tone accented by antique elements like doors and shelves from traditional Japanese homes. It blends the best of the past and the present. On the right is a chic, L-shaped bar, and on the left the straight eight-foot-long dining counter, forming a layout that invites you to enjoy a kaiseki meal followed by a drink or an escape for just one more late-night drink.
Perfect marriage of authentic kaiseki Japanese cuisine and exquisite wines
With delicious, authentic Japanese cuisine and the highest caliber wines, this is an offering not seen before, even in the culinary mecca of Tokyo. The dinner-only restaurant offers seats starting at 6pm or 7pm for an omakase course of around ten dishes showcasing the wonderful produce of Kyushu. Apart from the addition of a meat dish to complement Nakasu Matsu's wine selection, the kaiseki course composition follows closely that of the chef’s master at Honkogetsu, and in turn his master at famed restaurant Kyoto Kitcho. Begin with a sakizuke appetizer before meandering through a course of soup, sashimi, and a hassun platter of assorted seasonal delicacies. You will next be treated to a special dish from the chef, a dish bringing together a selection of slow-cooked foods, and a rice dish accompanied by soup and pickles. Following the sweets, you can enjoy a moment of meditation as Chef Aoki performs tea ceremony, presenting you with a warm cup of frothy matcha green tea.
Of all the courses, Aoki emphasizes the importance of the soup, emulating his master who described it as the main dish. But he also loves the place of hassun in traditional Japanese cuisine for the chance to delight guests with a brilliant, appealing display of, for example, the creamy full flesh of a king-size abalone from the Genkai Sea.
The tableware collection, all selected personally by Aoki, contains both antiques and modern items by potters in Karatsu and other regions. A celadon porcelain bowl by second-generation Suwa Sozan (born 1890) is the vessel for Kumamoto venison prepared sukiyaki style. Soup stays warm served in stunning Wajima lacquer by artisan Shiro Okuda, and summertime guests are cooled by the sight of an ice bowl holding charbroiled pike conger sashimi. Guests visiting during the July Tanabata Star Festival will enjoy a hassun dish shaped like a lotus flower canopy. Whatever the time of year, you will be treated to a rich sense of the seasons through the dishes and the vessels they are presented on.
Kyushu is the source of the bulk of ingredients at Nakasu Matsu. Fresh seafood from the Nagahama Market, described as Hakata’s Kitchen, vegetables farmed seaside in Itoshima, and underground water drawn from the mountain regions by Chef Aoki himself. He considered opening his own restaurant in Osaka where he had trained, but the homecoming to Kyushu has been a poignant reminder of the wonder and abundance of Kyushu produce. The only things missing, he says, are ikura salmon roe and matsubagani snow crab.
The ingredients Aoki is fussiest about are the bonito flakes and kombu that flavor his dashi. Both have a distinctive sweetness not found in other varieties. The former comes from a producer in Ibusuki, Kagoshima who Aoki has paid a personal visit to, and the latter is wild makombu Japanese kelp from the waters of Shirokuchihama in the southern region of Hokkaido. This particular kelp variety is almost impossible to come by, especially in recent years with a spate of poor harvests, but Aoki has finally succeeded in his pursuit of this premium ingredient.
WINE and BAR
The cellar of a staggering 1200 bottles is filled with French Champagne and Burgundy wines. Salon 2012 is just one of ten varieties of French champagne alongside wines from disparate vintages, like a wonderfully aged 1966 Bordeaux, 2007 from Chablis’ most celebrated producer Domaine Francois Raveneau, and younger, fresher varieties. Wine lovers can also sip on some of the most difficult-to-find Japanese wines, such as those from Hokkaido’s Domaine Takahiko.
But there is no need to feel intimidated because Sommelier Matsunaga is always happy to help guests find the perfect wine for their palates and budgets. His desire to cater flexibly to guests’ preferences inspired the decision against a pairing course. Matsunaga gathers wines with soft textures that mirror the cuisine and guide you through the meal – never too heavy nor too shy. All are enjoyed in exquisite Lobmeyr wine glasses. But if wine is not your thing, you might like to try one of the Kyushu local sake varieties on offer.
This incredible lineup is also available at the accompanying bar, so why not treat yourself to a relaxing drink after your meal, lounging in the luxurious chairs made by local Fukuoka furniture brand Ritzwell. They are so comfortable you may never want to leave.
- The price includes our booking fee of ￥8,000
- The price includes our booking fee of ￥8,000