Ok, screw sports, it’s all about food.
It all started at Ryugin, a Michelin two-star devourery in Roppongi,
the home of Chef Seiji Yamamoto,
with a cool chawan mushi made of chilled egg custard, uni, scallions, diced cucumber and bread crumbs.
Yamamoto is famous for his treatment of hamo, a boney river fish (Pike eel) from Kyoto with a tender meat of a unique consistency: To figure out how to best dispense with the numerous bones, he took a sample to a hospital to give it a CT scan.
Representatives of San Pelligrino, fully enjoying their culinary duties, were in attendance to present Yamamoto with the award for his first appearance on their list of the Top 50 restaurants in the world.
After Yamamoto made a speach, out from the kitchen came a smoking hibatchi with a pile of ayu (sweetfish; or, if that is not enough for you, Plecoglossus altivelis) over smoldering rice husks, one of Ryugin’s signature dishes. I ate two.
Yamamoto says he wants to bring out the best of Japanese cooking and introduce it to the world in a modern context. He’s doing well at achieving his aims — this tasting session was the first indicator that I had to start reconsidering the faddish love of all things Japanese-cooking that you read in the English-language press. But back to the food (and I don’t know if this one has anything to do with Japan in particular): Last was another signature dish, a miniature apple, frozen to minus 196 degrees, at which point the moisture disappears, and once you smack it with a spoon, the apple crumbles into a powdery custard of sweetness. Nice (But no photos of the post-smacked apple, I devoured it too quickly).
This being a fancy pants affair, they drove us to Aoyama in a Maserati. I asked the guy to go fast, but this is Tokyo, so good luck enjoying the speedy possibilities of your mean machine for more than a block at a time.
But never mind, we’re at Creation de Narisawa.
But first the judges for Japan were introduced, including the guy in the wicked orange yukata.
The very amiable chef Yoshihiro Narisawa was given his award for not only placing 24th on the list, for also but being selected as the “Acqua Panna Best Restaurant in Asia”.
Narisawa designed these unusual tastes to remind urban dwellers of the earth that they were once so connected to but is absent in the city. They were fresh, exciting to the senses, and experimental. After that, the dishes came fast and furious, but they were more usual edibles, though expertly prepared. I promised myself that between the photos and the great taste, I wouldn’t forget what any of them were. I did. What was on this spoon?
Pan-fried pate with strawberry and mixed greens.
Narisawa is encrusting beef in vegatable oil soot — the source for sumi ink — and leaving it out to age for several days, at least I think that is what Melinda Joe or Robbie Swinnerton, who had joined the tasting at Creation de Narisawa, told me.
A shrimp dish (perhaps the least interesting of the day).
Both of these chefs, top rated in the world for a reason, put on quite a show. Not a dish went wrong, and each forced me have to rethink any mid-level izakaya that aspires to present itself as something more than your downtown salaryman haunt. If you are going to go upmarket, now you need to do it with intention and vision. I’ll still enjoy a meal on the shitamachi where office workers go at the end of the day for a beer and some hearty filling, but I’d be wary of any restaurant that is taking culinary risks without reason or imagination.