Les Créations de NARISAWA - Minami Aoyama, Tokyo / 東京南青山

The best restaurant in Asia, and the 12th best restaurant in the world - according to the San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants list - is Les Créations de NARISAWA.  We found ourselves with the opportunity to experience this restaurant, and grabbed it with both hands.

We were only able to get a lunch booking at the notice we had available.  There were 2 menus on offer, a pared down summer lunch menu, and a full blown tasting menu - that same that is served at dinner.

Not knowing whether we were ever going to get a chance at this again, we went for the full hog - 10 courses.  At some ¥21,000 a head, this was going to be the most expensive meal we'd ever had (chivalry is alive and well in Tokyo it seems, as my better half was presented with menus with the price removed).

Yes, those etched glass place settings are heavy.  Choice of water, an aperitif, and the meal kicked off with some dough.

Our bread accompaniment was to be cooked on the table, first proving in a bath warmed by candle.  The first course of French radish followed soon after.

This was, well, a radish.  A fresh one, sure, but still pretty much just a radish.  With some toasty ground up mustard seedy, dirt?

Next on the table was a very tasty little segment of onion encased in Narisawa's signature charcoal treatment, in the form of a batter.  The one thing these are not though, is pretty.

The dough, now risen, was transferred to a super heated stone bowl, and capped with a plank of wood to complete the baking process.

The next course seemed firmly in the vein of Noma, best known for its foraging concept, and natural presentation style.  A collection of leaves, petals, atop a prosciutto wrapped stem asparagus.  All very interesting.

Sommelier's choice of white to accompany. Bergerie de L'Hortus Classique 2009, Vin de Pay du Val de Montferrand.  Fruity, clean, dry - excellent stuff.

Then we appeared to have prematurely skipped to the "Gift from the Sea" section.  Which apparently was by design, but, I think it was just a mistake.  This was by far my least favourite dish.  A large-ish piece of squid, doused in its "edible sand look" freeze dried pepper.

Quite the spectacle, as you can see above - but there was just way too much ink inside.  The flavour became entirely overwhelming. 

Our table baked bread was now ready, and served alongside a couple of more sturdy alternatives.  A ceramic mini plant pot of something along the lines of whipped County Crock, topped with ground olive earth, sprouting a couple of leaves.

Returning to the Satoyama section, and the final dish from this category, was quite an eye catcher.

It literally looked too good to eat.  Another selection of leaves and flowers, adorning the main ingredient of eggplant, encased in a sheath of gelatin.  The menu tells me there was tomato involved too.  Kyoto sourced, this was a wonderful dish to look at, and taste.

Moving onto a glass of red, and a Japanese one at that.  This was my first native grape wine, and it was quite palatable at that.  

Back to the Gifts from the Sea, and the "Luxury Essence Langoustine 2007".  This arrived with stock dangling in some receptacles reminiscent of a chemistry lab.  Good bit of seafood this.

Next up the "'Amadai' Snapper from Hagi, Yamaguchi and white miso, Kyoto".  This was probably my favourite dish.  The white miso was delectable, the fish perfectly cooked.

A final glass of red to go with the impending red meat course.  Domaine des Amouriers Vacqueyras, 2006.

The final savoury dish was "Sumi 2009" Hida beef.  Again sporting the signature charcoal coating.  A melt in the mouth chunk of beef, with another few slices of the onion we'd seen earlier, and a few beans, with a reduction jus.  On the side, frozen sake.  I don't know why.  For me, this didn't work on a flavour level, or on a texture level.

Desert comprised passion fruit, with kuzumochi.  Followed by gettou peach "bellini".

We'd read about the expansive petit fours cart, but I was fast running out of room, and we were approaching the 3 hour mark.  Still, gotta be done ey?

A few of our selections...

Coffee.  Stuffed.

Best restaurant in Asia?  That's a pretty bold statement.  I'm going to have to do a lot more eating before I can even begin to comment on that award.
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Hipster delight.  Maybe we visited at the wrong time of day, but the service was pretty dire, I think I had 5 people serve me.  But hey, I got a free beer out of it - mostly because the dude that took my order promptly donned his shades (every server's sunglasses were lined up one after the other on a shelf of bottles), lit his fag as he passed behind me, and left.  He never added it to my tab, so I asked what appeared to be a more managerial type if he could fulfill my order, which he did with no fuss.  Thanks!  By the way, it's Meantime Pale Ale on tap.  The better half ordered a Tom Collins, which was lacklustre, and expensive (£9) considering it wasn't made with Sipsmith.

Croque Monsieur

Salt Beef Slider
We ordered the house pickles, a croque monsieur, and a salt beef slider for the first round.  The pickles were great.  Fresh, and lightly vinegared - reminiscent of Japan almost.  The croque monsieur was great, although tiny - it made more sense why the guy asked "Is that all?" after this first round of orders.  The salt beef, from Brick Lane, was as good as expected.  But I mean, I guess I could just be less lazy and make the trip and save paying the premium price?

Shoestring Fries

Deep Fried Olives
Second round, and another salt beef slider, with shoe string fries, and some deep fried olives.  The fries were more like crisps, fried all the way through.  I've had them in the US with a little more girth to them - and personally, I prefer them that way.  The deep fried olives were fantastic though.  Definitely worth a look.

Will we go back?  Hmm...  maybe.  Seems to be a lot of hype going on about this place.  I'd be interested to try the mac n cheese, and maybe even the ground beef and marrow slider.  I've got the feeling (taking into account friends reviews) that it's probably hit and miss.

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Gin Basil Smash

So I didn't go to the Royal Wedding.  I made these instead.  And watched it on TV.  Toats darling, yah.

50 ml Gin
20 ml gomme
20 ml fresh lemon juice
A bunch of fresh basil

Muddle basil vigorously, shake all ingredients and double-strain on fresh ice cubes into a glass.  Garnish with fresh basil.

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Mark's Bar @ Hix

The room gives a really nice vibe after you've followed the staircase down and around.  A long bar on the right, and tables and booths on the right.  Because of something to do with the licence, after finding a place to sit, you're served with a bowl of twiglets, and some water, and charged some fee.  There are lots of other bar snacks from which to partake, and I decided to try the Fish Fingers with Mushy Peas - utterly delicious!  Crispy coating, flaky flesh and bright green veg.  A great little snack.

The waitress told us that they try to serve each cocktail to each patron in a different glass - cute little touch no?  Nice bar, will return someday.

Lady Dutch
Forbidden Sour
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Experimental Cocktail Club

The girl on the door, so I hear, can be a bit of a "Nazi".  I haven't personally experienced this, but I can believe that to be the case for some people.  The first barrier to entry is finding the unmarked door.  This accomplished, you need to get past the clipboard.  After a once over, the better half and I were admitted entry, it was early, 8pm on a Friday night.  Up the stairs, check the coat, and the main bar is jumping.  We found a couple of foot stool sort of seats and had a look at the menu.  This wasn't really comfortable, so we grabbed the passing waiter, and he found a space for us 1 floor up.  This waiter turned out to be CoCo.  You can't miss him.  He's like a little German leprechaun of drink serving delight.  That's not meant to sound offensive, he's great.  The drinks are all around a tenner, and have all been very good thus far.  CoCo will happily have something made something up for you too, if you tell him what you like.   Definitely going to return - but early - £5 cover after 11pm.

Creamy Madras something or other?

Experience No. 2

Basil Smash

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Japan finds the recipes and does the cooking, England takes the pictures and writes the words. Then we both eat the results!