World Chefs: Narisawa serves up sake to enhance local ingredients, dishes

Tue Apr 21, 2015 4:12am EDT
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By Junko Fujita

TOKYO (Reuters) - Chef Yoshihiro Narisawa, the owner of Narisawa, serves sake with his dishes because he believes the finest local ingredients go well with the local alcoholic drink.

Narisawa, ranked among the top restaurants in the world and considered Tokyo's finest French eatery, serves more than 60 types of sake with the dishes on its menu.

Dishes for an early spring include Akazaebi, or langoustine shrimp, with various green peas and petals of rucola flowers and viola. Tempura of butterbur buds and udo, a wild spring green, are added for bitterness.

The dish has five flavors, saltiness, sweetness, acidity and umami, which comes from the essence of konbu, or kelp. Tomato essence adds umami as well as acidity.

Narisawa's sommelier director, Yoshinobu Kimura, pairs the dish with junmai daiginjo sake, which has a crisp and refreshing flavor to match the lactic acid in the shrimp. The sake helps to prolong the aftertaste of the dish.

Q: Why do you serve sake at your restaurants?

A: Because we are in Japan and almost all the ingredients we use, except chocolate, coffee and peppers, are all from Japan ... Ingredients go the best with alcoholic beverages that are from the same areas.

Although sake is popular overseas, it's not properly taken care of, just like when the Japanese people started drinking wine. There is little attention to quality control, and prices for sake are inconsistent. I have pride in myself that I am running a restaurant that represents Japan, so I want my customers to try quality sake in the right way.   Continued...

Yoshihiro Narisawa, the owner and chef of Tokyo's French restaurant Narisawa, speaks during an interview with Reuters at Narisawa in Tokyo March 26, 2015. NARISAWA REUTERS/Yuya Shino