Only In Tokyo: Haute Coffee Cuisine By Japanese Chefs
January 24, 2017 | BY Charmaine Mok
For the first ever Atelier Nespresso in Asia, leading chefs Tetsuya Wakuda and Yoshihiro Narisawa worked with a spectrum of coffee to create a world of flavour.
You should not miss cocktails in Tokyo,” Tetsuya Wakuda tells me. “They’re the best in the world, and lethally good. Bartenders here think about every detail, from the ice to the glass.” It’s just as well that less than 6 hours after landing at Haneda Airport, I’d already tasted three—crafted by three respected Japanese bartenders, including an exquisite Dassai sake, Cointreau Noir and Nespresso coffee cocktail fashioned by Yuichi Hoshi of Ginza’s Bar Hoshi—in the very room we were chatting.
It was the the end of an epic first night in Tokyo, where two of the world’s most respected icons of Japanese cookery joined hands to craft a gustatory journey inspired by a rather unlikely ingredient: coffee. And so this is how we found ourselves at the heart of Happo-en (Garden of Eight Views), where Atelier Nespresso set up its new—albeit temporary—Japanese home, a tribute to creative gastronomy.
It was the first time the coffee brand brought its culinary pop-up to Asia, which was previously held in European cities such as Antwerp, Berlin, and Lyon, bringing together top chefs and sommeliers to present a gustatory experience for fine dining lovers. For the inaugural event in Japan, Hong Kong-based chefs such as Ricardo Chaneton of Petrus, Mutaro Balde of Bibo, and Tim Lai of Tim’s Kitchen also came along to experience the meeting of two masters, as well as a convoy of restaurateurs, hoteliers and journalists from around Australasia.
For anyone who relies on a strong cup to jolt the senses in the morning, the concept of utilising coffee in haute cuisine may be met with a hint of scepticism. But incorporating the ingredient was not so much of a stretch for either Narisawa or Wakuda, who saw coffee’s multifaceted characteristics a rich starting point for a number of dishes.
To whet our appetites, the meal began with an extraordinary medley of inspired appetisers by Narisawa, with names such as Satoyama Scenery (wild mountain greens with fermented soybeans) and Bread of the Forest and Moss—a punchy orb of bread made with yeast from the Shirakami mountains in northern Japan, and punctuated with sweet Japanese chestnuts and wisps of citrussy yuzu. (Yuzu featured heavily in the meal, bookended by a yuzu fig compote with yuzu cream and almond meringue dessert by Norihiko Terai of Aigre Douce, one of Tokyo’s most highly regarded patisseries.)
Narisawa, whose eponymous restaurant is currently ranked 8th in the world and 2nd in Asia by Restaurant magazine’s World 50 Best and Asia’s 50 Best respectively, continued to demonstrate his commitment to the seasons and to Japanese topography with a standout dish of Kuroge wagyu. The finished dish is a striking, almost painterly depiction of an autumnal Japan with delicate maple and ginkgo leaves fashioned out of dashi-boiled root vegetables such as daikon and carrot, artfully arranged as though on a forest floor. “I always find inspiration from nature,” he tells us. “Whether it’s from visiting the seaside, or going into the woods.”
“I always find inspiration from nature, whether it's from visiting the seaside or going into the woods."—Yoshihiro Narisawa
The beef is brushed with soy sauce from Kyoto Sawai (a leading purveyor that has been in business since 1879) that has been infused with Nespresso’s Ristretto Intenso coffee; the intense, peppery notes of which also finds itself in the accompanying sukiyaki sauce. The tender beef was finished off on a bincho-tan grill in front of guests, the smoky aroma lingering in the air only adding to the olfactory experience. Pristine, pastel dabs of pale pink shiso sauce and lotus-green kinome and white miso sauce add whimsical flourishes and sharp points of flavour to the plate.
Meanwhile, Wakuda made good use of Nespresso’s Lungo Leggero (a more delicate blend of coffee with sweet jasmine notes) in his dish of roasted New Zealand langoustines with endive confit. Served simply on pale ceramic, the shellfish were pristine and pure; not a visible trace of coffee was found anywhere on the plate, and it wasn’t until the first bite unfolded on the palate that its presence was made clear. Wakuda had infused the coffee with fresh vanilla bean into Taihaku sesame oil, which he used to lightly brush the langoustine flesh before roasting.
“It’s not about having coffee in your face,” he says. “It’s about making effective use of it to enhance the ingredients in a subtle way. The aroma of the coffee, the bitterness of the endive, and the scent of the orange is so simple, but it’s the little things.”
This article originally appeared on Hong Kong Tatler Dining. They were a guest of Nespresso Atelier Tokyo 2016, which took place on November 28 and 29. Visit www.nespresso.com/gastronomy for information on coffee and fine food pairing events by Nespresso
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