What poetic sadness! Everything – the view, the food, the company – was temporal. The beauty of Kaiseki (Japanese-style Chef Degustation) is that it mimics life – it’s seasonal and you never know what you are going to get. And you can never repeat it again, unless (of course) you come again the next evening.
Harumi is a private dining that is operated by the Nadaman group and owned by the Sumitomo Group. It is not open to the public and can only be assessed by staff or guests of staff. Nadaman, on the other hand, operate a series of very successful Haute cuisine restaurants in Japan and worldwide. There used to be a Nadaman in ANA Hotel in Singapore that introduced Kaiseki to the gourmands in the tiny nation.
First of all, the view from the Penthouse of the building was spectacular. It offered a view of both the current Tsukiji market and the location of the new market. And the Odaiba area that sprung up in between. And this is all in the Tsunami zone. Yes, if ever a Tsunami hits Tokyo, this place will be underwater.
Back to the meal.
The fantastic dinner started with a combination of 5 hors d’oeuvre (from top, clockwise) – served in the Kiriko was Cold Corn Soup, in the little conch was Prawn and Avocado with Cream Sauce, right side of the boat was Fig with Pumpkin Sauce, wrapped in the pepper skin was Jellied White Fish, and covered in lacquer was Pike Conger Roe and Yamaimo.
This little packet of goodness was boiled fish skin and gelatin with bits of scallions and fish. It was so packed with flavour.
Summer is when animals start to get into their mating routine and produce the roe. The eel roe was really unique and served with yamaimo, it was supposed to be an aphrodisiac.
Before we proceed to the main courses, we were offered a Chawanmushi. And unlike the run-of-mill egg custard, this one had cheese (for our American friends) and served cold.
Mukozuke is usually a sashimi. We had 4 types of sashimi – a flounder that was so thinly sliced that you could see through to the plate, this you eat with the chives and radish mash and dipped in Ponzu sauce. And there were Ise Lobster, Ishigai (expensive version of Hokigai or surf clam) and Chutoro (fatty tuna). Sashimi was served cold as opposed to room temperature in sushi. So fresh, you can imagin them swimming.
At this point, we were offered the simmered dish served in a covered utensil. Called the Futamono course, this is usually a thick soup or finely stewed ingredients that have condensed and intensified the flavours.
Simmered Blue Swimmer Crab, Shark Fins, Shirozuikiimo (白茎芋) and Winter Melon – this was the first time I had Shark Fin in Japan. I had not eaten Shark Fin (for humane reasons) for a long time, and it was rude to refuse food from your hosts in Japan. The soup was great, even without the fins. Shark fins, for the uninitiated, have no taste. It is a piece of soft bone that needs a lot of cooking and borrows its tastes from the other ingredients. But the way they harvest these fins is inhumane. So don’t eat shark fins.
Ayu is my favourite fish grilled. At the right season (which is Summer), the fish is fatty, the liver is clean and sweet, when grilled perfectly, the flesh will just slide off the bones. I would not call these Ayu the top quality – I had better ones at specialised seafood grills. So if I would have to point out a low point of the evening, this was it. The fish was served cold and the flesh stuck to the bones. And they cleaned out the liver, so I guessed it was not that great an Ayu to start with.
Next the piece de resistance that demonstrated the skills of the Chef and the ingredients of the land.
Grilled Green Japanese Eggplant rolled with Wagyu Beef with Mustard Sauce was served room temperature. The mustard was a bit sweet though. The eggplant was still firm, which I liked, and rolled with a wonderful piece of Kagoshima Wagyu that simply melted in your mouth. Each piece was the size of a maki and you just popped them into the mouth and closed your eyes to enjoy the texture and flavours. And you chewed on the pickled Myoga (Japanese ginger) between pieces to cleanse your palate.
御飯・香の物・止椀 Gohan – Konomono – Tomewan
When Gohan (rice) is served, that signals the end of the dinner is near. It is usually accompanied by pickles (Konomono) and soup (Tomewan). The soup for the night was Red Soybean Clear Soup and rice was Steamed Eel Rice cooked Kamameshi style. It was summer, so you get quite a lot of red bean and eel.
Kamameshi (釜飯) originally referred to rice that was eaten communally from the kama (iron pot). By cooking the rice and various ingredients in an iron pot, the rice gets slightly burned at the bottom which adds a desirable flavor to the rice.
Japanese believes eel that is eaten in Summer give one the necessary energy to withstand the heat. This was perhaps the third time I had eel during this trip to Tokyo. I was pretty sure the energy level was really high.
Dessert in these Kaiseki dinners was usually a non-affair with the seasonal fruits on offer. Tonight we had Kyoho grapes, Fukuoka melon and Okinawa mangoes. And everything seemed nuked – they were so sweet beyond naturally possible. But that’s what you get for Japanese fruits.
After Dinner Thoughts
The food was so good that you wished there was more. But the portion was just right, and you got the exact calories intake for a dinner. Kaiseki is a celebration of the season and showcases the skills of the Chef. Chef Suzuki and team has outdone himself again tonight. The service was impeccable – attentive but not intrusive. There were 8 of us, and 3 servers despite the high costs of manpower in Japan. They discretely disappeared behind the door and reappeared the moment sake and beer went low.
I have not included the address or booking information because, unless you work for the Sumitomo Group, you will not be able to walk-in to this restaurant. But you can visit another Nadaman restaurant which is equally good.