Ginseng Chicken Soup Set Meal of Gusto Japan

The price is 1,209 yen (tax included).

 

 

 

 

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New Sweet of Godiva Japan

Kyokanze chocolate developed jointly with Tsuruya Yoshinobu, a company founded in 1803

The sweet is made with Belgium chocolate of 72% cocao content and incorporates white bean paste and yuzu peel.

A limited quantity of the chocolate will be sold for 648 yen (tax included) per piece.

 

 

 

 

L’Atelier de Noto: Peninsular Cuisine with a French Accent

Robbie Swinnerton wrote . . . . . . . . .

Timing is everything when you visit the Noto Peninsula.

In the warmer months, this remote, rural area jutting out from the coast of Ishikawa Prefecture boasts spectacular, unspoiled scenery that rewards leisurely exploration. Arrive in winter, though, and it’s a very different story, especially in the port city of Wajima.

Huddled on the peninsula’s rugged north coast and looking out over the turbulent waters of the Sea of Japan, Wajima’s low-rise old town draws tourists by the busload. They stroll through the narrow alleys and wander down the famous morning market street where residents set up temporary stalls selling seafood, vegetables and local souvenirs. Many also stop to eye up the traditional crafts, most especially the renowned (and often pricey) Wajima-nuri lacquerware.

Come January, those same streets and shops are bleak and empty. But even in the harshest weather, there are still compelling reasons for making the two-hour drive through the mountains from Kanazawa, the capital of Ishikawa. Winter is peak season for much of the best seafood landed in this region. And Wajima boasts one of the finest French restaurants in the prefecture.

L’Atelier de Noto stands in the middle of Wajima’s old town, just a couple of short blocks from the waterfront. Housed inside a single-story wooden building that was formerly the workshop and residence of a noted lacquerware artisan, this historic townhouse is now the stage for the culinary craftsmanship of owner-chef Toshiya Ikehata.

A native of Wajima, Ikehata learned the fundamentals of French cuisine at the Tsuji Culinary Institute in Osaka before joining the kitchen of Calendrier, one of the most respected restaurants in the city. After rising to the level of sous-chef, he then left for France in 2006 to further hone his skills at restaurants such as the two-Michelin-starred La Table de Joel Robuchon in Paris and the celebrated, three-starred Maison Lameloise in the Bourgogne wine region.

After four and a half years in France, Ikehata returned to Japan eager to set up a place of his own. Initially, his idea was to open in Osaka, the city he knew best and where he was confident there might be demand for his cuisine — unlike rural Noto.

“During the time I was at culinary school,” he says, “I felt a sense of embarrassment that I hailed from such a rural backwater like Wajima. But the time I spent working in France changed my viewpoint: I realized that being in the countryside offers the opportunity to source the best ingredients — and, more than that, people are prepared to travel from afar to eat at restaurants that reflect this quality.”

A chance return to his hometown gave him pause for thought. Asked to cater an event in Wajima, he found himself cooking with local ingredients sourced from around the Noto Peninsula. He found they were every bit the equal of the products he was using in Osaka.

“Suddenly I could sense that, actually, there was a lot more potential in Wajima than if I were to stay in Osaka,” he explains. “So I decided to move back here.”

Having reset his culinary compass, Ikehata managed to land the perfect premises for his restaurant. After a tasteful renovation, L’Atelier de Noto finally opened in the atmospheric setting of the old lacquerware studio in September 2014.

The building still retains many of its original timber features. The doors, pillars, beams and ceiling have been left intact with indirect lighting set into the walls. The central feature is a traditional inner garden of rocks, shrubs and a small tree, all open to the sky to reflect the changing seasons. This is visible, through glass, from all 14 seats in the main dining room as well as the two private rooms (which seat eight and six respectively). Where formerly there were tatami mats, the dining room is covered with a wooden floor with stylish modern chairs at tables set with pristine white cloths.

This synthesis of old and new, drawing on both Japanese and Western influences, also plays out in Ikehata’s cuisine.

From the seafood, meat and vegetables to the wild plants and mushrooms that he forages in the nearby uplands, virtually all his ingredients are sourced from the peninsula or surrounding waters. The dense forests that rise up on the outskirts of town are also a source of cultivated mushrooms, most notably the plump, juicy “Noto 115” shiitake that are so prized they’re often touted as the abalone of the mountains.

“Even the sake and wine, the salt and the seasonings,” Ikehata says, “99% of my ingredients are from Noto. And wherever possible from inside Wajima.”

Over the years, the strong relationships Ikehata has built up with local food producers allow him to specify the level of quality he demands. He works closely with a small ranch specializing in grass-fed Jersey cows that provide milk for the restaurant. He also uses the meat of the rare Noto Kuro-ushi cattle, a crossbreed of black wagyu with Jersey cattle that he sources from the Tanpopo Farm in neighboring Anamizu City lower down the peninsula.

At the same time, Ikehata has begun working with chef Takayoshi Yamaguchi of Sushidokoro Mekumi (one of 2021’s Destination Restaurants) to encourage fishermen to adopt better processing methods to keep their catches as fresh as possible.

L’Atelier de Noto offers abbreviated meals at both lunch and dinner for visitors with limited time. But the only way to fully appreciate the depth and quality of the ingredients available in this region is to sit down to one of Ikehata’s full omakase chef’s special menus.

In winter, the 10-course menu is likely to open not with soup but a warm, savory flan incorporating superbly fresh oysters and a colorful sauce prepared from garland chrysanthemum greens. Another starter pairs shime-saba (cured mackerel) with momozuku, a gelatinous local sea vegetable rarely used outside of Noto’s homegrown regional cuisine, which is rolled up inside bright green taco-style galettes made from lotus root and pureed komatsuna (mustard greens).

Another of Ikehata’s signature winter dishes is a chilled cream soup prepared from miniature bocchan kabocha pumpkins, incorporating amaebi shrimp and morsels of baigai (sea snail), topped with tomato compote, shrimp gelee and crisp croutons, and garnished with wild myōga ginger. This is served with slices of baguette from a nearby bakery, along with local butter and a remarkable crystalline salt produced in traditional salt pans on the remote island of Hegura some 50 kilometers off the Noto coast.

Ikehata makes a wonderful pairing of wild mushrooms, crab meat and lotus root, along with a rich turkey broth sauce. And even when there are no more fungi to be found in the hills, he is still able to make use of the abundant zuwaigani snow crabs to prepare his signature kobakogani (female snow crab) risotto.

The classic seasoning in Wajima is ishiru, a fish sauce akin to Thai nam pla but much more elegant. Ikehata draws on this to add extra depths of ocean umami to the delicate filets of nodoguro (blackthroat sea perch) that he likes to match with the juicy caps of Noto 115 shiitake.

But the highpoint of any meal at L’Atelier de Noto is likely to be the meat course. The lean, light-pink cuts of Noto Kuro-ushi offer superb texture along with their rich flavor and are so satisfying they barely need the accompanying red wine jus.

Ikehata’s creative cooking is simultaneously complex, accessible and unfailingly delicious. And while it is far from traditional, at least in any Japanese sense, it is truly representative of this remote region — whatever the season.

Source: Japan Times

New Donuts of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Japan

Hokkaido Shimaenaga Matcha & Azuki

Hokkaido White Chocolate Cheesecake

The prices for these limited quantity to be sold donuts are 367 yen and 313 yen (tax included) respectively.

 

 

 

 

Hybrid Rice Bowl Burgers of Café Cocona in Ikebukuro, Japan

Katsudon Burger

Oyakodon Burger

Unatamadon Burger

The rice bowls are sandwiched between brioche buns.