Date of Visit: March 3 2013
The ancient capital of Japan, Nara is 45mins away from Kyoto (there is a direct trolley running hourly, but don’t hop on the train bound for the other direction like I did!). Compared to Tokyo and Kyoto, Nara is a tranquil town, boasting temples and shrines. Most significantly Nara is a World UNESCO Heritage site and my prime reason to visit Nara is to visit the temples there. However, my quest to eat at Michelin-rated restaurants continued, and I was thrilled to find Wa Yamamura, a local Nara restaurant that has been awarded a 3 stars status by the Michelin Guide in Andy Hayler’s web of international restaurant reviews (here). Since Wa Yamamura’s webpage is in Japanese, I asked my hotel concierge at Hotel Nikko Nara to book for me.
This husband and wife operated restaurant was packed by locals on the night we visited, so even though we made a bar seating reservation for 3 people, we were given a private room which is divided by a kimono curtain. Our 10-course kaiseki was ¥12500 per person. We were very well taken care by the wife of the chef and her team of young waitresses (with one speaking English). True to being ‘omakase’, a hand-written description of the course on pretty notepapers accompanied each course. Here’s what we had…
We were given a welcome drink of amazake to celebrate the Hina Masturi Festival
After choosing our sake, we were asked to choose our own personalised sake cups
Glass Sake ‘Kettle’? It’s a lovely design with ice put in the middle chamber to keep the sake cold.
Chinese Yam and Urchin in Sesame Sauce
Japanese Dashi Soup with Steamed Fish Dumpling and Abalone
Cold Dish: Beancurd skin, Japanese Bay scallop and shrimp with lemon vinegared jelly
Sashimi: Stonefish, fatty tuna, flatfish, shrimp, squid
Beautifully presented in an ice bowl of the freshest sashimi of creamy shrimps, squids and the fattiest piece of tuna. There is also a sourish jelly as accompaniment
The presentation of this course totally took our breathe away. We were presented with assorted Small Dishes for Doll’s Festival (Hina Masturi), served on 2 black trays with lighted candles. The 2 trays were placed side-by-side and made a truly festive banquet.
This was my highlight!!
On the platter were (clockwise from top right): Sesame tofu made of kudzu powder, Wakagi green onion with vinegared miso dressing, Shirauo with plum vinegared jelly, Scallops with sesame dressing, Whelkin urchin paste
Burdock rolled with sea eel, broad bean, steamed egg and fish paste, small octopus
Dried mullet roe with white radish, Plum jelly in a lily bulb paste ball
Grilled Dish: Grilled tilefish with Zucchini and Udo
Simmered bowl – sea eel, pumpkin, bamboo shoots and taro corn
Young sardines and Japanese pepper boiled in soy sauce
We were asked to choose from a selection of: For the Rice course, we are asked to choose from a selection rice porridge with crab, rice and grilled cod roe in Japanese soup, Green peas rice or Young sardines and Japanese pepper boiled in soy sauce
Fresh Mango, Strawberry Jelly and Orange Juice.
The total cost came up to ¥42960 with sakes. Our taxi fare from the hotel and back was ¥660 each way. We were all truly satisfied with our meal. The chef had used the freshest ingredients and fed us well. Moreover, we enjoyed the merriment of the restaurant frequented by the locals. Although the cooking may not be as refined as the other Michelin restaurants, I will still recommend it, and revisit it when I am in Nara next. Here’s a link to another review when I am doing this post.