Yasai Kaiseki Nagamine 八彩懐石 長峰
Japanese kaiseki vegetarian restaurant in Tokyo
Reviewed by Lukas Kratochvil
Looking for a feast to cleanse your body and soul? Yasai Kaiseki Nagamine is the answer to your culinary prayers. Curiosity and guilt after a gluttonous Christmas period drove me to indulge in a seven course vegetable extravaganza in a kaiseki restaurant in the Ginza district.
Yasai Kaiseki Nagamine ("yasai" meaning vegetable in Japanese) is a relatively new addition to the Tokyo restaurant scene, but its owners know a thing or two about vegetables, having run a vegetable wholesale business for 60 years. And their expertise shows.
Instead of the fearfully anticipated litany of bland vegetable dishes and a rumbling stomach at the end of it, we were presented with fireworks of fresh, exciting and beautifully crafted dishes showcasing seasonal Japanese vegetables.
We started with a trio of appetizers where the stand-out dish consisted of sesame tofu, wasabi, soy sauce and sweet azuki beans. The flavor of the panacotta-textured tofu harmonized beautifully with the beans and wasabi. The first real highlight followed: a wonderful winter warmer of pureed Nagano turnip soup with a solitary ball of mochi (rice flower dumpling). Japanese turnips are outstanding and the soup alone was worth the visit.
Next up, a medley of Kagoshima bamboo shoots, Kyoto carrot, Chinese yam from Aomori and miso with soy sauce. Do you remember as a child visiting a farm in the countryside and trying the fresh, chemically unadulterated vegetables? I had forgotten that vegetables could taste this good.
The cooked dish following was an interesting combination of simmered daikon (radish), mustard spinach and millet-fu, a polenta-textured tofu dish made with millet. The next offering sadly was not a winner. Taro (a starchy root vegetable) baked in soy milk cream with chili sauce topped with butterbur sprout tempura and deep fried arrowhead chips sounds intriguing, but should have remained the chef's unfulfilled fantasy. The taro was flavourless, the bitterness of the butterbur was not counter-balanced by anything and the chips added texture but not much else.
All was forgotten when the vegetable sushi arrived. Perfectly textured rice at room temperature, each piece topped with different vegetables and wrapped with a strip of nori (seaweed). The chive sushi in particular, served with a hint of soy sauce, was perfection itself. The dessert of potato cake and chocolate mousse was tasty but unmemorable.
The sake and wine list is limited, but adequate. The freshness and flavour of dry sake goes very well with the vegetables, and Nagamine offer a three sake sample set. Service is helpful and friendly and accentuates the refined atmosphere of the elegant, modern Japanese interior. Seating is mainly in private rooms.
The menu was a very reasonable. It's not all vegetables though: diners may also select meat and fish kaiseki. Lunch is 2,130 yen - 10,500 yen. Strict vegetarians should note that dashi stock of bonito, a fish - is used in some of the 'vegetarian' dishes.
We exited feeling pleasantly sated, but also light and virtuous. This is a great restaurant, and I would particularly recommend it to people who have a die-hard carnivorous spouse or friend to whom they want to prove that vegetables can be fun. The menu changes monthly to ensure constant seasonality of the vegetables. I feel a February visit coming up.
Name Yasai Kaiseki Nagamine 八彩懐石 長峰
Ginsho Bldg. B1 4-9-5 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0061
Subway 3 min. walk from Tokyo Metro Ginza line Ginza station Exit A6
1 min. walk from Tokyo Metro Hibiya line Higashi Ginza station Exit A2
1 min. walk from Toei Asakusa line Higashi Ginza station Exit A2
Opening times 11:30 a.m. 3 p.m. (lunch); 5:30 p.m. 11:00 p.m. (dinner); closed Sunday & public holidays
Credit cards? Yes (VISA, MASTER, UC, DC, UFJ, Diners Club, American Express, JCB, NICOS)
Foreigner friendly? Yes; English menu and some English speaking staff available.
Non-smoking section? Yes