Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Yamazato, Amsterdam (*)

Yamazato is one of the restaurants of the Okura Hotel in Amsterdam a member of The leading hotels of the world. Looking at the hotel itself you can see its Japanese orientation, from the roof to the ground, at the lobby and the garden.

 You can find the famous Ciel Bleu on the top upper floor, the 23rd serving french haute cuisine, which has been awarded 2 michelin stars, the 2 Japanese restaurants, both holding a star, Yamazato and Teppanyaki Restaurant Sazanka, and the bib gourmand by Michelin, Serre restaurant. 

Yamazato is the first traditional kaiseki restaurant outside Japan that is awarded a Michelin star (having it since 2002). Kaiseki cuisine regarded as the Japanese haute cuisine differs greatly from the modern one. Every element composing the menu follows the classical kaiseki structure. Even the dishes, tableware, the kimonos of the waitresses are all immersed with symbolism according to the season, offering an epicurean approach of harmony between the food and the what's all around. Kaiseki needs only the best seasonal ingredients, served at the right temperature, without any compromises in any course, having no repetition of techniques in the same meal. Pretty much a very promising approach to fine dining.

The executive chef of the restaurant is Masanori Tomikawa. The spacious dining room in the ground floor of the Hotel Okura can seat up to 120 diners, for lunch or dinner 7 days a week. There is also a private room for up to 40 diners and a large sushi bar. Large windows all around the salle allow a view in a small Japanese decorated garden with cherry tries, a pond to a small river-canal full of strange fish. Unfortunately the pretty garden is not accessible for guests. Inside the decor is minimalistic, with wood everywhere, and no tablecloths. 

There are many menu options. You can choose from the lunch menu, the bento box, the omakase as also the a la carte. 

As we were seated, we were given a hot towel. No cutlery were on the table, just chopsticks, although if you feel uncomfortable using them they will provide anything necessary. 

The Zensai part of the menu came first, consisting of 5 parts, 5 different preparations. From left to right, deep fried tuna with oyster sauce was very rich and flavorful, spinach marinated with sesame sauce and pine nuts was excellent, snow crab wrapped with diakon radish was refreshing. Forth in the row, the simmered duck breast with curry sauce had very good flavor and was nicely medium cooked. Last, deep fried salmon marinated with sweet vinegar and salmon row. All 5 preparations were skillfully made with top notch ingredients. I would say the deep fried tuna was the best. 

The Tsukuri part followed. Sashimi of sea bass, tuna and squid. These were presented with a wasabi hot sauce and small tomatos. As we were advised the soy sauce was for the tuna and the squid while the other sweeter sauce was a pair for the sea bass. All pieces were of high quality, fresh and flavorful. I would easily say the sea bass was the best. 

The main course was a choice between a Gyu Fillet steak or Ebi Tempura. We took one of each. The grilled fillet of beef with sweet soy sauce was served with potatos, roots and a side salad. The meat was tender and very flavorful although I found it a bit overcooked. The tembura dish was consisted of deep fried shrimps and vegetables, eggplant, asparagus, roots and Japanese mint. All of them were very good deep fried with a delicate butter. 

Nigiri Sushi, AIgamo Shinjo. A sushi assortment of tuna, salmon, yellowtail, mackerel and Japanese omelet. I added a piece of toro tuna ( the best part of the fish which comes from the belly and contains more fat making it more tender and tasty). This was served next to a bowl of clear fish soup with noodles, mushrooms and a duck pate. All fish were again very fresh, the rice was excellent, but the soup despite the good pate was a bit underwhelming. 

Wafu dessert. A black sesame pudding paired with green tea ice cream and some great quality fruits.

There were many wines by glass as also a big wine list. A sake list from many regions was also available which was what we went for. The service was excellent, very friendly and attentive by lovely Asian women wearing kimonos.