Nara – Wa Yamamura

My favourite part of this trip was the best meal at Wa Yamamura, Nara. This restaurant has been rated 3 stars on the Michelin Guide and is the only 3 star restaurant in Nara. Reservations are definitely required and I managed to get one booking about 3 weeks ahead with the help of my hotel concierge via email.

The restaurant is rather homely, run by the chef, his wife and several staff including one English speaking one. The restaurant was very small but that’s good because it means the food is not mass produced and everything is prepared meticulously by the chef.

I ordered my meal during reservation and opted for the ¥8400 course. The food here is Kaiseki style, which is my favourite for Japanese dining.

Aperitif of chestnut wine

Appetiser: Whelk “kinjiso” with lemon vinegar

Soup: Pike conger, matsutake mushroom, ginko nut and prawn steam boiled in earthenware teapot

This was quite similar to the one at Kikunoi Roan.

Sashimi: fatty tuna, squid, shrimp, flatfish

I do not hold high hopes for sashimi in Kansai region but this was fresh enough. The amaebi was so sweet.

Hassun: Sesame tofu, vegetables seasoned in vinegar with persimmon, shell fish & okra with vinegar, “shungiku dressed with mustard, burdock rolled with sea eel, squid grilled with egg, prawn hand rolled sushi, fried ginko nut

Autumn leaves to match the seasonal ingredients. Hassun is usually the most beautiful course of the kaiseki meal because it has an array of intricate looking dishes.

Grilled dish: broiled sweetfish with salt, waterpepper, vinegar

Charcoal grill was placed in front of us, with some beautiful maple leaves.

I’ve had ayu many times on this trip and was honestly not excited to see this again. However, I was so wrong. This ayu turned out to be legendary. I don’t know whether it is the fish or the cooking technique that takes the credit but the taste and texture was so different from the other mediocre ayu I’ve had! Now I get the hoo-haa about the sweetfish. The meat was very tender and sweet and the slightly crispy skin gave it a nice texture. This fish was also full of roe. It shows that bad cooking can ruin the impression of an ingredient that could have so much potential. I am so glad that the potential has been exhibited at this restaurant and I will go back loving ayu.

Cold dish: crab, yuba “tofu skin”, shimeiji mushroom with “kabosu” jelly

Warmdish: taro, eggplat, “mocha” made of lotus root dressed with a thick starchy sauce

This looks ordinary but was actually quite special. The “mochi” brings lotus root to another level and I can see it has more potential than just for cooking peanut soup.

Rice with young sardines

Steamed rice with chestnut

Rice and grilled cod roe in Japanese soup

For the rice course you can choose from the 3 options. The first 2 comes with miso soup. All had their own unique point but my favourite was the chestnut rice. Rice is refillable if you have the space (and time, sadly I had to catch a flight) for more.

Dessert: Grape, melon, persimmon in sweet jelly

I was not quite impressed seeing this ordinary looking dessert but I was so wrong again. The jelly was of a very soft and delicate texture – not coarse and hard. The fruits were amazing. Always remember that Japanese fruits are of a different level and fruits alone may taste sweeter better than some prepared desserts.

I would say this meal is very worth the price and this is only the lowest tier course yet so good. If I could try again I would love to try the highest tier one and see what magic the chef could do.

Wa Yamamura
2-11-15 Shibatsujicho, Nara, Nara Prefecture, Japan

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