This isn't intended as a review of the restaurant. If that's what you are looking for, please consider a very informative and much more articulate post available here, which describes a largely different menu, but is consistent with my experience.
The last year in Tokyo has convinced me that the Japanese take the quality of their food and its presentation very seriously. This just from visiting grocery stores and casual restaurants. Can you imagine what the fine dining must be like?
So, when the opportunity to join some friends for a special dinner at Narisawa came up last week, it didn't take much time for me to decide to set my budget aside. Looking at the seasonal tasting menu, we weren't entirely sure what to expect from many of the courses. Essence of the forest with Satoyama scenery? What does that mean? Even after eating it, I'd have a hard time describing it to you. (On the website, Narisawa explains that the menu lists just the idea and main ingredient of each course so that you can enjoy it with an open mind.)
The dinner was delicious. I tried many things I've never tasted before (or might even refuse to taste under different circumstances, e.g., cod's milt) and enjoyed the thoughtful details.
A friend put together a collage of some of the courses and I've included it below. Top center is the cod's milt. Middle left is one of the desserts (the bowl was so pretty!). Middle right is the duck. Bottom are the other bite-sized dessert options. From the dessert sampler, I had a macaron or two, a cream puff filled with whiskey cream and topped with toasted nuts, a pecan tart, and a strawberry with cream and a tiny shortcake round underneath it.
I wish I had a picture of each course to share with you (the mackerel, in particular, was beautiful) or the vocabulary to adequately describe the wine.
P.S. I'll be the first to admit that my gut reaction to this sort of fine dining has typically been negative. It seems pretentious. How much better can the food be? Why pay so much? And so on. After dinner at Narisawa, I would describe fine dining as an artistic performance that engages all of your senses. In the same way that I appreciate a good ballet, I can appreciate this. It's hard to imagine that I'll ever indulge in a meal like this again, but what an experience!