Vegetable kaiseki is the unusual specialty at Nagamine, a relatively new restaurant in Ginza that's run by a long-established vegetable wholesaler based in nearby Tsukiji. With no meat or seafood to distract one's attention, the vegetables really stand on their own merits, and Nagamine showcases the most beautiful and most flavorful produce of the season. At Y5250, the vegetable menu offers a chance to experience a different take on kaiseki at a very reasonable price.
The menu follows a typical kaiseki structure, with a procession of ingredients that are vinegared, steamed, stewed, grilled and served raw, all simply and tastefully presented. A late-autumn menu started with a small glass of sweet tomato juice, a hollowed-out yuzu filled with vinegared greens, and a sesame-tofu-like dish made with an unusual variety of imo (potato). This was followed by an outstanding (and vividly colored) thick soup made from red turnips, then steamed vegetables with an excellent moromi miso sauce.
Many of the ingredients seemed to be chosen for color and texture as well as flavor, and a seasonally appropriate red-purple color theme ran through the entire meal. The dramatic high point was a tray of five beautifully presented pieces of vegetable sushi, which seems to be Nagamine's signature dish. This was followed by a memorable dessert of cauliflower-cream cheese mousse with rum-soaked raisins.
The sake menu is small but unusual, and it includes a Y1200 three-part tasting set, with the selection changing monthly. The interior is tasteful, with numerous private rooms, including for parties of two. We found the service rather hit-or-miss (some dishes were explained in detail, while others were simply deposited in front of us), although perhaps it was a busy night for the staff.
Nagamine also offers fish- and meat-inclusive kaiseki menus priced at Y8,400 and Y12,600 respectively, plus an Y18,900 extravaganza that requires negotiation and consultation several days in advance. Lunch ranges from Y2,620 to Y12,600. Note that even the vegetable-centered menu is not strictly vegetarian - the chefs prepare each dish to fully bring out the flavor of the constituent ingredients, and that process generally involves a bit of fish-based stock. English menus are available, although ordering is pretty simple - just pick your price level.
by Robb Satterwhite
This book will introduce you to more than twenty of Japan's favorite specialty foods that are less well known abroad, along with a guide to the best places in Tokyo to try them and expert tips on what to order. From Bento.com.