Noma Kyoto, April 2023

Noma Kyoto pop-up at the Ace Hotel.

Best dish was the spiny lobster. The barbecued greens with the spiny lobster head sauce were also good. The thinly sliced young bamboo with squid and jasmine broth was quite nice.

I disliked the swordfish belly in butter sauce.

I didn’t love the pairing but it was mandatory. I get that they couldn’t transport a cellar. Also, it’s pretty much all shared tables, so you’re sitting at the table with strangers, but it ends up being ok.

Desserts a little simple and basic tasting, in my opinion. I know that nothing here is “basic” but that was my impression - it was yuzu sherbet, a version of strawberry mochi I didn’t care for, and a breadfruit creme brulee.

I appreciate Noma’s continual experimentation. It was a massive effort to make this pop-up happen. Overall a nice experience, though one has to be mentally prepared for this kind of meal it’s all about expectations. Best to go in with little expectations. It’s going to be something different. Others at our table didn’t seem to like the actual food or pairings that much, but we didn’t discuss it in depth. I think one expects more umami with the meal, but it’s not really aiming to recreate Japanese food. At times it felt a touch acidic and lean (shabu shabu) or too fatty (swordfish). Best dishes had a balance, like the kinome’s lift with ise ebi and umami from the “bushis.”

Our main server was very friendly, and the chefs were happy to explain the dishes a bit more whenever questioned.

It’s not Japanese food, and most of the time it’s not trying to be. Rather, it’s Noma’s interpretation of Japanese ingredients and some dishes (such as shabu shabu). The seaweed “shabu shabu”'s “ponzu” sauce was very good.

Onto the meal:

Hassun. Nice tomato gelee and bee pollen, great brightness. One of the stronger dishes, actually, a nice celebration of the spring “pure and clear” season, though a little bit less textural than I would guess for Japaneses spring - but it’s not Japanese food, I had to remind myself.

Seaweed shabu shabuVery fresh seaweeds. Great ponzu sauce of sea buckthorn.

Young bamboo shoots
Good quality bamboo, as the best does, tasted like corn. Corn and jasmine are a good pairing that’s been proven on many tasting menus. They cook the bamboo a little differently - here it’s sliced super thin, not super thick, as one would normally find in Kyoto.

Swordfish belly
Swordfish belly with butter sauce. This is a very polarizing dish. I personally thought it was fat on fat, and the potent sauce tasted strongly of caramel. I actually disliked this and couldn’t finish the sauce. Mentally, too, it’s like raw fish in a dairy sauce and no lift, no spice, no acidity, or if there was any, it was drowned out by caramel flavor. It’s perhaps a flavor pairing I’m unfamiliar with, I just expect something very different.

Like wasabi on tofu. Pretty good.

Kinki (channel rockfish). With a sauce not like kimi-joyu, but rather egg yolk rested in whisky garum. Good, though my dining companion’s was a bit more nicely cooked.

Lotus root treated like steak
Good sauce, too lazy to look up my notes now. Was hoping for a bit more texture on this, actually.

Vegetables with spiny lobster head sauce
Delicious sauce and vegetables

Spiny lobster with pumpkin and corn bushi, tomato, kinome
Delicious with kinome

Green rice with roses and rose vinegar
Texturally different than I was expecting, but nice rose flavor

“Clams” - actually a yuzu sherbet

Strawberry mochi too dehydrated strawberry texture to me. I wanted more pillowy mochi and a fresh strawberry, but they’re recontextualizing it I guess.

Breadfruit brulee


which do you prefer? I would think you lose the satisfy crunch with it cut so thinly.

I prefer thick cut. I get that Noma had to cook it slightly differently to slice it that thinly (because it normally takes time to get the white residue off). It was smart with jasmine but I missed the normal texture.

I also like a bit of char on it when it’s grilled. I do love the corn-like flavor of good takenoko.

Had some gigantic shoots at Ogata in Kyoto.

And even at sushiya (Sushi Taira Motoazabu), here are very sweet ones from Oma, served just with a little salt.

But my favorite takenoko was actually at a beef place, Nikuyatanaka Ginza. Very similar preparation to Ogata’s - grilled, then topped with lots of kinome that’s “smacked” before plating. Almost like how a sushi chef slaps torigai, but with two hands.