I am not one who is good at writing on food, but this is one place that I cannot ignore and it deserves my compliment. Wa Yamamura is the restaurant of owner cum chef, Mr. Nobuhiro Yamamura. This is certainly a must-visit in Nara – It is the one and only restaurant in Nara with 3 Michelin stars. Despite the rating, the food is reasonably priced (still pricey, but it is cheaper than most 1 star rated restaurants worldwide!). Kaiseki is a traditional multi-course Japanese meal – showcasing the art and culinary skills of the chef and chef Yamamura did well!
One note of advice, DO BOOK IN ADVANCE! The restaurant can only accommodate about 20 people each seating. I managed to book the seats via Citi Prestige Concierge about 1 month in advance. There is no fixed menu as it changes – price ranges from 6000 – 16000 JPY per person (excluding tax). As Kaiseki comes in courses, do expect about 2-2.5 hours.
The restaurant is conveniently located near Shin-Omiya station. It is about 5 minutes walking from the station (Google maps will guide you to the restaurant easily). You will probably be left wondering if you got the correct place as the exterior looks simple and unassuming (easily mistaken for a house). At the entrance, there is a big pot of flower (personally arranged by Chef Yamamura himself).
There are both table and counter seats – I only managed to secure counter seats but it gives you a very good view of what the chef is doing. You will be greeted by a piece of menu, handwritten in both English and Japanese. This menu is yours to keep at the end of the meal!
The menu – given on the day and yours to keep at the end of the meal (with the calligraphy added by the chef after you are done)
The view from our seats – chef busy at work!
The crab and the scallop was very fresh and succulent – the vinegar sauce blends nicely and does not overpower the taste of the seafood. The rice was something extra, served only on the first day of the month (it was 1st March). The white sake goes nicely with the appetizer.
The dumpling was easy to bite on with a generous serving of Uni. Soup was clear and refreshing – not salty.
I am usually quite conservative with my types of sashimi. I am not a fan of squid or shrimp but both tasted excellent here and the sashimi was very fresh! I have always wondered why it is called sweet prawn as those I have tried before was never sweet – I finally understood.
Just like sashimi, I have never been a fan of ‘other seafood’ (mainly from the taste). I got to say the items here were excellent (partly motivated by the price I paid … hahaha). Special mention goes to the tofu – which has been made to be soft and sticky.
5) Grilled Dish
Grilled nicely – not too hard to bite on (which would have indicate over-grilling)
6) Cold Dish
A very special dish in which the lemon vinegar jelly goes very nicely with the seafood (not out of place at all). The tofu skin was silky smooth.
7) Steamed Dish
8) Rice Dish
I tried to opt for one each but we can only choose the same one. They did offer us the rice with young sardines (but we were too full by then).
The strawberry jelly was exceptional! We ended the meal with a cup of coffee.
The whole experience took us 2.5 hours – after which we had to rush back to Kintetsu station to get our luggage to go into Osaka… but before that?
This is a place I would strongly recommend to anyone coming to Osaka/Kyoto/Nara – although pricey, the value is there for what you pay.
Do check out the website here