Be you in Tokyo for the Rugby World Cup (until 1 Nov) or to go Koyo (from mid-Nov in Tokyo), autumn is the most bountiful of seasons in Japan, a feast for all the senses. As the mercury dips and trees turn a burnished hue of red and gold, restaurant tables are heaving with hearty comfort fare.
Autumn in Japan is considered a second spring, and the abundance of seasonal ingredients is spotlighted by eateries running the gourmet gamut of street stalls to haute fine-diners. Foods such as pumpkin, sweet potato, chestnuts and persimmons are served alongside traditional dishes like oden, (a largely brown democratic hot pot). The most significant new harvest is the most ubiquitous and essential of Japanese ingredients – rice. New rice aka Shinmai season runs Oct-Dec when you can truly appreciate the aromas and textures of the freshly-picked grain, best enjoyed fresh with a sprinkle of salt or simple accompaniments.
Another treasured autumnal flavour is the pine-scented Matsutake mushroom. Thanks to clement weather conditions, 2019’s harvest is particularly abundant, with prices dropping accordingly, so you’re likely to find ‘shroomy goodness throughout the city. Keep peepers peeled for Dobin Mushi – a delicate mushroom broth traditionally served in a teapot (dobin).
As the French have Beaujolais Nouveau, Japan too has its own seasonal new wines – Hiyaoroshi and Akiagari Sake are two autumnal brews designed to be enjoyed while young and vibrant. They may not appear on menus, so be sure to ask (or gesticulate!) if you can’t spy them.
If you’re in Tokyo this autumn, you’re in for a treat as chefs pull out all the stops to tantalise tastebuds and restaurants prepare menus to nature's blazing symphony of colour. Pull up a pew at one of these (pre-booked) top tables with a leafy view.
With soaring views of the immaculate Imperial Gardens, this is the second offering from sushi master Rei Masuda, whose eponymous restaurant holds two Michelin Stars. Flip-fresh seasonal ingredients are sourced through long-held and trusted connections at Tokyo’s Toyosu Market.
4F / The Peninsula Hotel / 1-8-1 Yurakucho / Chiyoda-ku / +81 3 6270 2990 / sushiwakon-tokyo.com
Kaiseki is a menu of seasonal pre-ordained dishes largely dependent on seasonality – in this case, regional Kaga cuisine from the Hokuriku region, enjoyed amid the Imperial Gardens.
2F / Japan Life Marunouchi Garden Tower / 2-1-1 Marunouchi / Chiyoda-ku / +81 3-6457-5020 / kaga-ya.com
Tucked away near Aoyama Park is a tiny, eight-seat Takumi Shingo. The out-of-this-world omakase spotlights rarely featured autumn ingredients. Chef Shingo Takahashi once worked in a sake brewery, so expect a deep knowledge and solid use of sake in the kitchen and dining room.
1F / Win Aoyama / 2-2-15 Minami Aoyama Minatoku / +81-3-6434-0074 / Two seatings, 6pm and 9pm Thu-Tue
Peel back the layers of the Nippon capital...
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