Onjaku 温石 [2012.03.26 | Lunch]
A "hidden restaurant" in the western part of the city, Onjaku is a 20-minute stroll from Matsumoto station; or a 5 minute taxi ride. My partner and I chose to take a leisurely stroll to the restaurant, detouring at various charming craft shops along the way.
The restaurant is difficult to find even if you have GPS. We were staring at the doorway wondering if we got the correct place. Luckily for us, the other table that afternoon (it's a very small restaurant, with 3 tables) showed up, and we followed them in. By reservation only.
Service / Ambience:
Restrained and polite. One server, one chef. Service is unhurried, and items take a while to arrive (a good thing). Not the place for a quick lunch (although that is to be expected given its location).
Only 3 tables in the restaurant. Room was painted white, and devoid of ostentatious ornamentation. Clearly, the star of the place is the food, and nothing else should (and would) detract from it.
The chef came out to talk to us after the meal (After learning we were Singaporean, he figured out how we knew of his restaurant, which was through a friend currently working in Tokyo, and highly recommended this place. Apparently we were the second and third Singaporeans at his restaurant.)
Omakase meal; no ala-carte. Our menu that day included:
1. Chawanmushi with red daikon compote and mustard - warming after walking in the cold for a while. Very delicate taste, and the texture of the slightly crunchy compote offsets the smooth custard perfectly.
2. Yam and wasabi leaf (hanawasabi), dashi gelee, sesame sauce, white sesame - I'm a fan of all things with sesame sauce. This was really delicious; flavours were well balanced, and the textural play of the yam, wasabi leaf and dashi gelee was remarkable.
3. Onion and white miso soup, turnip dumpling, yuzu - Tamanegi - check. Kabu - check. Yuzu - check. Simple but wonderful bowl of soup.
4. Stewed pork belly with matsumoto leek - We were wondering if the whole menu was going to be vegetarian, and were relieved when this dish came. The pork was flavourful without being too salty, but could be ever-slightly more tender. Still very good though.
5. Potato dumpling with shrimp, fried potato strands - More like (firmly) mashed potato with small shrimp (sakura-ebi?) in a slightly thick dashi broth. The fried potato strands provided further textural interest.
6. Rice with butterbur tempura and firefly squid, pickles - I love butterbur, and I love firefly squid (hotaru-ika); their bitter flavours are so quintessentially Japanese. Delicious rice too. And good Japanese pickles! Almost non-existent in Singapore.
7. Apple sherbet, milk pudding - a simple dessert to end the meal. Again, the interplay of textures and tastes was commendable.
Once in a while, you eat at a restaurant with a talented chef who takes pride in his produce and his cooking. It can be like Aronia, where every ingredient is exquisite (and expensive!), resulting in out-of-this-world delicious plates. Or it can be like Onjaku, where ingredients are not necessarily the most expensive money can buy, but cooked to simple, homely-perfection.
5000 yen. Easily one the most worth-it meals I've had in Japan.
〒390-0803 長野県 松本市 元町1-3-27
+81 263 36 0985
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