Having only opened in March 2011, Bleston Court Karuizawa has already earned a reputation as one of the top fine-dining establishments in the country. Fusing French cuisine philosophies and a classical approach with local Nagano produce and Japanese traditions, hidden away in a charming, forested setting, it should have Michelin inspectors in the reservation book some day soon.
The focus is on seasonal food. Nagano has many rivers and forests rich with fresh ingredients that Executive Chef Noriyuki Hamada taps to create his dishes.
The creativity that has gone into the preparation, and plating, is clear from the moment our dishes come out of the kitchen. Hamada is the youngest winner of the Bocuse d’OR Japan and, along with the exquisite service we received – surrounded by elegant décor – this was a dining experience that we will never forget.
Having been driven to Belston Court by a member of staff at Hoshinoya (the Spa resort and the restaurant are under the same management), on arrival we were courteously escorted to our table and presented with a towel and a small flower.
The small details all seemed right so far. Sommelier and Head Waiter, Hirofumi Kikuchi, then explained the provenance of our dishes and just how they would be prepared; and after bread and champagne, our appetizers arrived. Six tiny round dishes, imitating a full-course meal. We were told to eat them from left to right – all in the design it seems – and the miniature cabbage soup was a stop and think moment, it had a texture that melted into the background as the fresh flavours came through and acted to intrigue as to what could possibly come next.
Following the starters it was time for the Potage du Jour and then pan-fried ayu, a sweet fish that was nicely complemented by a cucumber and green pepper sauce. Our entree, seasonal vegetables from Karuizawa Farm, needed nothing but a simple vinaigrette accent to show off their flavours. For the meat dish there were three options, Nagano style ‘shinshu chicken’, an assortment of roasted pork cuts and charcoal grilled wagyu beef. We opted for the chicken and were not disappointed. Served with a sake sauce and seasonal vegetables, this truly local delicacy was the highlight of the meal.
There was just about enough room for the cherry jubilee dessert, with a rich, fruity sauce cooked and poured, in a final act of theatre, at the table. That wasn’t the end of it though, a huge platter of petit fours suddenly appeared, with a choice of tea or coffee. So intricate was the detail, it almost felt a shame to eat them; we did manage to get through some, though, before the waiter offered to wrap them as souvenirs.
This kind of service came as no surprise as we had experienced it all night. From the moment we walked in to the moment we left, all the staff at Bleston Court Yukawatan were extremely affable and attentive. Treated like royalty while being served food fit for kings, I just hope we have chance to go back.
By Matthew Hernon
Bleston Court Yukawatan
Address: Hoshino, Karuizawa-machi, Nagano 389-0194