Chef Takuya Nezasa of Grand Hyatt Tokyo tells us about a new, organic rice he’s cultivated specially for Shunbou restaurant – it’s so delicious he recommends you order it with just a raw egg.
Takuya Nezasa is the kind of person who pays fine attention to detail. As executive sous chef of Grand Hyatt Tokyo’s Shunbou restaurant, he personally picks out much of the décor and tableware – think gorgeous natural woods and beautifully crafted, hand-made ceramics – and he admits to being “very choosy” about the ingredients he features on the traditional Japanese menu. So it’s no surprise that, last year, he created a brand of superb quality rice that’s exclusive to Shunbou, cultivated on Kurosawa Farm in Yamagata Prefecture. Because if there’s one ingredient that’s essential to Japanese cuisine, it’s rice.
“I had actually been trying to create an exclusive rice for some time, but most farmers aren’t willing to let you use just one small part of their land. Luckily, I connected with a farmer at Kurosawa Farm who agreed to give us some land, and to the conditions I asked for,” he tells Weekender.
Yamagata has long been revered for developing a superior type of rice called tsuya hime, which is known for being shiny, fluffy, and extra tasty, so Nezasa already had a good base from which to work. Over and above that, he asked them “to only use clean water that flows directly from the mountain, to minimize pesticides, and make it as organic as possible.” Everything is done by hand, too, and the result is Shunbou-mai, a premium rice that scores at least 80 points or higher on Japan’s taste scale of 100 (standard rice, by comparison, scores 65 to 75).
Nezasa personally visits the farm three to four times a year, and insists on slow-cooking the rice for diners in a classic Japanese kama (iron pot), which heightens the already sweet flavor. “The superior texture and taste has got a lot to do with the pressure inside the pot.” The rice is served in the kama too, adding to the restaurant’s modern yet traditional atmosphere. It’s also testament to the hotel’s focus on showcasing the quality of Japan and its cuisine, and supporting local farmers and artisans, while still maintaining a global outlook and catering to guests from around the world.
When asked to suggest three dishes from the menu that pair well with Shunbou-mai, the chef recommends the charcoal-grilled Hida beef dishes, their signature sukiyaki, or – and he chuckles a little as he says this last one – even just a raw egg. (You know the rice must be good if all you’re going to eat it with is one raw egg; even if said egg does cost ¥350 and come all the way from Kyoto.) Should you prefer noodles to rice, Nezasa has also recently added original Shunbou soba to the menu. And from around February next year, he adds, “We’ll be launching our very own Shunbou sake.”
Shunbou-mai can be purchased from the restaurant directly (small ¥3,000, large ¥5,000).
Shunbou at Grand Hyatt Tokyo
6-10-3 Roppongi, Minato-ku
03 4333 8786