Dinner in the Countryside Near Mt. Fuji at Yashima

Chef Toshiji Yuki is considered the greatest modern day chef in Japan, and the Kitcho restaurant in the upscale Hotel Seiyo Ginza is one of Japan's finest restaurants. Chef Yuki's cooking style is called kaiseki - a multi-course formal cuisine, and it was quite extraordinary. The raw lobster, abalone and crab combination in a gel of seaweed was about as Japanese as food can be, but it worked beautifully, offering an extraordinary freshness as well as intensity of flavor. The non-vintage Alain Robert Champagne is a traditionally-made, barrel-fermented Champagne that was initially quite vibrant, but faded a bit as it sat in the glass. We then moved to an intensely flavorful egg custard soup with shark fin that worked well with an excellent Comtes Lafon 1998 Meursault Charmes, a fully mature wine that should be drunk over the next 2-3 years. My favorite course was the extraordinary raw tuna belly wrapped around radish sprouts that was dipped in boiling oil shabu-shabu style. With that course we had an amazingly youthful but potentially outrageously complex, multidimensional red Burgundy, the 2002 Griotte Chambertinfrom Claude Dugat. Its deep ruby color is accompanied by gorgeous strawberry, cherry, and black fruit notes intermixed with hints of mushrooms, earth, and flowers. It is one more example of a top-flight 2002 red Burgundy that suggests this may be the best vintage for the Côte de Nuits since 1990. Our next course was a tasty Japanese fish called ara, served with a mediocre 1998 J. M. Millot Grands Echézeaux. The wine was herbaceous, with an earthy, stale mushroom character, and a shortage of fruit as well as any real finish. One of the French winemakers (Professor Denis Dubourdieu from Bordeaux) found it to be undrinkable, but I wouldn't have gone that far. We next had a sensational serving of Japan's famed Waygu beef from a sub-region of Kobe called Matsuzzaka. A highly marbled beef, it worked fabulously well with the modern, New World, blockbuster 2001 Torbreck Run Rig, made from old vine Shiraz aged in French oak with a bit of co-fermented Viognier in the blend. While still young and primary, it boasted loads of potential as well as a silky personality. We finished with a traditional Japanese closure, shrimp miso soup and pure white rice. I had a green tea at the end of the meal for which Chef Toshiji Yuki is renowned. It was by far the greatest green tea I have ever had in my life. Unfortunately, it takes several hours to prepare, so I don't think I will be attempting to replicate it stateside. For visitors to Japan, this is a sensational restaurant.

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