To appreciate Takuya Yamashita’s La Cuisine Naturelle philosophy is to understand his love for his hometown Nara and seasonality of Japanese ingredients. The 32-year-old talent, who is also an alumnus of Etude, Enfants Rouges and Ciel et Sol, has built a vast network of contacts from tea farmers to fishermen in order to source for the best ingredients at his new outpost – the newly revamped Whitegrass, which is back after a five-month hiatus.
Yamashita's inclination to bring out the pure flavours of these Japanese ingredients through French culinary techniques results in a degustation showcase ($168 for five courses; $228 for eight courses) that speaks of judicious restraint. Oysters sourced from Hyogo Prefecture is a statement of pristine quality (thanks to the oysters' rich diet of minerals from rainforests) and is served with Granny Smith apples as a pairing of the sea and land. Ikejime, sourced directly from a fisherman friend in Kyoto, is served in an uncomplicated lobster stock, while Stuffed Wing, his take on an age-old French recipe, is filled with pistachios, mushroom paste and Italian rice bathing in chicken consommé. Even dessert is an exercise in delicateness, much like the sake lees ice cream coated with rose hip jelly and served with Japanese strawberries and strawberry sauce.