Inua – 05 June 2019

Ah Inua. A super duper expensive place, that I really wanted to go to when I heard it opened, but after seeing how much it cost compared to actual Japanese restaurants, I didn’t want to go. But Thomas Frebel runs it, so…. Oh the agony!

However, I happened to have an extra couple of nights in Tokyo after my parents left, and decided at very short notice (two days), tried to book something. I tried to call Den about 68 times without success, but Inua was good to book online! And so here I was.

It feels a bit like Noma, which was to be expected (though this is based on my Noma Australia experience, since I haven’t actually been to the Noma. And of course with an international team, it was actually rather weird to speak to such fluent English speakers. We received a tour of the kitchens (including the “show” kitchen, the main kitchen, and the test kitchen, which is downstairs past their fermentation fridges!) which was pretty amazing. So many fermentation experiments and space for research!

After the tour, we were seated and we got an Aussie waitress!

Monkfish liver, green asparagus and beech nuts

Yeeeah look at those jaws!!! That’s a set of monkfish teeth!!! How cool is that! This was actually a super fluffy moussey thing, not unlike the way the rum lamington was made at Noma Australia.

Seasonal citrus, roasted kelp oil

Simple but delicious. Who knew that savoury citrus could taste like this! Since it’s been a while, I can’t actually remember what it was, but I think it was grapefruit?

A shot of the kitchen!

Flower pie

I love eating flowers!! And this was a thin cracker made with miso, and had a layer of truffle paste too. What I loved about this was that the truffle was not overpowering, and the cracker had great flavour and texture. I can’t get over how pretty this is!!!

Cured salmon roe and wild herb salad

This was interesting. That was some crazy looking cured salmon roe! I took a close look at it when I received it and kind of shouted out excitedly that it was roe . I don’t think I absolutely loved it though, but it was definitely an interesting dish!

Aged and smoked maitake mushroom

Yeeeah. Yeeah! During our tour of the kitchen, we saw the maitake mushrooms being aged. So cool! And I love mushrooms. This, the ugliest dish, was my favourite! Our waitress even said, Thomas hates to have a signature dish, but he just can’t take this one off the menu. I agree! This had so much flavour and was totally amazing! Plus I loved sprinkling the sakura petals onto the mushroom. Yes!!!

Matsubusa berry and spices

We started off with some tea, but we also requested the juice pairing. I was looking forward to some interesting flavours! To be honest though I don’t really remember exactly what the juices tasted like, but I also think that Noma Australia did the best pairings. These were great to drink regardless though!

Plum leather with fresh aromatic flowers

A roll up!! I can’t believe it’s a roll up! Another pretty dish, and I love that this was presented on beeswax in a picture frame; it really does look too good to eat. Nice and tart, and not loaded with sugar like its childhood, cheap counterpart. This was classy!

Yuba and wild mountain vegetables

This lump of foamy stuff was such a weird looking dish, but when you look at the way the vegetables were arranged, it sort of reminds me of the abalone dish from Noma Australia. It’s a great way to sample each of the different vegetables, and I didn’t recognise most of them! I think I did manage to eat Japanese knotweed though I think. Under the foam was some tasty freshly made beancurd skin! I love yuba!

This also had grasshopper garum at the bottom, which was tasty – I even joked that eating grasshoppers is a great method for pest control!

Sorrel, lemongrass and yuzu

A very citrussy drink!

Melon and fresh sansho peppers

This juice was more interesting though! This was a musk melon juice (and I got really excited when I heard that it was musk melon, because the dessert I had at Waku Ghin was so fragrant!)

Junsai and caviar

Junsai!!! Do you know how much I love this plant? It is so fun to look at and eat because it has a literal water shield! Who cares about the caviar, give me more junsai!

Woah okay. The serious knife has come out. And that claw carving! Turns out these knives are all made from wood and animals. How cool! It’s all harvested in a conscientious manner, so these are from dead animals as a way to use every part of the animal.

Golden eye bream and egg yolk sauce

Ha, a steak knife for fish! This was pretty tasty, especially with the egg yolk sauce.

Pine infusion

A pine infusion! Except I forgot what this was… probably a tea of sorts!

Edamame stew and fresh almond

A soup with a herb bouquet!

Cloud tea

Another juice I don’t actually remember. That’s what happens when I do far too much on a single holiday right after a massive holiday and end up backlogged with so much stuff!

Fresh pumpkin and green mango

An interesting drink! Again I don’t remember much but just looking at the flavour combination, I can imagine it had some interesting flavours to it!

Rice, crispy bees and wild flowers

For all my forgetfulness, this is one dish that I can’t forget about. I remember when the chef served this one, I wasn’t sure if I was hard of hearing when I heard “bees” instead of “beans”. Was it really bees, or beans? Rice and beans is more common, but I mean, it is Inua so bees weren’t exactly out of the question. The flowers are so pretty here too!

But I didn’t like the rice. At all. It was actually far too hard and when I ate it, there wasn’t flavour in the rice and the chew wasn’t chewy, the texture kind of resembled undercooked brown rice? The crispy bees were amazing though. Yeah, I asked our waiter to clarify and she said yes they are bees! Bzzz!! Nice! I love crispy bees! They were so light and crunchy! The rice needed heeaaaaps of sauce to make it palatable for me.

My brother and I totally used up all the sauce! The sauce was really yummy. But I just didn’t like the rice. Usually in a high end restaurant, I’ll generally still appreciate flavours or textures even if I don’t really like them. Examples of this include Eleven Madison Park‘s little pumpkin side dish, or Attica’s pumpkin and beer foam dish. Yeah okay so maybe I am not the biggest pumpkin fan? Also, Rockpool Bar and Grill Sydney’s orange chocolate mousse thing. It was absolutely fantastic and delicious, but I don’t like orange chocolate.

But this, this I just didn’t understand, so I asked the waiter about it, because I was interested to know the story about the dish so I could appreciate it. She said that the rice was cooked this way to contrast with the bees, and is actually how the rice growers eat the rice when they mix it with bees larvae. Interesting! I am still a bit unconvinced about the rice texture, but that just means I should go to a rice planting festival and see for myself, right???

Oh yeah, we got a story from the chef about the bees as well. The bee larvae are harvested from the honeycombs in really cold temperatures, so they rotate chefs who have to go into the freezer and harvest them and rotate out. That’s incredible! Harvesting the larvae also benefits the bees apparently, so that they can produce more honey or something. Either way, the thing I really loved about this dish was that it really got me talking and asking questions, so this was great and I really felt like this is a part of the restaurant experience that I’ve never really had before!

Passionfruit and tomato

What a cute little desserty thing! Interesting flavours too, because I think it also had olives on the stick?

Seaweed millefeuille

Woah! Now this is impressive! It’s a millefeuille made of seaweed! I wish more people did this. Apparently this went through lots of testing before they managed to make it well and consistently, and the cream inside was delicious too! It reminded me a little of those seaweed snacks you can get at the shops, except this was the sweet version. I believe it also passed the vertical cutting test so that the cream didn’t all splurt out the other end! This was my favourite dessert!

Sarunashi kiwi and forest flavours

Look at those mini kiwis!! How cute! And that toothpicky stick thing had leaves you could eat, which were soaked in mirin and sochu. They packed a huge punch of flavour and were really fun to eat!

Wood sorrel and soymilk mousse

And our final dessert. Look at the detail of that wood sorrel! Imagine plating hundreds of these… yeah, this is why I always say no, I will not pursue the profession of being a chef. That’s a lot of blood sweat and tears, right there!

And here’s another knife! This one is so pretty and super chunky too! I think we got this knife because of the questions we asked, but who knows. I think this one is the deer antler one?

I did the honours of cutting the cakey thing. How pretty! It was a good end to the night.

It was fantastic experiencing Inua, even if it is one of the more expensive restaurants in Tokyo. There were elements that were similar to Noma Australia, and there were elements that were totally new. It was cool to have dined here!

I still really want to one day try and make it to Den though, but this was a great experience of eating Japanese ingredients that have been made by chefs with no preconceptions or rules on how the food should or shouldn’t be prepared. So much fun! I think the drink pairing still makes Noma Australia my favourite “Noma” experience but the maitake, bees, and kitchen tour made this really memorable too!