Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Japan 2015 - River Retreat Garaku: Heaven for Ceramics Devotees

Leaving Kanazawa, we traveled by a scenic coastal bus ride to the rural Noto Peninsula, where we had a wonderful, nearly solitary visit to the very spiritual Myojoji temple complex, followed by lunch and a little shopping in Wajima, a lacquer town. The we continued on to River Retreat Garaku, near Toyama.

Garaku is a ceramics lover's dream, featuring major works by many of Japan's leading contemporary artists scattered throughout the modern, architecturally significant property. It also has wonderful food, beautifully and thoughtfully presented, with a French twist.

Breakfast plate at River Retreat Garaku
The building, by the renowned Naito Hiroshi, effectively echoes Japan's traditional square log architecture in a modern context, and has beautiful, linear public spaces and rooms.

Lobby at River Retreat Garaku
Some of the rooms feature sculpture gardens consisting of a single huge ceramic work.

Koie Ryoji
Kato Tsubusa

The food is an equal part of the experience. The restaurant, L'Evo, purports to be French, but I would say that it features elegant French-inspired Japanese cuisine.

Dinner started with a "prologue" of assorted delicacies, followed by mushroom puree with soft roe, mushroom with bayberry and chrysanthemum, egg with bell pepper and sausage and conger eel with grilled eggplant, all presented in or on interesting bowls and plates.

Mushroom puree with soft roe
Mushrooms with bayberry sauce and chrysanthemum
Red pepper and sausage with egg
Fried conger eel with grilled eggplant
Then some more recognizable dishes: gazpacho with cucumber and mozzarella, rockfish with pear a nd spice, black cod with sesame and perfectly grilled hida beef.

Gazpacho with cucumber and mozzarella
Rockfish with pear spice sauce and greens
Black cod with wild sesame
Ikeda beef with onion and mâche
And finally dessert, called "Sugar Apple/Spicebush," although I must admit that I couldn't (and still can't) decipher it. Although it was not very good, I include it here as a quiz: what  exactly is it?

"Sugar Apple/Spicebush," whatever that is
Breakfast at River Retreat Garaku is fabulous! Indeed, it merits another post, although I'll just include it here. Eaten in a spectacular room full of Ogawa Machiko plaques,

Breakfast is ready in the Ogawa Machiko room, River Retreat Garaku
and inventively served on a succession of particularly beautiful plates.

Breakfast at River Retreat Garaku
As I said, absolute Heaven for devotees of Japanese contemporary ceramics. A perfect way to end our tour of Central Japan!

Bobby Jay

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