Komesan: A Tokyo restaurant where rice takes its rightful place center stage

by Robbie Swinnerton

Komesan subscribes to the radical notion that rice is not just an afterthought, merely for soaking up the sauces or complementing the proteins and vegetables. Quite the opposite: Here it is considered the focal point and raison d’etre of the meal.

As soon as you sit down, you will be handed a menu offering a choice of five strains of rice. Each is contract-grown in a different part of the country and bought directly from the farm. And each is slow-cooked in donabe (ceramic hot pots) using water from the Dewa Sanzan mountains in Yamagata.

There are plenty of other dishes here, and good sake too, to open the meal. You’ll find fresh sashimi, grilled fish, premium Sangenton pork and wagyu beef. Among the standouts are the Daisen jidori chicken katsu (cutlet), and a most unusual preparation of black sticky rice wrapped around a paste of yam and then grilled until crisp.

Truth be told, Japan’s staple grain has always been accorded deep respect, and Komesan is just reworking a long Japanese tradition. But it does so in a way that is contemporary, accessible and most enjoyable.

Nor is this the first place to specialize in premium rice — the excellent Kokoromai in Shirokanedai paved the way over a decade ago. But nevertheless, a restaurant of this caliber opening on Nishi-Azabu’s upmarket “Bistro Street” can only be good news for everyone in the area.

Lunch from ¥1,100, dinner a la carte; no smoking permitted; Japanese menu; little English spoken