Food & Drink

Bio-S: The terroir of organic satoyama gastronomy

by Oscar Boyd

Staff Writer

In the foothills of Mount Fuji, restaurateur Kazuhiro Matsuki, 57, has found an idyllic spot for his restaurant, Bio-S.

Surrounded by tea fields on the western edge of Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture, the striking restaurant is at odds with the developments — typically squat, uninspired buildings — around it.

Bio-S is an architectural statement absolutely in tune with the natural landscape. Its floor-to-ceiling windows offer views of Mount Fuji and flood the restaurant with light for its lunch sitting; a set of floating stairs runs up to the wide, flat roof. Looking at it, you can’t help but wonder how this exquisite restaurant came to exist in such a stunning, yet remote, location.

“From 1990-92, I worked at the restaurant at Hotel Nikko de Paris as a maitre d’hotel, and then at Joel Robuchon Restaurant in Tokyo for five years,” explains Matsuki in a mixture of his native Japanese and learned French and English. “But I wanted to move out of the city to somewhere with a simpler life, surrounded by nature.”

Maitre d' and sommelier: Restaurateur Kazuhiro Matsuki honed his skills at Hotel Hikko de Paris and at Joel Robuchon Restaurant in Tokyo before opening Bio-S in Shizuoka Prefecture. | COURTESY OF KAZUHIRO MATSUKI
Maitre d’ and sommelier: Restaurateur Kazuhiro Matsuki honed his skills at Hotel Hikko de Paris and at Joel Robuchon Restaurant in Tokyo before opening Bio-S in Shizuoka Prefecture. | COURTESY OF KAZUHIRO MATSUKI

In 1999, Matsuki left Tokyo for Tochigi Prefecture to learn organic farming, moving again in 2000 to Fujinomiya, where he opened Bio Farm, the organic farm from which Bio-S sources most of its ingredients. The 1.8-hectare farm is divided into eight fields, all within a five-minute drive of the restaurant, and produces more than 50 varieties of crops a year, focusing on seasonal vegetables.

After a stint where he only farmed, eventually Matsuki turned his mind back to fine dining and worked with architect Kozo Morioka to open Bio-S in December 2009. This year the restaurant celebrates its 10th anniversary.

The restaurant follows the “satoyama gastronomy” philosophy, a form of farm-to-table cooking that has been popularized by leading chefs such as Yoshihiro Narisawa, whose eponymous restaurant currently sits at No. 22 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Satoyama cuisine stresses the reciprocal relationship between the restaurant, the farmer and the surrounding land, emphasizing seasonality and sustainability.

Fine dining: The interior of Bio-S is as elegantly designed as its exterior. | OSCAR BOYD
Fine dining: The interior of Bio-S is as elegantly designed as its exterior. | OSCAR BOYD

“For me, satoyama means ‘terroir,'” says Matsuki. “It’s all about the relationship between the food and the natural environment in which it is grown.”

Bio-S serves what Matsuki describes as “French cuisine,” but the incorporation of local elements into each dish makes for an altogether more interesting affair. The meal might open with a tartelette filled with a shiitake and Parmesan puree atop a bed of dried shiitake mushrooms, served in a box made of Japanese cedar, followed by a course of spinach and sea urchin presented on a lump of jet-black basalt carried down from the slopes of Mount Fuji. Invariably, each plate will be delicious.

The menu, which changes regularly depending on the availability of ingredients from the farm, is created by head chef Masashi Motooka, 25, who trained at the one-Michelin star restaurant L’Agape in Paris before taking residency at Bio-S in 2017. He is joined in the kitchen by sous-chef Shino Hirai, and together they make a formidable pair.

Satoyama gastronomy: Spinach and sea urchin presented on basalt carried down from the slopes of Mount Fuji. | OSCAR BOYD
Satoyama gastronomy: Spinach and sea urchin presented on basalt carried down from the slopes of Mount Fuji. | OSCAR BOYD

Main courses include sauteed white asparagus with rocket and polenta; medai (sea bream) caught in the waters off Shizuoka Prefecture and brought in from nearby Numazu Port; and a beautifully cooked cut of Suruga Bay beef served with roast potatoes and a pomme puree.

Matsuki, meanwhile, acts as the maitre d’ and sommelier, creating elaborate pairings drawn from his experience working at Joel Robuchon. The non-alcohol pairing, so often an afterthought, deserves special mention. Matsuki creates custom concoctions of non-alcoholic wines and juices, such as a chardonnay with elderflower mint and herb juice or a heavy merlot infused with spiced ginger.

While food of this pedigree is not difficult to come across in Japan’s dense cities, in the ruralities, the experience is that much more special. Dining with Mount Fuji as the backdrop, Bio-S is captures both the natural setting and the imagination.

Oshikakubo 939-1, Fujinomiya, Shizuoka 419-0303; 0544-67-0095; bio-farm.jp; open 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (L.O.), 5:30- 7:30 p.m. (L.O.); closed Tue. & Wed.; nearest station Nishi-Fujinomiya; tasting menus from ¥5,800; nonsmoking; some English and French spoken; major cards accepted