Meet a generation of extraordinary chefs in Toyama, Japan, with “Food & Wine” former Editor-in-chief, Dana Cowin.

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Traditional local pastry shells are served by chef Taniguchi from L’EVO as amuse-bouche filled with mackerel rillettes

About 2 hours away from Tokyo by the bullet train, Toyama is located in a beautiful bay and surrounded by steep mountains, both providing excellent and diverse seafood, produce and meat. The abundance of pristine water is also the secret behind the region excellent saké.

Former editor-in-chief of “Food & Wine” magazine Dana Cowin visited Toyama last spring and discovered a new generation of exceptional chefs. They all cook in different styles, Japanese, French and Italian, yet work closely together, sharing information about local ingredients and cooking techniques. This community of outstanding talents share the same passion for their Toyama region. Just like Michel Bras dedicated his cuisine to honor his Aubrac region by cooking with local ingredients, all three chefs focus on creating exceptional cuisine using ingredients produced and found in and around Toyama.

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The same traditional pastry shell used by L’EVO, are filled here with miso paste with spring vegetables by chef Fujii at Oryouri FUJII

Hironori Fujii, chef of Oryouri Fujii, serves a refined seasonal cuisine based on Japanese  kaiseki style tradition, but with modern twists.  For example, he fills traditional local pastry shells with a miso paste seasoned with spring vegetables. “My friend who is also  a chef but in French cuisine at L’Evo, introduced me to these pastry shells from a local traditional pastry shop, which he uses as amuse-bouche. I found it was an interesting idea and tried with miso paste”.

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Gokayama tofu, hard type tofu from local mountainous region, with spring vegetable sauce at FUJII

“My cuisine is all about Toyama and my love for my land. We are a group of chefs sharing that same passion, and I feel blessed to have them as friends. We all work together to improve our cuisine. In Japanese you have the expression Sessatakuma, meaning keep polishing yourself through hard work, and that’s what we do in order to grow together and reach a higher stage as chefs. There is no competition, and we can all contribute to put Toyama on the map”. Following Dana’s request, chef Fujii graciously picked up the phone to secure a table at Himawari Shokudo, his friend’s Italian bistrot  known for being always full …

Himawari Shokudo’s chef, Hozumi Tanaka, traveled through Italy to learn Italian cuisine. His small bistrot in downtown Toyama serves creative dishes where East and West merge into exquisite original dishes.

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Linguine with local squid and coriander sauce at HIMAWARI SHOKUDO by chef Tanaka

“I thought about pesto sauce and how to prepare it with local herbs. Coriander has a wonderful flavor so I came up with linguini with coriander sauce, with yariika squid from Toyama bay”. The combination is as unique as refreshing. Another interesting dish is the oyster, which chef Tanaka wraps in zeppole, an Italian dough, which he sprinkles with local seaweeds, before deep frying them.

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Writer, editor, radio host and long time Editor-in-chief of “Food & Wine” magazineDana Cowin, with chef Hozumi Tanaka from HIMAWARI SHOKUDO

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Deep-fried oyster in zeppoline (pizza dough with seaweed), chickweeds and sansho leaves at HIMAWARI SHOKUDO (Sunflower bistrot)

One-star restaurant L’Evo is located in a spa resort out of Toyama, on a riverside near the forest. Chef Eiji Taniguchi works closely with local producers, fishermen and hunters to serve a cuisine dabbed by the Michelin as “avant-garde local”. With a solid experience in French cuisine, a passion for seasonal and local ingredients and innovative ideas, his dishes are full of delicious surprises. He even serves a shabu-shabu (hot pot with thin slices of meat to be lightly cooked) of badger. “One day, my friend hunter brought me  a badger he found in his trap, so I thought it would be a nice way to serve it”. And indeed, the meat was unexpectedly tasty.

“I have a great admiration for Michel Bras, the way he kept focusing on his land and how he expresses local ingredients in so many innovative ways. For me too, the surrounding nature is my main source of inspiration and L’Evo stands for “evolution””.

A trip to Toyama is worth to discover a community of excellent chefs who are all passionate about expressing the best of what their land has to offer, but each in a personal style.

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Squid from local Himi port, cressonia, squid ink, squid jus and vegetable jus at L’EVO

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Young tuna wrapped in red radish at L’EVO

Discover more on Dana’s Deep Japan Culinary Tour on her radio show and podcast on Heritage on tour :

https://heritageradionetwork.org/podcast/blowfish-other-spring-delicacies-in-southern-japan/                                                                           https://heritageradionetwork.org/podcast/zen-soto-cooking-at-japans-kasuisai-temple/                                                                                                          https://heritageradionetwork.org/podcast/toyama-extraordinary-chefs-in-a-little-known-town/

#JapaninspiredbyBras

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