DESTINATION RESTAURANTS 2021
April 12, 2021
Dinner at Restaurant État d’esprit opens not in chef Yasuhiro Tomari’s sleek, discreetly lit dining room but rather in guests’ private villas. Champagne is served along with a few small finger foods. But first, you are invited to try a small drink made from mugwort, a bitter local herb. This is the first of many bold flavors that can be eye-opening for visitors unfamiliar with the foods of subtropical Okinawa.
Tomari sources the ingredients for his elaborate, innovative dinners from his home island of Miyako, as well as neighboring Irabu where État d’esprit forms the focal point of the deluxe eight-villa Konpeki resort. Drawing on his background in French cuisine, while inspired by the local tastes and traditions, he has developed a unique approach to fine dining that he likes to call modern Ryukyu gastronomy, referencing the name of the former Okinawan kingdom.
Among the highlights of his eight-course tasting menu is otōri, a rich soup prepared from smoked sea snake, along with Okinawan pork, ginger and awamori, the potent spirit widely consumed throughout the islands. He elevates tofuyo, a pungent form of fermented tofu, into an umami-rich seasoning for crab. And he transforms the meat of peacocks — an invasive non-native species proliferating on the islands — into a rich, memorable noodle broth.
Concerned about the social and environmental changes caused by the rampant growth of tourism over the years, Tomari sees his cuisine as a way to help preserve the environment. It is also his way of preserving a vital part of the culture of his homeland, which is at risk of being lost.
1195-1 Irabuikemasoe, Miyakojima, Okinawa Pref. 906-0502, Japan