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June 20, 2023

Restaurant Naz

A young restaurant leads the way in Karuizawa

  • Destination Restaurants 2023

Immediately after it opened in 2020, Restaurant Naz became the focus of attention. In no time at all, it was so popular that getting a reservation was a challenge. As of this March, bookings were filled until the summer of 2025. The restaurant is located in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, one of Japan’s leading summer resorts and near the city of Saku, where owner-chef Natsuki Suzuki was born and raised. Restaurant Naz is situated on the grounds of Green Seed Karuizawa, a condominium-style resort hotel located 20 minutes by car from Karuizawa Station.

Reservations are required for both lunch and dinner. The cost for a meal, including pairing with either nonalcoholic or alcoholic beverages, is around ¥50,000 ($340). The restaurant has eight table seats in all. With reservations accepted for a maximum of two parties, these are truly premium seats.

Partly because it opened in September 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, it initially offered course menus at moderate prices (¥3,000 for lunch and ¥5,000 for dinner), with Suzuki preparing the meals and his mother serving customers. But Suzuki’s creative and elaborate dishes, including salads made with about 50 types of vegetables, gained such a following that the restaurant has hardly had an empty seat since its opening. Restaurant Naz has since made the transition to a full-fledged gastronomic restaurant, with a change of menu every two or three months and the addition of two cooking staff members.

Suzuki’s grandfather ran a restaurant, and Suzuki grew up around cooking. From the time he was an elementary schooler, he would catch funa (crucian carp) on the way home from school and simmer or grill the fish himself. Even at that age, he was conscious of the appeal of local ingredients. After completing junior high school, he worked in a local pizzeria, then went on to study pizza-making in the birthplace of the dish, Naples. Following a stint at an Italian restaurant in Tokyo, at the age of 25 he traveled to Denmark, where new gastronomic currents were being created. There he honed his skills at Noma and Kadeau, two of the era’s iconic restaurants. Because of pandemic lockdowns, however, he returned to Japan in March 2020. Back in his hometown, he went around visiting producers. As a result, his appreciation for the appeal of local ingredients was renewed, and he resolved to open his own restaurant in Karuizawa.

The flavors and colors of local ingredients shine in Suzuki’s dishes. These include an appetizer of fried mochi incorporating locally harvested organic yomogi (Japanese mugwort) and topped with caviar, Shinshu salmon aged for 10 days and smoked (the restaurant’s signature dish) and Suzaka fresh sōmen noodles in a broth made from Saku carp raised in spring water. Neither Italian nor Japanese, this course menu is a type of cuisine that is free of constraints and categories. Suzuki said of his approach: “To be honest, I don’t think all my ingredients have to be locally produced. It’s just that this area has good ingredients, so I use them.” In any event, people now come from all over the country seeking an experience that can only be found here. This surely contributes to the strengthening of Karuizawa’s reputation as a town of gastronomy.


A young restaurant leads the way in Karuizawa

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GREEN SEED Karuizawa 134-3, Oiwake, Kitasaku-gun, Karuizawa, Nagano

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