Jap – Nihon no Resutoran

Jap Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I have always had a fascination for Japanese traditions, history and art which inevitably attracted me to the Japanese cuisine… the traditional Japanese cuisine, not the one we are served here in Lebanon (actually, Lebanese mostly only know Zushi (Sushi) and its derivatives)

So it was with great anticipation and pleasure that we were heading that day to Jounieh where a new Japanese restaurant opened its doors: “Jap”

We were welcomed into the lobby facing the bar and we were offered… Japanese Whisky… Stupeur, modernism strike… It had nothing to do with my tradition expectations… The Nikka Bottle was gorgeous though… I finally opted to try the Sake, which was good, however still out of place, since Sake should be drank seated… and not as a welcome drink… ok Stop!!! I need to get out of my expectations and start appreciating what was around me, after all, the restaurant never claimed to be doing traditional Japanese cuisine, it labeled itself as fine Japanese cuisine…

The Restaurant was on the first floor, and once most of the guest had arrived, we were asked to come up to be seated…

The organization was smooth, and the seating process was neat…

Dimmed lights, modern wooden style furniture with a touch of Asian decorations made the venue perfect for a Japanese style, though I would have loved to see one or two tables specially made for tradition lovers: those low table (Chabudai) with cushions to sit over, on a tatami floor…

The table setup was simple, with the traditional “Hashi” or “Otemoto” (chopsticks)… the table center had a plastic bonsai (that was a little dusty – be careful)

We were presented with a clay cup of ginger lemon drink… and since I am no fan of ginger I was hesitating… heureusement, it was delicious and was designed, I suspect, solely for the purpose of clearing any previous taste we had in our mouths in order to enjoy what was to come… professional touch…

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The Edamame found their way to our table, two type of those delicious Soy Beans to be exact: the regular and the spicy… and here I have to say, while the regular (steamed or boiled) Edamame was very good, the Chili and Salt version was absolutely delicious, I could suck up those beans from their cork all night long… so simple, so good…

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The Ebi Furai (Fried Shrimps) in a wooden box were simply beautiful… golden, crispy, and deliciously flavored… They set the tone for a very ambitious dining menu… and just while I was thinking “ambitious”, the salads were served giving that word new heights in definition: Two Pieces of arts on a plate… A wonderful marriage of colors, The Ebi Abo (Shrimp and Avocado) and the Shaki Abo (Salmon and Avocado)

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The Ebi Abo, was, et de tres loin, the best dish of the evening, the combination of the shrimps with the avocado in an almost purée like presentation was genius, It was fresh, light, rich, a festival of colors that fed you only by looking at it… you were almost afraid to touch it, a celestial object from the land of the rising sun… while the flavor made you rise to new levels of food enlightments…

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It was followed closely by the Shaki Abo, another masterpiece embracing nature this time… laid on a green bamboo leave… It looked like an old boat romantically cruising on the Hozugawa River…

The raw Salmon married amazingly with the avocado, decidément, I might have been wrong, this fine dining menu looked a lot like embracing the traditions…

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But then, came what they called the “Chicken Lollipops” and here, it was a heartbreak for me, not because of the taste, au contraire, it was delicious and superbly presented, however, you wouldn’t find any chicken lollipops in any menu in japan… simply because it’s an Indian cuisine hors d’oeuvre: it is essentially a chicken winglet that had all its meat cut loose from the bone and pushed all the way down to the tip creating thus an image of a lollipop… Disappointed? Just in the choice of item, not in its flavor… it was delicious…

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The Sashimi Salmon “new style” and the Hamachi “new style” were next, both equally beautifull in presentation, swimming in a ginger based sauce… each bite had the flavors of the sea, with the crunchiness and aroma of the herbs covering each piece of Salmon and Cod… All you had to do was disregard the “new style” label and you would find yourself in Japan, overlooking the Fujiyama with its snowy top on a beautiful wooden porch, surrounded by pink blossomed cherry trees with a deep blue sky in the background, listening to water flowing and birds chirping… Haaa… oui… that good… if possible a bit more…

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The surrounding noise called me back to reality… Jap, Jounieh, Lebanon…

The Warm Sake hit home… it deepened and heightened your senses and emotions… and I was ready for the suite…

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Four cups were served, and here, allow me to commend the service crew, professional, helpful, swift, and always had the right answer for every question asked… especially a petite waitress with glasses that had the perfect little smile and excellent conversational and sales skills, if coached properly, she would go far in the industry…

Alors je disais donc, four cups were served:

  • Shozu Soba Noodles: (Soba: buckwheat noodles – Shozu: Shozu district, Kagawa Japan), not my favorite, however flavorful and rich.
  • Black Cod on a Stick: Perfectly cooked, it lacked a little bit of seasoning, with however the fish itself, present in all its powerful flavors…
  • Hamashi Tartar: Little bites of heaven, my only deception was that the cup was too small.
  • Salmon Tartar: I know it’s a tasting… but that little cup is torture, you only have time to realize how good that salmon is with one bite, without having enough for a second to let it sink in and confirm it’s unique character… clever… we will have to come back for that…

So far, the chef didn’t disappoint, great food, delicate, refined… then came the rolls…

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Of all the Japanese food dishes, the Zushi wood plate is the one that can have the most potential decorations and the most beautiful presentation… Not here, not tonight at least, as I am sure (hopefully) they would present them differently to regular customers… The huge plate came with Zushi rolls lined next to each other… Now don’t get me wrong, they were absolutely delicious, they were just not up to previous dishes presentations… The Jap Roll in particular with grated beetroot on its top was something to come back for…  The United Roll, Spicy Tuna Roll and Smoked Salmon Roll were good, but not outstanding in anyway… just regular good old rolls that needed more to stand up to all the goodness we had so far…

Now, I honestly have to say that I was expecting more diversity and more Japanese food integration in the Lebanese market, such as the Ramen soup (at least one type) some Yakiniku and Yakitori, (Grilled meat and Grilled Chicken) with the grill right in front of the guests as it is custom in Japan… and I was definitely less interested (it’s a personal opinion) in the Zushi:

The Zushi, voyez vous, is an early form of fast-food associated with Japanese culture… The true Zushi, goes way back (2000 years), it started in South East Asia and then made its way to South China and only was introduced to Japan in the 8th Century… it was essentially a way to preserve fish on a… Zushi (bed of vinegared rice) it was called the Nare-Zushi… the fermentation of rice prevented the fish from spoiling and thus was preserved for a long time. The rice however was thrown away and only the fish was consumed… with the development and modernization of food preservation, the fermentation time was cut shorter and shorter, and the rice became edible… What modern culture refers to as “sushi” was only recently invented…

While I was reflecting on the Zushi, the tables were cleared and the Mochi were served…

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The Mochi is a small, round shaped, beautifully colored rice cake filled with ice cream… with a Mochi, you can easily bite, it’s tender, and protect your teeth from a possible “brain freeze” moment. The Rice cake itself is translucent, and let the ice cream color inside show on its outside, making it look like magic…  It is however, not sweet enough to be a full-fledged dessert, it feels like something is missing next to it to make it whole… absolutely delicious though…

The ice cream cups that followed were not good, not sweet, not refreshing as an ice cream is supposed to be, except maybe the lemon flavored… It’s the only negative point (and can as well be because of my personal taste), the only negative point of the whole evening…

Great experience though, amazing staff, beautiful place, with a humble, creative and talented chef… Good luck for the future, we will most certainly come back for more Japanese goodness…

Arigato Gosaimashita

Gaston San

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