Forget what you think you know about Japanese food. It is so much more than raw salmon and California rolls, well at The Niwaki anyway. Think hamachi sashimi with truffle ponzu, smoked Chilean seabass with yuzu miso, and melt in your mouth lamb chops… Japanese cuisine has made its mark on Monaco and its likely better than you could ever have imagined.
It’s safe to say that all eyes were on Samy Sass when he opened The Niwaki this summer. With a Portuguese background, the Monegasque national is more well known for welcoming celebrity guests at Sass Café than for his forays into East Asian hospitality.
But as I discovered on a recent summer’s night, The Niwaki not only lives up to expectations, it confidently exceeds them.
The Niwaki, located in the Palais de la Plage building at Larvotto, is a new signature blend of culturally-defining, luxurious, texture-fuelled design meets attentive, friendly service and exciting, modern Japanese cuisine.
The menu is sold as Samy’s love affair with Japan, having honed his taste buds during his many visits to the Far East, and perfected by Corporate Chef Shahar Dahan and Executive Sushi Chef Wagner Spadacio.
The enormous list of dishes is a veritable choose your own adventure of contemporary Japanese cuisine, some with a hit of Mediterranean influence, and all with extremely high-end ingredients and extremely high-end preparation.
We start the adventure with morish shishito peppers blanketed with dry miso, and scrumptious crunchy tuna aburi with smoked mayo. As an appetizer, they pair perfectly with our Japanese-inspired cocktails prepared by the very-capable Head Barmaid Edwige Coulomb.
The sushi chef’s skills are perfectly displayed on a plate of salmon and tuna nigiri and traditional maki before the hamachi sashimi with truffle ponzu reaches the table to showcase how the worlds of Asian and Mediterranean cuisine can intertwine deliciously. The chicken yakitori is a sumptuous nod to the classics, while there is no doubt as to why the smoked Chilean seabass with yuzu miso is a reported favourite among guests. We finish the mains with spicy ginger marinated lamb chops with hatcho miso glaze, broccolini with lime soy, and baby bok choy with miso glaze.
A delicate apricot and sobacha sensation prepared by Pastry Chef Ilaria Viano finishes what can only be described as a delectable gastronomic journey to Japan.
And to wash it all down? They’ve got an extensive sake list to match virtually anything you order. Just ask the well-versed sommelier for suggestions. In fact, ask all the staff for their suggestions. These are incredibly experienced professionals that hail from some of the biggest restaurants in Europe, and they will gladly guide you through The Niwaki experience.
The space itself is elegant, warm, contemporary, and feels like a small part of Japan has been lifted out and delicately placed opposite the Larvotto beach. Everything from the floor to the ceiling is made from precious wood, luxurious marble and onyx stone.
It is clear from the outset where The Niwaki wants to position itself in Monaco’s exclusive fine dining scene, and it is obviously capable of vying for a top spot.
Click on the gallery below to see more images of The Niwaki, photos by Monaco Life.
Photos of The Niwaki staff by Fabbio Galatioto, in order of appearance: Corporate Chef Shahar Dahan, Executive Sushi Chef Wagner Spadacio, Head Pastry Chef Ilaria Viano, General Manager Luca Fametti and Deputy Director Emeric Muller.
Food photos by Monaco Life, all rights reserved