I’ve wanted to go to Le Kolo, Asafumi Yamashita’s vegetable garden and table d’hôte, located about 45 minutes from Paris in the Yvelines, ever since I read about it in Wasabi, sometime last year. For someone who goes out of their way to find interesting local products, Yamashita’s garden sounded fascinating.
He grows remarkable Japanese vegetables like Kabu (white turnips), hinona (long purple turnips), komatsuma (similar to spinach), beautiful white and purple eggplants, snap peas, micro tomatoes and other unusual vegetables in his garden in Chapet and hand delivers them twice a week to a very select group of chefs in Paris. The group is so exclusive that you can count its members on two hands and they include three-star chefs like Pascal Barbot, Pierre Gagnaire, and Eric Briffard.
His vegetables are highly sought after and his waiting list includes Paris’s top chefs. But rather than expand, Yamashita prefers to work his small parcel of land alone with his wife, which means production is kept low. The small space enables him to work by hand and use minimal chemical interventions. He uses his knowledge of Bonsai gardening, which he learned from his father and grew commercially before turning to vegetables, to carefully trim each vine, checking the roots to determine when to water and treating each plant according to its unique needs. The seeds are brought directly from Japan and, unlike industrial growers, are chosen for flavour rather than durability.
The result? Beautiful, intensely flavoured vegetables.
Freshly picked vegetables are nothing like their tasteless industrial counterparts, the kind found at most supermarkets. As soon as a vegetable is picked, it undergoes a transformation. Cut off from its nutrient source, it is essentially dying and begins to consume its own energy and accumulates waste products. The textures and tastes change. And so the vegetables that many people consume, which are flown in from all ends of the earth and undergo all sorts of tragedies before reaching your local supermarket, taste nothing like the beauties we would taste at Mr. Yamashita’s, grown with attention and picked moments before they were served.
After much waiting, I finally made it to Yamashita’s last Saturday. Mr. Yamashita is delightful and clearly proud of his vegetables. He showed us his garden, explaining his philosophy while picking beautiful purple garlic flowers for us to taste, inviting us to guess what they were. He pulled his prized white turnips from the ground and plucked eggplants and corn from their stalks before walking us back past the Bresse chickens to his beautiful country house for the ten course lunch his wife was cooking, based on everything we had just seen.
The cuisine was simple but beautifully prepared. The non-foodie of our group called the tastes “ahurissants” (astonishing) and said it was the best meal he had ever had.
If you’d like to try Yamashita’s vegetables, you can book a table at his table d’hôte which is open on the weekends for up to ten guests. If you want vegetables which come pretty close, you’ll have to do a little research and find out where your vegetables come from. Seek out small local products whenever possible and stay away from the tasteless mass produced ones found in most big supermarkets
Le Kolo, Naomi and Asafumi Yamashita’s table d’hôte
Chemin des Trois Poiriers, 78130 Chapet, 01 30 91 98 75
50 € per person for a ten course lunch or dinner
Asafumi Yamashita in the Press: