Originally opened as the 'Benkei' in 1975, 'Le BENKEI' has been pursuing excellence ever since, in the same 6000m²-plus location on the outskirts of Japan's ancient capital, Nara. The grounds originally belonged to a warrior clan serving the lord of Koriyama castle, prior to becoming home to the current western-style villa of magnificent stone-build. From its beginning, it proposed its own unique style, fusing the famous Todaiji temple's lacquered serving trays 'hinomaru-bon' with western course presentation, re-imaging the trays as charger plates. On its 25th anniversary, the restaurant underwent extensive refurbishing, reemerging as a Grande Maison serving authentic and exrtaordinary French cuisine.
Owner-chef Kinji Ogawa, born to a family of traditional Japanese restaurateurs, was nonetheless enchanted by the French counterpart. Naturally, he became an early leader in the visionary movement for Western-Japanese-fusion cuisine, infusing his French menus with traditions of the tea-ceremony and Japanese culinary themes. A heavyweight in Japan's culinary world, chef Ogawa was presented the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport's 'Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays' in 2017 for his contributions regarding local consumption, slow-food-ism, and culinary education, in addition to his achievements in hosting the imperial family and a multitude of distinguished foreign guests.
Chef Ogawa exclusively selects from local Nara produce in constructing his courses; as an authority on the local consumption and slow-food movements, he is also prevalent on the production side as well. His dishes, illuminated by the vibrant 'life' of the fresh ingredients, are created from selected local sources; contract-farmed 'Yamato' greens are supplemented by home-smoked ham, home-grown additive-free vegetables and fruits, and honey from an in-house batch of bees. The expansive cellar shelters over 150 labels of wine, centered on French bottles, but with recent focus on domestic products as well.
Guests lead through the stately gates and marble-lined walkway find a luxuriously-clad interior; an 80-seat main hall looking over the gardens, as well as private rooms small and large on the second floor. Tableware, china and cutlery from the likes of Okura Pottery, Narumi, and Christofle are joined by paintings of eminent artists from home and abroad, antique furnishing, and more, creating a refined and lush atmosphere perfect for hosting others. From business receptions, Family celebrations and get-togethers, anniversaries, and more, 'Le BENKEI' provides an unforgettable memory for guests young and old alike.
* The availability of an English version of this page does not guarantee that the restaurant can provide services in English unless otherwise stated. Please be aware that, even if stated, there may still be days when English speaking staff are unavailable.
■15-minute walk from Kintetsu Koriyama Station (Kintetsu Kashihara Line)