A 10-minute walk from JR Kokura Station in Kitakyushu, "Saint-Emilion" is a hideaway restaurant tucked away in a quiet location, one street away from the main road. The name "Saint-Emilion" is borrowed from the name a small hilltop town in south-west France that is celebrated for its famous wineries.
Chef Iichiro Watanabe traveled to France in 1995 and trained in famous restaurants in France and Italy such as Patrick Jeffroy in Brittany and Chateau Grande Barail in Bordeaux. After returning to Japan, he created a brilliant career for himself working at La Suite in Roppongi and as head chef at the Austrian Embassy. He went independent in 2007, opening "Saint-Emilion" in his hometown of Kokura, Fukuoka. In the desire to offer dishes that can only be experienced at "Saint-Emilion," Chef Watanabe is proactive about incorporating local ingredients and developing his menu. He spares no pains in incorporating ingredients that can only be sourced in the local area. For example, vegetables are delivered directly from farms working without agro-chemicals in Fukuoka, and water is sourced by visiting the famous spring of Ouma twice a week to collect natural water. Taking advantage of his geographical location in Kitakyushu, which is blessed with great seafood, Chef Watanabe works with each season’s best offerings of local seafood—tilefish from Tsunoshima, Yamaguchi in the spring; sea urchin from Aino Island in Kokura in the summer; and black throat seaperch from Iki, Nagasaki, in the fall, for example. He uses these to create seafood dishes that can be considered one of Saint-Emilion’s specialties.
In terms of cooking methods, Chef Watanabe places importance on fundamentals, keeping in mind the idea of learning new ideas based on a study of the past. On the other hand, it is not easy to recreate international cuisine exactly as it is, because he is mainly working with Japanese ingredients. For example, even with potatoes, those grown in France have different characteristics to those grown in Japan, and so dishes much be reconstructed based on the ingredients used, all the while making changes to the cooking method and incorporating the methods and philosophy of Japanese cuisine, to some extent. Even though he may use the traditional Japanese technique of seasoning ingredients by soaking them in stock, with his experience and marvelous skills, Chef Watanabe will turn these ingredients into dishes of outstanding French cuisine. Guests can enjoy a perfect pairing of wine and food, with Saint-Emilion's selection of some 100 varieties of wine, mostly produced in France.
We welcome you to a restaurant with a subdued atmosphere, a warm space decorated here and there with ikebana of seasonal flowers. Seating is available in tables for two, four, or six patrons. "Saint-Emilion" is a spot you will want to visit in each season of the year so as to enjoy dishes unique to this restaurant and this region.
* 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.
■A 15-minute walk from Kokura Station(JR Kagoshima Line)