Sawatei is one of the hidden gems of Odawara; just a five minute walk from the station, nestled into the side of a hill, this French Japanese fusion restaurant draws foodies from all over the region, yet somehow remains largely unknown by locals.
When I visit, it’s a Monday, and the elegantly faded restaurant is quiet, though several small groups of women filter in over the next two hours.
We are seated at a table with an old-fashioned tablecloth and heavy silverware, and immediately a delicious sparkling plum drink in champagne glasses appears on the table to begin the lunch set.
The appetizer arrives shortly after that, and it is honestly one of the most beautifully presented dishes I’ve ever seen in my life. A tiny dish of iced potato soup floating in a glass of water and bright flowers. I honestly couldn’t decide if I wanted to eat it or photograph it!
The courses come at a nice pace; we don’t feel rushed, but we are never waiting long for the next dish.
Next is a light and refreshing summer salad, full of color and flavor. Slivers of bell pepper and red onion, rocket and chunks of tomato in a delicious vinaigrette flavored with capers.
The main course was a thin wedge of perfectly cooked Australian beef and local pork sprinkled with sesame seeds and balanced on steamed vegetables, followed by rice with rare mushrooms, pickles and tea.
It was all very good, but I felt like the real magic happened in the dessert. Peach jelly, soft meringue, frozen passionfruit mousse and cake, drizzled in passionfruit sauce. I was so impressed by the use of passionfruit in a country where I never see them, and it reminded me so much of summer desserts at home, that I may have had more than my fair share.
This restaurant is so easily accessible from the station that, even if you’re only stopping in Odawara on your way to Hakone, it’s a great place for a long, relaxing lunch. Having said that, if you’re in Odawara a little longer, I recommend coming by and treating yourself to a luxurious dinner.
Warning: Wednesdays are their regular holiday.