What do you imagine when you hear mashed potatoes? The typical white mush, occasionally seasoned with oregano or black pepper? Well, there is actually a store in the Tohoku (東北) region called NORMA that offers a new kind of dish that will make you question all of the mashed potatoes you’ve ever eaten.
The kinds of mashed potatoes served at NORMA are so different from the normal mashed potato that NORMA has given them a new name: potato cream. Potato cream is basically an extremely creamy mashed potato dish with various sauces and toppings. Potato cream is great on its own but you can also use it as a dip for baguettes, rusks, or any other thing you can come up with. It also goes terrifically with wine.
NORMA is located in Yamagata Prefecture (山形県), within the Kaminoyama Hot Springs (上山温泉). The Kaminoyama Hot Springs area originated as a post town in the Edo (江戸) period and is filled with historical buildings and traditions. NORMA is a nice 10-minute walk from the Kaminoyama Onsen Train Station (上山温泉駅) so you can enjoy the old town as you walk towards the restaurant.
The interior of the restaurant is relaxing and wood-based. You can either enjoy the potato cream at the eat-in space at NORMA or take them home in cups. The potato cream on its own is 550 yen per cup, while the baguette set is 650 yen. Many of the available flavors are based on pasta sauce flavors, such as carbonara, genovese, tomato cream, bolognese, and caponata.
While there are many ways to eat the potato cream, the traditional style is to mix the sauce with the potato cream and to place that on top of a baguette. The most popular menu is their tomato shrimp cream, which features an extremely rich and creamy tomato sauce that has fully captured the flavors of the shrimp. The pecorino cheese on top goes perfectly with the slightly sweet potato and tomato sauce.
Another extremely popular menu item is the asparagus genovese with smoked salmon. The spicy scent of the basil combined with the asparagus and crunchy fried onion makes for one interesting texture. Anchovies are also added as a hidden flavor making this item in particular a perfect accompaniment to wine.
One thing to be careful about is that the potato cream tends to sell out before 7:00pm, so I suggest that you get there early to make sure you can choose from the entirety of their menu! The restaurant also has an extensive drink menu, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, so be sure to check that out if you get the chance to eat there as well!
NORMA is the perfect place to visit if you would like to experience a traditional Japanese town based around hot springs and also enjoy a new kind of mashed potato. If you are looking for an interesting place to visit in the Tohoku area, this is definitely worth checking out!