I receive a lot of questions about food in Japan. Mainly from people looking for a more traditional dining experience that cannot be found in UK. Because of that, I have decided to dig out this old blog post – reformat the pictures (I used to post tiny pics back then) and repost it. This is not something that I will make a habit of so I hope that it will be useful for the curious! (8th February 2015)
“Japanese Food is not just for eating… it is for admiring…” Tanizaki Junichiro
I suppose that one could refer to Kaiseki–ryori as Japanese haute cuisine. In more exacting terms, it is traditional Japanese cuisine that consists of many small, carefully considered and elegantly presented dishes using high quality seasonal produce.
Kaiseki is leagues apart from other Japanese foods in its foundation of time-honoured Japanese principles such as, harmony, balance and contrast in order to present the diner with the most sensory appealing dishes. These dishes are like small works of art in their own right. So much precision, care and knowledge is employed in the preparation of Kaiseki. Each dish displays the chef’s mastery of a different cooking technique. The dishes are served in a succession of courses in an exact order to gain the most pleasure for the diner.
As the Kaiseki experience is normally a pricey one, this was only my second experience of this type of cuisine. The first was at a “ryokan” which these days is probably the most typical setting for such a meal. This time however, it was within the private dining rooms of Mikasa Kaikan with the family to celebrate our wedding (2010). This was a special choice as Mikasa Kaikan has nearly 90 years of history and has served generations of Hiro’s family over the years.
We started with an appetiser or “kobachi” (small bowl) of ikura (salmon roe), edamame, wakame, daikon (mooli) and cucumber. Refreshing ingredients for a summer dining.
Normally in Kaiseki dining, the next course would be Osuimono, which is a clear broth that usually contains fish. However as we were dining in summer so our next course was “zensai“. Within the lidded dish is uni (urchin) with yuba and aubergine. The white block is stock jelly. The small bowl on the right has prawns in a yellow sake sauce. Fine beans in a sesame dressing.
Otsukuri:Seasonal sashimi with uri(Japanese marrow I suppose?)and fresh nori a lesser known but immensely tasty way of enjoying seaweed. I just LOVE sashimi and this was divine.
The 4th course was “nimono” This arrived in a pretty lidded dish.The direct translation of “nimono” would be “boiled things”. This dish comprised of okra, uri, carrot and awabi (abalone)in yuzu. Yuzu has to be one of my most cherished flavours! It is aromatic citrusy and has a refreshing effect on the palate. Delicious, refined and delicately fragrant.
The grilled course or “Yakimono” followed. There is nothing quite like grilled fish to put a smile on my face. The shellfish on the side is “sazae” (turban shell). The shellfish was slightly bitter to taste and I imagine that this is of an acquired taste but it is one that Hiro really likes.
The next course was deep fried or “Agemono“. Tempura fig, and shishito with daikon oroshi. I have never sampled fig tempura but it’s delicate sweetness and soft texture was a delight especially when in stark contrast with the slight heat and sharper pepperiness of the shishito. The tempura was so delicately coated with batter and served in perfect time so that the crispness and the sauce worked in perfect balance to enhance the textures of the dish.
Thankfully my family know about my tremendous dislike of chawanmushi! I am glad to say that this course was omitted from the menu however, traditionally, this is where it would crop up.
Our version of the vinigared dish or “sunomono” was a wonderful succulent Kobe beef tartare in ponzu.
Finally we dined on the “Shokuji” set. Rice, misoshiru and pickles. Traditionally this would have white rice but as this was a celebration; we had sekihan. I LOVE sekihan!
I am not a dessert person in the least. However, when dessert consists of fruit, I just cannot refrain from gobbling all up. Japanese, traditionally are not into desserts. Sweets and other delightful confections are served with tea at other times of the day. Japanese grapes are delicious and juicy and quite different in flavour from the European varieties.
Well there you have it readers!
I hope that you have enjoyed this step into more traditional Japanese food.
Original blog was posted: 16th August 2010.
SEE MORE | See more of our adventures in Japan HERE |