Pursuits

8 Interesting Facts About Japan’s Highest Form of Haute Cuisine

Soon-to-open Japanese fine-dining restaurant Yamazato will be offering kaiseki ryori and more gastronomic delights.
IMAGE WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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Finding authentic Japanese food may seem difficult, but thankfully, Manila is becoming an epicenter for premier dining concepts. Hotel Okura Manila—slated to open in the first half of 2020—will be Manila’s newest addition, not only to the hotel scene but the restaurant scene as well. The restaurant, on the other hand, will open on November 23, 2019.

Many gourmands will be glad to know that the hotel will be introducing its Japanese fine-dining concept, Yamazato. This restaurant will be putting the spotlight on kaiseki ryori, which is the highest form of Japanese haute cuisine. Here, we share some interesting things about this highly honored multi-course meal that prioritizes quality of food above all.

Photo by WIKIMEDIA COMMONS.
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There are two kinds of kaiseki.

According to the Michelin Guide, the first kind of kaiseki draws from traditional, historical roots as it refers to the formal Japanese tea ceremony practiced in the 16th century. The second kind is the one commonly used today, and refers to a social gathering with an elaborate meal—it is this lavish multi-course feast that people refer to as kaiseki in food establishments. 

It’s inspired by centuries-old cuisines.

Chefs behind kaiseki meals draw inspiration from various traditional Japanese cuisines, such as the imperial court cuisine of the 9th century, the samurai warrior cuisine from the 14th century, and the tea ceremony cuisine of Higashiyama culture during the 15th century. The chefs, however, can opt to emphasize one cuisine over the others, as they are given total freedom over the menu.

Photo by WIKIMEDIA COMMONS.
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No two dishes are alike.

Aside from the fact that chefs have total creative freedom over the kaiseki dishes, the uniqueness lies in each dish—no two dishes are alike. According to Japan Experience, “the ingredients must not be repeated, nor should the cooking techniques or presentation.” That’s why even the choice of the plate is discerned upon. 

It’s fit for royalty.

The kaiseki is often touted as a must-try in Kyoto, for it was once the meal served to the imperial court. Later on, it evolved into an elaborate dining style among aristocratic circles. Now, one can get a taste of this exquisite meal at a specialized Japanese restaurant or at a ryokan (Japanese inns).

It can serve quite the number of dishes.

For starters, there are aperitif and the appetizers. The main course includes soup (suimono), sashimi (otsukuri), boiled dish (nimono), grilled dish (yakimono), deep-fried dish (agemono), steamed fish (mushimono), and a vinegared dish (sunomono). The shokuji set is served before the dessert and includes rice, miso soup, and pickles.

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Photo by UNSPLASH.

The attention to detail is remarkable.

If there are two words that could accurately describe kaiseki, they would have to be mindfulness and meticulousness. The meal is essentially a mindful one—chefs put all their creative energies into curating a delicious menu that highlights regional and seasonal Japanese delicacies. It is also served in small sequences so people could savor every bite. The chef is only able to do so, however, by being extremely meticulous—only choice ingredients are used, and even the presentation is deftly taken into account.

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It’s both a gastronomic and visual feast.

Given the kaiseki’s cohesive appeal—it's pretty much like an orchestra of food—the kaiseki definitely satiates both hunger and aesthetics. Imagine having a tablescape filled with colorful empty plates at the end of the meal (after eating everything with finesse, of course).

Essentially, it’s all about balance and harmony.

The kaiseki is ultimately an art form that is the “perfect balance and harmony of taste, texture, color, and appearance.” The culmination of all the colors and tastes isn’t something easy to curate, but for the Japanese, it’s their way of conveying their 'wholehearted hospitality' or omotenashi

Photo by WIKIMEDIA COMMONS.
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Kaiseki in Manila

Okura Nikko is the prestigious Japanese hotel group behind Hotel Okura Manila, which boasts of 73 hotels worldwide. Back in 2002, Yamazato earned a Michelin star at its home in Hotel Okura Amsterdam. The restaurant’s opening will surely be anticipated by many, and it has found a new head with the recent appointment of the hotel’s director of sales and marketing, Addie S. Capinding.

“Together, we will make Hotel Okura Manila into a landmark in Manila as we bring the wonderful fusion of Japanese service and signature Filipino hospitality,” she said.

Filipino hospitality combined with omotenashi? Sounds like an irresistible feast.

Hotel Okura opens in the first half of 2020 at the Resorts World Manila complex in Pasay City. Yamazato will open on November 23, 2019. 

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Nicole Cruz
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