The different courses of the traditional kaiseki cuisine
At Yamazato Restaurant we serve the traditional Japanese kaiseki cuisine. In this multi-course dining experience it is crucial that the dishes are in absolute harmony with the season. The connection with nature can also be found in the decoration of a dish. The brilliantly coloured autumn leaves are used in the autumn menu and the beautiful cherry blossoms during spring.
In the art of kaiseki repetition is avoided. However this does not mean that an ingredient may not be featured twice in a meal. Quite the opposite. Respect and dedication to the product require that all of the animal or plant is used. A product may appear in many different versions on the table. Rather than varying ingredients, it is very common in the kaiseki cuisine to create variation by employing different cooking methods. The following series of courses can be expected when you are enjoying this authentic cuisine.
Tsukidashi – appetizers
All different kinds of cold delicacies are served as appetizer. All the delicacies are seasonal, except for one. Just one of the foods will be chosen ahead of season to remind the diner of pleasures to come.
Owan – soup
After the appetizers comes a very solemn and traditional course, the soup. This is the test of a good cook. If the soup is good, it means the chef knows how to make the basic stock – dashi. The soup is filled with at least three softly simmered solid ingredients of complementing flavours and contrasting colours. Most of the ingredients are sliced and cut, but traditionally one of them is left whole. When the bowl is empty the lid is replaced by each guest.
Tsukuri – raw course
Tsukura, meaning ‘creation’, is the restaurant term for sashimi. The word sashimi refers to cutting, which is an old and distinguished art in Japan. Each chef takes care of his knife like a knight does his sword. Usually three, but sometimes two or five different kinds of fish are combined in a sashimi course. The choice of fish depends on which species are the best of the season, but variation will be made in taste, texture and colour.
Yakimono – grilled course
Originally yakimono was made of the trimmings and lesser parts of ingredients left over from other courses. Nowadays yakimono is no longer made with scraps – quite the opposite. Vegetables, fish, crustaceans, shell fish and poultry are grilled most of the times over hot smokeless charcoal. Grilled food is often marinated and basted, as in teriyaki. The yakimono course comes without any complementing dishes or condiments.
Shiizakana – chef’s choice
Sakana means ‘drinking snack’ and is to be eaten next to a cup of sake. Shiizakana means ‘strong drinking dish’ and can be anything the chef fancies. It may consist of a meat dish, a simmered course or tempura.
Shokuji – the meal
Rice, soup and pickles – the holy trinity that forms the basis of the Japanese meal – are served at the end in the kaiseki cuisine. The Japanese know and appreciate this, but many non-Japanese guests feel awkward about eating soup at the end of a meal, so it can be skipped in Yamazato. Rice cannot be omitted. It is polite to eat all of it, down to the last grain if possible – portions are never large. The rice may be flavoured with blossom, peas, beans, herbes or mushrooms, according to the season. Pickles are an important part of the Japanese cuisine. Every village and town in Japan has its own regional pickles.
Mizukashi – dessert
Traditionally no dessert is served with a Japanese meal, even though the Western custom of finishing off with some fresh fruit has now also become widespread in Japan, especially in restaurants. Japanese sweets and Western style pastries are more often eaten as a day-time snack than as the end to a meal. Japanese sweets have always had their role in the tea ceremony, compensating for the bitterness of the tea. At Yamazato we serve Western style desserts in the spirit of kaiseki, such as sake ice cream or sakura macaroon.