Japanese cuisine is made up of multiple genres. These include sushi; tempura; kaiseki ryori, traditional Japanese multi-course haute cuisine served at banquets; cha-kaiseki, cuisine served at a tea ceremony; a unique take on Western cuisine that fuses foreign culinary techniques and condiments with traditional Japanese cuisine; and everyday home-style cooking.
The traditional kaiseki cuisine served at our restaurant is a haute cuisine steeped in history. It combines Japanese imperial court cuisine formed roughly 1000 years ago, with the spirit of Japanese tea ceremony dating back some 500 years, and was further developed by merchants over the last 320 years. In modern day Japan, it is served on auspicious occasions and for entertaining important guests. The meal is comprised of anywhere between 8 to 10 dishes including an appetizer, a "lidded dish" that is typically a soup, and flame-broiled food. Each of the dishes is brought out one at a time and in a set order. Warm dishes should be served while they are still warm, while cold dishes are served in their cold state. Only fresh seasonal ingredients are used, while the tableware, food presentation, the way in which ingredients are aesthetically cut, and the cooking methods employed are all designed to represent the changing seasons and special annual events. The myriad of colors and fragrances allow the guest to enjoy the meal with all five senses.
Kaiseki cuisine, developed over many long years, can be referred to as a consummate form of cuisine or food perfection on a plate. Therefore, some people find it to be overly conventional and uninspired. However, the "conventions" represent the fruit of artisans' skills and knowledge cultivated over centuries. Every aspect of kaiseki cuisine, (demeanor, menu, the order in which dishes are served, flavoring, food presentation, tableware etc.) has its own special significance. It is impossible to create good food if one ignores traditions.
However, it is unfortunate if some people feel that such cuisine, steeped in its time-honored traditions and set forms, is dull and uninteresting.
Essential to the enhancement of culinary skills such as coming up with new ideas for ingredients, novel culinary techniques, and brand-new food styles is the recognition that one cannot ignore conventions if one is to flout conventions. First and foremost, one must have a full understanding of "conventions" and be able to put them into practice. The next step is to further refine or transform these culinary practices. This is the only way to "break with tradition" and discover new and original ideas. If one lacks a true understanding of "conventions," then such actions will amount to nothing and are tantamount to complete and utter recklessness. To avoid causing such ruin, one should always respect traditions and understand them, before attempting to further refine traditions and take them to a new level of perfection. It is the repetition of this process which leads to the creation of traditions.
Ingredients and culinary methods that we take for granted today have been developed by our ancestors through a process of incorporation and evolution. Over the years, such things have been consolidated as traditions and passed down to us today.
Creativity not simply for the sake of change, but creation for the purpose of evolution.
Through my everyday work, I am constantly striving to make even the slightest improvements to kaiseki culinary traditions.