I have taken quite a huge fancy of this traditional style of dining. In Japan, food is not about fuel, it’s about an experience as much as it is about sustenance. During kaiseki dinner not only do you get to admire local cooking techniques and sample the most classic seasonal dishes, but the whole experience is quite theatrical in its execution and presentation. Kaiseki has its origin in the Japanese tea ceremony in Kyoto, but later evolved into an elaborate dining style popular among aristocratic circles. In a Western context, it is similar to a tasting menu from a fine dining restaurant. To quote Anthony Bourdain kaiseki is “a multi-course, ultra-refined, obsessively local and seasonal and very traditional”. Kaiseki makes use of subtle flavors to bring out the taste of fresh local and seasonal ingredients. Artistic presentation is paramount – a dedication to visual appeal means that colors and shapes are just as important as aromas, textures, and flavors. Details count – food is prepared with pride and care, and everything from a bowl’s shape to a dish’s finishing garnish carries meaning. Every dish is plated like a masterpiece, delicate, colorful and balanced. Mr. B and I enjoyed quite a few kaiseki dinners already with scrumptious menu in Ginza Maru and decadent feast at Michelin-starred Akasaka Kikunoi. My dear friend Mandy, who shares my passion for food, also invited me for kaiseki lunch at Kisoji a few weeks ago together with her Japanese tutor. I quite enjoyed the meal and decided to revisit the place with Mr. B. Kaiseki dinner often times does not come cheap, and I found that lunch is a great alternative. You still get to experience the style of this cuisine and enjoy great food, but for half the price. The concept is a tad different during lunch. Instead of getting each course in sequence you are served everything together. Both times the variety of food we got was impressive. The selection included sashimi, beautifully cooked and very flavorful bite-size halibut and couple of other amouse-bouches, tempura, nabe (hotpot), egg custard, shio (salt)-based soup, pickles, rice and a dessert. [Mandy got a slightly different menu pictured at the very beginning of the post.]I got to try sashimi konnyaku (also referred to as konjac or devil’s tongue) for the first time. It is enjoyed with a little wasabi paste and soy sauce. It was absolutely devoid of any taste or flavor, although the texture was quite pleasant, tender and chewy.We also ordered sushi on a side. A selection of lean tuna (akami) and half fatty tuna (chutoro), halibut, abalone and my favorite creamy uni. One thing about kaiseki is that it is quite unpredictable and since dishes are cooked using ingredients that were available that day there is a big chance you will not get the same item twice. This was definitely the case in Kisoji. Selection of sashimi differed and was better on my second visit. Also, the first time, my nabe was absolutely sublime, with creamy and incredibly flavorful yet light miso broth. I loved a variety of fresh vegetables, salmon and tofu in it.During our second visit, the broth had a totally different flavor profile which didn’t quite hit the spot for either me or Mr. B. We ended the meal with traditional Japanese desserts – wagashi. Again, the desserts on offer differed both times, but I quite enjoyed the variety. The first one was reminiscent of fruit marmalade while the second was a kuzu mochi breaded in soybean powder and accompanied by brown sugar syrup. Overall, both times the lunch was quite lovely. Besides kaiseki meals Kisoji also specializes in shabu shabu. We visited their branch in Machida, but you can have a meal at their main restaurant in Shinjuku. I do hope this post inspired you to try kaiseki dining when you visit Japan. It is quite something and unique to Japan.
- Address: 2 Chome-19-5 Nakamachi, Machida, Tokyo 194-0021
- Phone: 042-732-0005
- No English menu available.
- No reservation necessary, but it can get crowded on weekends.