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Kaiseki


torakris
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I just ran across this article from Savuer magazine:

http://www.saveur.com/article.jsp?ID=15581&typeID=350

It discusses the different parts of a kaiseki meal, there are a couple interesting side articles as well.

We haven't had a kaiseki thread before, though there was some discussion in the order of a Japanese meal thread:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=22315

discuss..... :biggrin:

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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I once took a few classes in kaiseki cooking from a tea master of the Urasenke school. According to him, there are two kinds of kaiseki--both pronounced "kaiseki" but different kanji:

1) 懐石 (the kanji referred to in the Saveur article) which has its roots in shoujinryouri (精進料理, Buddhist vegetarian cooking) but is no longer strictly vegetarian; this is a light meal sometimes served before the actual tea ceremony.

2) 会席 or restaurant-style kaiseki--multiple courses using seasonal ingredients, but not linked to the tea ceremony.

Many of the course names mentioned in the article (wanmori, etc.) are the same for both types of kaiseki; I assume that restaurant-style kaiseki was influenced by the aesthetics of tea kaiseki.

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In short, 懐石, which is also called cha-kaiseki (茶懐石) (cha meaning tea) to clearly differentiate it from 会席, is a set of light dishes served to enjoy strong tea at the end. Gohan (cooked rice) is served first.

会席, on the other hand, is a set of banquet dishes meant to be eaten with sake. Gohan is served last.

Nowadays, kaiseki usually means the latter type of kaiseki.

Unfortunately, I've never been invited to either type of kaiseki.

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Some people say that the spirit of kaiseki (which I think means cha-kaiseki) is like that of slow food movement.

http://www.ikjeld.com/japannews/00000038.php

(English. Read under 4.)

http://www.e-toko.com/ex/cook.htm

(Japanese only)

As for me, the traditional stiff formalities of a tea ceremony just put me off. I can't sit in the seiza style for five minutes!

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I have been to a couple kaiseki in my life. Including what I consider the "ultimate" kaiseki experience, the kind of place were each group of guests is seated in their own little "house" and all the "houses" are connected with stone walkways and bridges and is situated in a gorgeous place with lush greenery, streams and waterfalls.

I have also enjyed kaiseki style meals at various onsens and mini-kaiseki at various restaurants.

A friend and I are planning a lunch trip this week to Ume no Hana, a tofu and yuba restaurant that serves mini kaiseki for lunch, we have been planning this for 2 years since it opened....

I will take lots of pictures! :biggrin:

Ume no Hana:

http://www.umenohana.co.jp/e/ume/index.html

and pictures of their lunch mini kaiseki:

http://www.umenohana.co.jp/ume/menu.php?no=000&kind=lunch

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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I can't sit in the seiza style for five minutes!

This is when being a foreigner helps! :biggrin: because they don't expect you to.

Seiza is no problem for me, actually I have been sitting seiza style my whole life, though I never knew it had a name.... :blink:

It may sound strange but since I was a child it was how I ate my meals, but I was doing it in a chair, I still do it to this day. I even sit in my chair at my computer seiza style at least half of the time....

for more information on the seiza style of sitting:

http://www.furyu.com/archives/issue6/Seiza.html

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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About the Ume no Hana Restaurant chain now.... I can see this is a chain....Do you think a restaurant chain would compromise the quality of the food? Is this a famous chain? What are the price ranges for those Kaiseki lunches? Im probably coming to Japan again in March. Last time I was there, I really wanted to try the yudofu and kaiseki restaurants, but I didn't want to spend too much money without knowing how good the restaurant is. :huh:

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About the Ume no Hana Restaurant chain now.... I can see this is a chain....Do you think a restaurant chain would compromise the quality of the food?  Is this a famous chain?  What are the price ranges for those Kaiseki lunches?  Im probably coming to Japan again in March.  Last time I was there, I really wanted to try the yudofu and kaiseki restaurants, but I didn't want to spend too much money without knowing how good the restaurant is. :huh:

Ume no Hana is quite a famous chain and in Japan, a chain is not necessarily a bad thing and they can be very good.

The kaiseki lunches have 4 courses ranging from 1,500 to 2,500 yen (about $15 to $25), I think I am going to go for the 2,000 ($20) one. Their dinner prices start at 2,800 yen ($28) and go up to 7,000 ($70). The lunch prices are really quite reasonable, we tend to only eat lunch out as prices are jacked up for the dinner menus that are often the exact same food.....

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

My friend and I had lunch at Ume no Hana over a week ago and I am finally getting around to posting the pictures....

This is a tofu restaurant where all of the emals are served kaiseki style, coming out one at a time, we were there for lunch and had a choice of 4 (?) different kaiseki. We both chose the Yuki no Zen a special menu just for the month of December, it consisted of 11 dishes.

We started off with some kakishu (an alcoholic drink made from persimmons), I don't normally drink but this was very good! :biggrin: There was also oborodofu (very soft tofu) served cold with a soy sauce and ginger and scallions. On the right is the green tea we received when sitting down. (sorry the pictures aren't very good because I was trying to take them without having to stand up...)

gallery_6134_91_1103168064.jpg

Next came a tofu shumai that also had crab inside and satoimo mizore-ni, Japanese taro simmered in a sauce that included grated daikon. The dishes actually came one at a time but we were busy talking the sarted to pile up...

gallery_6134_91_1103168083.jpg

This next one was called a soymilk-konnyaku salad, underneath was some very white konnyaku (maybe made with soymilk?), we couldn't figure this one out.... The "chips" on top looked something like tempeh but we weren't sure.

gallery_6134_91_1103168102.jpg

We didn't catch what this one was, apparently every other Friday a musical performance is put on for 30 minutes by some kimono clad women playing some traditional instruments. This was nice but they asked you to refrain from talking during the performance :blink: and our waitress was just wispering the names of the dishes and we couldn't hear.... It was a type of deep fried fish paste and was really good.

gallery_6134_91_1103168123.jpg

chawan mushi, steamed egg custard (one of the best I have ever had)

gallery_6134_91_1103168145.jpg

black rice, pickles and miso soup with yuba and mizuna

gallery_6134_91_1103168168.jpg

I didn't get a picture of dessert, it was a black sesame shiruko and was absolutely incredible, I definitely want to try this at home!

The meal cost 2300yen (about $22) and I found it quite reasonable, we will definitely be going back again. :biggrin:

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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The black rice in the photo is regular uruchi rice cooked with a fraction of black rice, right?

I once got a sample of black rice and cooked with regular rice, and it was wonderful!

No photo of you? I'm sure everyone is disappointed...

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The black rice in the photo is regular uruchi rice cooked with a fraction of black rice, right?

I once got a sample of black rice and cooked with regular rice, and it was wonderful!

No photo of you?  I'm sure everyone is disappointed...

Yes it was a mixture of regular and black rices, I love this stuff and so do my kids, we talked some about it over here:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=56183

The food is much more interesting to look at, much more than me..... :blink:

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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  • 4 months later...

The Umenohana restaurants often have a small shop in the front that you can purchase some of their popular dishes. Yesterday a friend brought me over some of the tofu shumai that I loved so much. They were just as good at home. :biggrin:

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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  • 1 year later...

All kaiseki dishes served at Japanese restaurants should be spelled with 会席 (banquet kaiseki) rather than 懐石 (tea ceremony kaiseki), provided that they are not associated with tea ceremonies. But many restaurants prefer the latter to indicate that their dishes are not ordinary but elaborate, small-portion, and sophisticated ones. To make things more confusing, consciously or not, some restaurants use the two homonymous terms almost interchangeably. On the website of Umenohana http://www.umenohana.co.jp/body2.html , for example, you can see both 懐石 and 会席 used on the same page with no apparent difference in meaning.

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  • 2 weeks later...

A timely thread, thanks Kris!

I had my first ever kaseki in Perth, Western Australia, of all places. The restaurant is called Yahachi, named after one of the founders of the original Tokyo Stock Exchange, whose grandson now runs this restaurant after many years training in Japan and now lives in Australia.

It was a 9 course deal, don't have the menu with me at the moment, but I will post it in order to see if the meal stands up to scrutiny. The flavours were sensational, so clean, clear and in some cases, intense. Nothing like what I'd ever had before. I remember being a little disappointed when there was no sashimi/sushi on offer, but then just surrendered to the experience. I guess having worked the stoves in an Izakaya in the past must have clouded me.

We tasted 4 different sake's through the meal and each one was matched to the dishes, or sets of dishes. Being a sake novice, I will endeavour to learn more over time. I am a sucker for most things alcoholic and tasty anyway!

The fact that the chef used native produce, such as Marrons, which are huge freshwater crays, impressed the heck out of me, seeing as most Japanese establishments in Australia tend to differentiate themselves by importing certain ingredients. That I believe, is in keeping with the spirit of Kaseki no?

And finally, the big surprise was finding this place in Perth!! And apparently not the only one! Over here in the east, Melbourne and Sydney, where we fancy ourselves to be the culinary hub(s) of the nation, I have heard very little about Kaseki.

I am still dreaming...

"Coffee and cigarettes... the breakfast of champions!"

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Hello everyone! I will be in Japan in early August on a solo trip and I was thinking about trying to find a kasieki meal for lunch. From what I have read a dinner would not be worth it for me, but I would love to get a scaled-down lunch kaiseki experience if possible.

So, can anyone recommend a good place in Tokyo/Osaka/Kyoto where I could go for this? I may have a dining companion for a couple days so dinner may not be completely out of the question, but lunch would be preferable.

Thanks in advance for the help!

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Hi Jerry,

The Umenohana chain can be found in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. The set menus are around $40 to $60 USD and they do lunch (just not on Sundays).

We tried Umenohana in Beverly Hills and it was unforgettable, definitely one of the most beautiful and delicious meals I've had. Cooking the tofu at our table was pretty special.

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That's great, thank you. Looks like the same place that the pictures in an above post are from and that food looks fabulous. Really looking forward to this.

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That's great, thank you.  Looks like the same place that the pictures in an above post are from and that food looks fabulous.  Really looking forward to this.

Yes it is the same place as the photos above, and it is really good. Just remember that it is kaiseki based on tofu dishes, so if you are not a huge tofu fan.... :biggrin:

EDIT at lunch most meals are in the $20 to $30 range and so it is an excellent value.

Edited by torakris (log)

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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That's great, thank you.  Looks like the same place that the pictures in an above post are from and that food looks fabulous.  Really looking forward to this.

Yes it is the same place as the photos above, and it is really good. Just remember that it is kaiseki based on tofu dishes, so if you are not a huge tofu fan.... :biggrin:

EDIT at lunch most meals are in the $20 to $30 range and so it is an excellent value.

No worries there, I absolutely love tofu, used to live off the stuff back in my young (and dumb) vegan days.

Sounds like a fantastic value, I can hardly wait!

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  • 2 months later...

I had my first kaiseki experience last night and I though I would share it with you. The menu was as follows:

hiyayakko with yamaimo oroshi, very thin negi, and maple leaf served in a light tsuyu type sauce.

sakura dako which was octopus simmered in a soy based broth for a long time served with karashi mustard

hamo eel with garnishes of microscopically sliced kabocha, myoga, and akashiso served with one soy based sauce and one plum sauce

grilled ayu served with tade-zu sauce

a mixed nimono plate including kabocha, awabi, sato imo, and other items in a light and sweet dashi

a mystery item that was small fried fish that resembled sardines but i cant read my handwriting, it was served with daikon momiji oroshi (spicy daikon puree) and negi

a mixed tempura plate which included shrimp head (my absolute favorite), onions from awaji island, gobo, and corn (!) it was served with sea salt which was used to season it to taste.

ochazuke with umeboshi, red shiso flowers, nori, and fresh wasabi

kyouhou grapes that were magically de-seeded without being cut. served over ice.

On our way out we were given a take home item of sabazushi which was wrapped in a dashi simmered daikon katsura muki (paper thin daikon that has been "unrolled" with a knife)

there were two sakes that accompanied the meal:

Ume Nishiki junmai from Ehime prefecture - a very smooth and floral junmai

Hatsu Hana junmai from Nigata prefecture - also very smooth with a distinct anise flavor.

All I can say what that it was amazing and flawless. As you can see there were quite a few shunnomono (seasonal items) as well as local items from the kansai area and even a local meibutsu (sakura dako). I was scribling my notes under the table as not to be rude to my host; sorry for the lack of details. I will certainly remember it for a long time to come.

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a mixed tempura plate which included shrimp head (my absolute favorite), onions from awaji island, gobo, and corn (!) it was served with sea salt which was used to season it to taste.

Corn! :laugh::laugh:

As for kyohou, is it possible that they were seed-less ones? My father grows kyohou (and other varieties of grape) and makes them seed-less by using some chemical.

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a mixed tempura plate which included shrimp head (my absolute favorite), onions from awaji island, gobo, and corn (!) it was served with sea salt which was used to season it to taste.

Corn! :laugh::laugh:

As for kyohou, is it possible that they were seed-less ones? My father grows kyohou (and other varieties of grape) and makes them seed-less by using some chemical.

the corn was kernals in small bunches. really quite good.

I asked the waitress about the kyohou and she said that the chef had specially prepared the grapes to remove the seeds. The tops of the grapes looked slightly cut.

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I still remember my first kaiseki meal in Japan, it was 15 years ago this month. :biggrin: I don't remember much about the actual dishes except a wonderful piece of beef grilled at the table, grated yamaimo- which I couldn't even look at, and one perfect huge kyohou grape in a bowl of ice. I have never forgotten that grape!

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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I posted a heads up for the latest and greatest kaiseki book in the cookbook thread but nobody seemed to care. Maybe the folks on this thread might have more interest. It is out in Japan now and in the rest of the world in Nov.Here is the link below, people who are interested in Japanese cuisine might like this.

http://www.amazon.co.jp/gp/product/4770030...3344741?ie=UTF8

Edited by ogkodansha (log)
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