Kaiseki cuisine is the ultimate style of Japanese food, and both the preparation methods and appearance are refined. Imbuing dishes with a seasonal feel and bringing out the natural flavors of the ingredients are very important parts of this style of cuisine. This means that only seasonal ingredients passing intense scrutiny are used for the menu. Some examples are springtime takenoko (bamboo shoots), autumn matsutake mushrooms, and early summer katsuo (bonito). Sometimes ingredients called “hashiri” that have been harvested before their seasons are included as treasured items.
Though each individual dish in the course is a small portion, the color and combination of ingredients, the way the ingredients have been sliced and used to decorate, and the tableware all express the aesthetics of Japanese culture. Hot foods are served while still hot and cold foods are served on chilled plates.
Most of these restaurants will have straw tatami mat lined private rooms, and everything is planned out with care down to every aspect, including the furnishings and decorative flowers. Recently more casual counter style restaurants are popping up, but the refined atmosphere is still the same. The restaurant proprietor and wait staff are all very polite and treat diners with exceptionally thoughtful hospitality.
This kind of atmosphere is based in the spirit of traditional Japanese sado (the way of tea). In fact, kaiseki cuisine originally referred to the food served before receiving tea at a tea ceremony. A deep admiration of the seasons and warm thoughtfulness towards the customer reflects a sense of aesthetics that prizes tranquility and simplicity — the very spirit of “wabi” (a sense of purity in simplicity) treasured in sado (the way of tea).Of course, the way of eating and etiquette are very important for this style of cuisine, but feel free to simply ask about anything you have questions about and, most importantly, relax and enjoy the flavor of the ingredients.
(Two stars in the Michelin Guide, 2010)
This is the Tokyo location of the high class Kyoto-based Japanese-style restaurant “Kikunoi”. The gate opens on a pathway adorned with live bamboo shoots, and the “sukiyazukuri tea house” style building exudes an ambiance that makes you feel like you are actually in Kyoto. Private rooms are available as well. The location is 7 to 8 minutes on foot from “Tokyo Midtown”. “Kikunoi main restaurant” sent chefs to the Japanese Delicacies area in the Japanese Industry Pavilion at the Expo 2010 Shanghai China, and their top level kaiseki flavor was the talk of the town amongst the Chinese.
Average cost: Lunch course/ JPY 10,500, Dinner course/ JPY 15,750 – JPY 21,000
Business hours: Lunch/12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. (last entry), Dinner/5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. (last entry)
6-13-8 Akasaka Minato-ku Tokyo
Japanese Restaurant HIFUMI-AN
(One star in the Michelin Guide, 2010)
This cozy household style restaurant is located in a town called Sendagi, which has preserved an old-style Japanese ambiance. The seating is limited to two parties for the day and night each, meaning customers can enjoy dining in a relaxed atmosphere with extremely thoughtful customer service. Under the motto of having people from other countries experience the attractiveness of Japanese culture through dining, the management also runs a Japanese food restaurant aimed at foreigners at a salon in Kagurazaka.
Average cost:Lunch/ JPY 8,400 -, Dinner/ JPY 15,750 –
Business hours: 12:00 p.m. -3:00 p.m. 6:00 p.m. -10:30 p.m.
Closed: No regularly scheduled holidays
4-2-18 Sendagi Bunkyo-ku Tokyo