Kaiseki: My Dining Experiences
Experiencing Japanese Culture with Friends
The last time I was in Tokyo, my friends came up with the idea for me to buy a yukata (Japanese kimono style clothing) since it was summertime when many dress up for the Matsuri festivals in Japan. Down the line, plans were made even for a trip to Kyoto and to have a Kaiseki Japanese style dinner which I wasn't too familiar with.
So I needed to get used to wearing them around town. It would be my first time wearing one along with my geta (Japanese footwear). I had a really hard time wearing them as they slipped out of my feet occasionally making a disturbance around me. Clank, Clank, Clank, I felt like a drunk geisha walking in them. When the night finally came, all three of us dressed up in our yukatas and went to a festival in Meguro.
We enjoyed a Japanese shabu shabu dinner buffet which was located upstairs on a second floor overlooking a narrow road below which gave us a great view of the Matsuri festival parade. I was in heaven with all that I could eat and see. The night was festive and it was a wonderful experience for me.
* All pictures are mine unless other wise stated.
My first Kaiseki Cuisine in Kyoto
Another one of my many memorable experiences in Japan was when we went to Kyoto. Again I wore my yukata along with my friend and we enjoyed the peaceful walk through the streets of Kyoto. We had already made an appointment at a Kaiseki restaurant nearby. It would be my first time and I was told the price was quite reasonable.
So it was a MUST, along with the other things on my to do list. It did take a while though to find the place but after about 20-30 minutes of walking with some help with his GPS on his I-phone, we had finally found the place. It was quite hidden along side a stretch of narrow road located on the left side.
Passing by the doorstep entrance, it was like an old building, one that could easily be missed if one is not at all familiar within the area. A hidden gem Indeed !
Giro Giro Hitoshima, Kyoto
Some things you might not know about Kaiseki Cuisine
Upon entering the restaurant, we were seated and I felt really excited being there since it was my first Kaiseki dining experience. My friend explained to me what to expect about this kind of japanese dinner.
Kaiseki is basically a traditional multicourse Japanese cuisine with a 400 year history. It is a set menu that changes once every month created accordingly by the direction of a Head Chef using seasonal ingredients from the market. Can you imagine to have to think of a 7-12 course dinner that does not get repeated ever! So really, one does not know what to expect as the set menu is being prepared in the kitchen, sometimes cooked right in front of you and served in sequence along with the other patrons seating right next to you.
And in showing respect, one should definitely not ask for any condiments to add more flavor to your liking if you think you need it. Each dish presented is to be appreciated as is. In Hawaii, a lot of us like to add the ketchup, the shoyu, extra gravy, etc... Today, I've come to really appreciate the subtle taste, simplicity, (yet complexly made) and enjoy them as the way they were made to be enjoyed owning up to it's own perfection.
Enjoying Kaiseki Cuisine in Kyoto
While each serving portions are quite small, I felt content and not feeling overly full by the end of the evening. However, depending on the individual, a 7 course dinner in small portions just might not be enough. But I myself like to eat a lot and feel fully satisfied at times after a good meal, so I can relate. After knowing all of this now, I simply adjust and try eating them at a slow pace and think about what's in them. It can be fun even just to look at.
Each dish is presented beautifully and served on unique dishes designed making Kaiseki truly an art form in Japanese Cuisine. The beauty and delicacy really stands out. Lots of thought is involved while creating each dish when using a combination of fish, beef, seafood, vegetables, fruits, etc. along with other food products from around the world to create a creative mix of sorts in taste and color combinations. After each dish presentation, your waiter or server explains about the dish and tells you of all the ingredients included which makes your Kaiseki dining an interesting one. Our Head Chef was quite friendly and personable.
After dinner, I found the carefree walk back to our hotel rooms enjoyable and relaxing as we made our way through the side roads and along the city lights of Kyoto. You get this sense of the old Japan that used to be and still is. You can almost sense a romantic type of feeling in the air somehow. My friend compares the similarities of Kyoto to that of France in many ways.
Giro Giro Hitoshina Kyoto (Kyoto, Japan)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Learn More about Japanese Cuisine
Easy to follow recipes with beautiful pictures. Kaiseki is truly an art form in Japanese cuisine.
Nanzan Giro Giro - A Local Kaiseki Dining Experience - Honolulu, Hawaii
It is now December, about three and a half months since my last visit to Japan. My friend emailed me and told me of his plans to come to Hawaii and stay for 2 weeks. I recommended for us to go and try the other Kaiseki restaurant branch in Honolulu. It would be my treat. I then called and made reservations for our dinner appointment. Upon making dinner plans I believe I was told is that an appointment is needed at a Kaiseki restaurant before attending. They have different time schedules with limited amount of seats per night.
On the evening of our dinner appointment we met at a nearby cafe in an industrialized neighborhood area close to the restaurant. We then headed towards our restaurant making it in time for our 7:30 pm dinner reservation. There were a bunch of people standing outside as we made our way towards the entrance. Upon entering this brightly lit restaurant (entrance way) it was like walking into an art gallery / restaurant. Simplicity and minimalism was the atmosphere and décor.The service was very good and many of the servers were friendly. Most of all, the dinner was enjoyable !
Kaiseki with Local Flava ! - Monchong Hawaiian Fish, Oyster garnished with Mizuna
Oh, but before I go, I just wanted to end it with my friend's comment on the difference between the dinner we had in Kyoto and the one we just had in Honolulu. He seems to think that the ingredients and choices made here at the Honolulu branch were made in mind towards catering to the local people here as well. Enjoyable local style influences such as some local fish with some fresh organic locally grown produce from right here in the islands.
Along with some local flava, locals can experience the wonderful taste of Kaiseki Japanese dining. I have to admit, he is right. It was even a bit more filling and tastier than my Kyoto experience!
Both places had something to offer being unique according to their food origins and culture. I have enjoyed going to both places and I highly suggest trying Kaiseki at least once to all when you do get a chance. Eating Kaiseki is eating healthy!
Here are some of my pictures below of our 7 course meal. (Itadakimasu) !