Art of Kaiseki Cuisine @ Nadaman
Kaiseki or Kaiseki-ryori, is a traditional multi-course Japanese meal, which puts emphasis on artistry, graciousness and the changing of the seasons. It also refers to the collection of skills and techniques that allow the preparation of such sumptuous exclusive meals analogous to Western haute cuisine.
The meaning of Kaiseki comes from the story that Buddhist monks in rigorous Zen training used to keep hot stones (seki) wrapped in towel in the front folds of their kimono (kai) near the belly to ward off hunger pangs during their morning and afternoon prayers. Thus, originally, Kaiseki was a simple, vegetarian meal served during the traditional tea ceremony although nowadays, meat and seafood are included.
When Marcus Bauder, Shangri-La Hotel Tokyo’s Resident Manager, invited this vegetarian jotter for lunch at Nadaman, at the hotel’s 28t floor, I dropped one of the fashion shows on my list and happily accepted. Nadaman, is part of the highly-recommended restaurant group established by Nadaya Mansuke in 1830. Nadaman restaurants are reputed to have served first-rate Kaiseki cuisine to royalty, world leaders and discriminating diners in Japan.
Chief Chef Takehiko Yoshida prepared a five-course, vegetarian, mini Kaiseki lunch of only the freshest seasonal ingredients. The delicious appetizers of vegetable sushi, rape blossom with mustard, and cucumber with spicy Miso paste was superbly flavorful. Fruits and tomato came next followed by tempura of pumpkin, rotes roots, eggplant, okra, and other spring vegetables which had a subtle, refreshing taste. Pungent teppanyaki mushroom, eryngoes, asparagus, rape blossom, and Chinese mushroom came next.
I noticed that all the dishes thus far, were very carefully presented and beautiful plated. This attention to detail enhanced both the appearance and the seasonal theme of the food.
A delectably filling teppanyaki garlic and vegetable fried rice were then served with vegetable soup and then finally, vanilla ice cream in basil and syrup sauce for dessert.
Kaiseki is indeed an art form that balances the taste, texture, appearance, and colors of food. That fact, plus the refined interior of the exclusive restaurant that blends minimalism and Japanese esthetics plus the excellent company and the spirited conversation with Mr. Bauder, who was recently transferred to China World Hotel, Beijing as Hotel Manager, all summed up to a wonderful gastronomic experience at the Nadaman—a beautiful Japanese restaurant at the Shangri-La Hotel Tokyo.