A traditional kaiseki meal is the epitome of haute Japanese cuisine, where each dish has been made with precise attention to detail, and it revolves around fresh, seasonal ingredients. The multi-course meals are kept quite pure as kaiseki chefs try to showcase the flavour of each and every ingredient used.
Traditionally, kaiseki is supposed to be enjoyed before drinking tea at a tea ceremony. The flavour profiles of each and every dish is kept as simple as possible so it won’t ruin the flavour of the tea, which is enjoyed after the meal. The philosophy behind kaiseki cuisine encompasses ties with Zen Buddhism as well as teinei ideas of simplicity, humbleness and expertise. Ultimately, diners are encouraged to appreciate being in the moment, and that includes savouring the beauty and flavour of the dishes and the company ofyour fellow diners and also the chef himself.
Back in the day when science and technology wasn’t as developed as it is today, nature had very important presence in the daily lives of the Japanese people. Everyone would pray for healthy harvests while performing festivals to express their gratitude on a spiritual level. For many Japanese, kaiseki cuisine is another way to show respect to nature, which has given them such a bounty of food that is to be used in these beautiful dishes.
Kaiseki can be classified as ultra-seasonal where there is hardly ever a set list of dishes that will be served. It can be compared to omakase or ‘chef’s selection’, where the chef crafts a meal out of specific ingredients that are available at that time. This aspect also goes beyond food: from the leaves and twigs used to decorate the dishes to the calligraphy on the menu and the kimono the hostess at the restaurant is wearing. Depending on the season, you’re in for a delicious surprise as your meal is left up to the talented kaiseki chefs behind the counter.