Recent Pete Wells’s Nibbles to Death, Dish by Dish was an interesting article to read. Pete understands the difference between Japanese Kaiseki meal and “the kind of tasting menu which is younger, more free-form invention served at destination restaurant.” He also writes, “Being so new, the genre has no rules and few limits.”
Japanese Kaiseki meal is a complete opposite. Japanese chefs who prepare Kaiseki meal follow rules and philosophy on which the cuisine is built. The meal served to the diners not only satisfy their hunger, but also have to nourish their mental well being, meaning the meal has to entertain our 5 senses. I once had a lengthy chef’s tasting menu at a popular, high end French restaurant in New York city. What I experienced was after 6 small nibbles, my five senses which should have been entertained became numb.
Kaiseki meal consists of small portion sized dishes, but none of them are nibbles. All of them are in proper portions so that one bite after another, and another bite after we can fully experience the flavor of the dish. There is an order in which different dishes are served in the Kaiseki meal. The serving order is determined by preparation techniques. Zensai (appetizer – 3 to 5 items in different cooking techniques), Wanmono (clear soup dish with seasonal seafood or wild bird), Otsukuri (sashimi dish) – in case of Kaiseki meal served at Tea Ceremony, the Otsukuri is served before Wanmono -, Yakimono (grilled dish – fish or wild bird), Nimono (simmered dish), Agemono (deep-fried dish), Mushimono (steamed dish), Aemono (dressed dish) and Rice and Miso soup. By serving dishes in this order chef can offer the dinners a diverse flavor, temperature and texture experience during the meal which excite the dinners throughout the meal. As Pete wrote “Japanese Kiseki meal is old tradition with underlying structures that chefs and diners understand”, the diners have to have good understanding about Kaiseki meal in order to enjoy the meal.
Continues to next blog…….