I’m a firm believer that food is art. In Japan, this is particularly evident in kaiseki ryori, a traditional multi-course dinner where each plate is as delicious on the eyes as it is on the tongue. Kaiseki meals are generally served at ryokan, traditional Japanese inns, and are as finely prepared as those you might find on tasting menus in haute cuisine.
Kaiseki are made with fresh ingredients, and each course is served as soon as it is prepared in order to maintain its freshness and integrity. There is usually a prescribed order of courses, however, the different types of ingredients in each dish depend on the season and location of the kaiseki,
I tried kaiseki in a ryokan in Kyoto, and had a chance to experience just how beautiful this meal could be. Kaiseki are often described as a meal in harmony with nature, with both the expert flavors and beautiful presentation of the food reflecting the shapes, textures, and seasons found in the environment. The plates and dishes are a reflection of nature as well, with different colors and shapes complimenting each course.
Because I tried kaiseki in November, many of my courses were decorated for fall and included dishes appropriate for colder weather. Keep reading to see exactly what I tried, and how each course traditionally progresses throughout the meal.
1. Shokuzen-shu (alcohol) and Sakizuke (bite-sized appetizer, similar to a French amuse-bouche)
2. Hassun (a second course of bite-sized appetizers, usually seasonally themed)
5. Shiizakana (a substantial dish)
6. Yakimono (grilled dish)
7. Nimono (boiled dish
8. Agemono (deep fried dish)
11. Gohan (rice dish)
11. Mizumono (dessert)
Because of the quality and number of dishes, kaiseki can get pretty expensive. At kaiseki with as many as 20 courses, the set can cost up to $500 per person.
However, you can typically find kaiseki lunch sets or bentos for a heavily discounted price, with the only exception that the dishes all come at the same time, rather than course by course. You can also get the kaiseki experience by staying at a ryokan (like I did), where the course meal is often included in the cost of your stay.
Thanks for reading once again, and I hope I made you hungry!