Kaiseki-ryōri, the famous traditional Japanese multi-course dinner, is an experience in itself. Reserved only for special occasions, the succession of small dishes brings back the simplicity and subtle taste of the Buddhist meal. Representing the highest form of culinary experience, kaiseki is the Japanese version of the French haute-cuisine. Originally served at the tea ceremony, the meal was frugal in order not to spoil the delicacy of the tea, later on evolving into an elaborate dining experience, available only to the aristocracy.
All the ingredients used are carefully selected. Only fresh, seasonal ingredients will find their way on the plate, the chef making sure that the final result will be an exquisite, meticulously prepared meal, where taste and presentation are equally important.
Small, individual dishes are often carefully presented on the plate, the meal becoming rather a form of art. Although, originally, a bowl of miso soup and three side dishes were served, nowadays, a traditional kaiseki dinner would comprise of an appetizer, seasonal sashimi, a simmered dish, a grilled dish, soup, steamed course and last but not least, a seasonal dessert. Other small dishes might be part of the meal, depending on the chef’s style.
When it comes to etiquette, there are a few “un-written” rules to take into consideration. From using the chopsticks correctly or remembering to show gratitude for the meal by saying “itadakimasu” and “gochiso-sama deshita” to the most subtle nuances of not wearing perfume, it’s all meant to offer the best culinary experience.
So now that you know what kaiseki is, you might wonder where to try it out. As Kyoto was the cultural centre and the ancient capital of Japan, it is beyond doubt the perfect place to serve the most refined kaiseki dinner. But brace yourself for an empty pocket, as this experience is not one of the cheapest. With prices ranging from 3.000 to 15.000 yen, this meal will for sure be a once in a life-time experience.