Before we left for Japan, I read that Kaiseki dinners are the pinnacle of Japanese cuisine – of course I was hooked!
The best place to experience this special type of dinner is to stay in a Ryokan in Kyoto. Ryokans are traditional Japanese guesthouses, where the rooms have a tatami flooring and sliding doors. We chose to stay at a charming Ryokan called Gion Hatanka – a calm and friendly place where we stayed for two nights.
So a Kaiseki dinner is a multi-course Japanese feast. You can say it is the counterpart to Western haute cuisine.
Traditionally it was a vegetarian meal served during tea ceremony. Nowadays it also includes fresh local meat and fish. The single dishes are beautifully presented and garnished and resemble shapes found in nature. The decoration of the food also plays with flowers and leaves. Both the ingredients used for the dinner as well as the tableware change according to the season.
The courses include various cold and raw appetizers, sashimi, a soup course, a main course consisting of different grilled, simmered, broiled and steamed dishes. Then a rice course is served accompanied by a miso soup and pickles. The meal finishes off with a desert, which is often fresh fruit.
I especially enjoyed the variety of Sashimi, the grilled fish and the vegetarian soups.
We tried tea-poached eel, a seaweed terrine and some other completely new things, some of which we have never heard of before. Some dishes had a consistency and flavor very unusual to Western taste. It was a real experience.
P.S.: The lighting in the room was really bad and so it was hard to take good photos.