I’ve been asked quite a few times to explain and give examples of Kaiseki (Kaiseki Ryōri), a tradional form of Japanese Cuisine.
Here is a mini series that I hope will help friends to at least understand the basics!
Kaiseki (懐石) or kaiseki ryōri (懐石料理) is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner analogous to Western haute cuisine.
There are basically two kinds of traditional Japanese meal styles called “kaiseki” or “kaiseki ryōri.” The first, where “kaiseki” is written as 会席 (and kaiseki ryōri, 会席料理), referring to the fancy meal served at banquets. The other is written 懐石 or 懐石料理, referring to the simple meal that the host of a chanoyu/tea ceremony gathering serves to the guests, and which is also known as cha-kaiseki (茶懐石).
In the present day, kaiseki is a type of art form that balances the taste, texture, appearance, and colors of food. To this end, only fresh seasonal ingredients are used and are prepared in ways that aim to enhance their flavor. Local ingredients are often included as well. Finished dishes are carefully presented on plates that are chosen to enhance both the appearance and the seasonal theme of the meal. Dishes are beautifully arranged and garnished, often with real leaves and flowers, as well as edible garnishes designed to resemble natural plants and animals.
Originally, kaiseki comprised a bowl of miso soup and three side dishes. It has since evolved to include an appetizer, sashimi, a simmered dish, a grilled dish, and a steamed course, in addition to other dishes at the discretion of the chef.
-Sakizuke: an appetizer similar to the French amuse-bouche.
-Hassun: the second course, which sets the seasonal theme. Typically one kind of sushi and several smaller side dishes.
-Mukozuke: a sliced dish of seasonal sashimi.
-Takiawase: vegetables served with meat, fish or tofu; the ingredients are simmered separately.
-Futamono: a “lidded dish”; typically a soup.
-Yakimono: Broiled seasonal fish.
-Su-zakana: a small dish used to clean the palate, such as vegetables in vinegar.
-Hiyashi-bachi: served only in summer; chilled, lightly-cooked vegetables.
-Naka-choko: another palate-cleanser; may be a light, acidic soup.
-Shiizakana: a substantial dish, such as a hot pot.
-Gohan: a rice dish made with seasonal ingredients.
-Ko no mono: seasonal pickled vegetables.
-Tome-wan: a miso-based or vegetable soup served with rice.
-Mizumono: a seasonal dessert; may be fruit, confection, ice cream, or cake.
The thing which put all menus of Kaiseki in Jubako (a nest of boxes). Shokado-bento falls under this, too.
Kaiseki is often served in ryokan/traditional inns in Japan, but it is also served in small restaurants. Kyoto is well known for its kaiseki.
Shizuoka is also renown for its kaiseki reastaurants thanks to the abundance of natural ingredients all year round.