Eating like Royalty: the dish on Kaiseki Ryori

by Erina - TripleLights travel specialist

Kaiseki is a multi-course Japanese meal style that includes the sequential serving of a variety of small, artistic and seasonal dishes. Kaiseki ryori is not about volume; it is more so an art form that uses small delicate dishes as vessels to serve art that is balanced in its taste, appearance, color and texture. They are often garnished with edible, non-edible flowers and leaves to enhance the visual impact of each dish.

While the former kaiseki was composed of miso soup with a few side dishes,it has since then transformed to usually include an appetizer, sashimi, a simmered dish, a grilled dish and a steam dish. Each restaurant will likely add supplementary dishes to the meal, and the sequence in which they serve up each of the dishes varies on the establishment. Below are some of the dishes you'll likely be served during your experience:

Sakizuke: an appetizer, much like an amuse-bouche in French haute cuisine

1011270_10101493476478097_1897929675_n

Shrimp and soybeans in a sweetsauce, pickled yellow paprika and white radish, and seasoned sweetened small fish.

Hassun: introduces the idea of seasonality into the experience, usually sushi or small side dishes.

Mukozuke: seasonal sashimi

71469_10101493476403247_787894792_n

Maguro (Tuna) and Hamachi (Pacific yellowtail) with soy sauce mousse.

 

Agemono: Fried foods, most commonly tempura of shrimp and seasonal vegetables.

1622208_10101493476617817_2113309949_n

Shrimp, red paprika and daikon tempura with dipping sauce and grated daikon.

 

Takiawase: simmered vegetables with meat, fish, or tofu, each simmered separately and arranged in one dish.

1482753_10101493476043967_1907453503_n

Simmered mountain yam, shiitake mushroom, long beans, pumpkin, white radish, and carrot with grated yuzu garnish.
Futamono: literally translates into “lidded dish”, such as a soup.
Steamed grated mountain yam with gingko nut and grilled anago, topped with popped rice and ankake (thick textured broth).

 

Yakimono: frame-broiled food, usually fish.

1896805_10101493476518017_723155114_n
Broiled fish with pickled myoga (Japanese ginger)

 

Gohan: a rice dish made with seasonal ingredients.

Ko no mono: seasonal pickled vegetables

Tome-wan: miso or vegetable soup served with rice

1505513_10101493476368317_1690018607_n

hijiki (brown sea vegetable) and carrot takikomi rice (Gohan element), cucumber and cabbage pickles (Ko no mono), and red miso paste soup with abura-age.

 

Mizumono: seasonal dessert, such as fruit, cake or icecream.

1798472_10101493482885257_566920711_n

Fresh kiwi with yuzu-based ice-cream

All of the dishes are prepared to call attention to the freshness of the ingredients used, especially the fresh seasonable vegetables. The focus on seasonality plays an integral part of Japanese cuisine.  Since the dishes come in small portions, it is easy to think that you may not be full by the end of your meal. Do not be deceived by the appearance of these compact portions; by the time you end the entire sequence, you will be leaving with a full stomach and gratified palate.

However, the entire experience is intended to stimulate and satisfy all of the senses, not just the palate. The way that the food tastes is just as important as the experience and satisfaction you can gain from the visual and experiential elements of a kaiseki meal. The dishes are served one by one, so the element of surprise in a kaiseki meal is always present.

As with many aspects of Japanese culture and gastronomy, seasonality is the running theme of dishes served at a particular restaurant. Hence, the dishes served at these establishments are constantly in the process of evolving. In the wintertime, one ingredient that commonly makes an appearance on the dishes is yuzu.

yuzu

Photo Credit


Yuzu is a special kind of citrus that is distinct to Japanese cuisine but is slowly gaining a spot in the culinary spotlight in the United States. The aromatic zest of the yuzu fruit plays a far more important role in Japanese cuisine then does the juice or meat itself. The zest is tart, with a taste that one could describe as a blissful marriage of grapefruit and mandarin.

As with French haute cuisine, you should prepare to pay a price to experience kaiseki ryori. However, there are ways around the shocking price tag of these kaiseki dinners. As a rule of thumb, dinners are always expensive in Japan, so opt for a lunchtime meal. Many of the restaurants that serve up kaiseki ryori also offer lunch specials in the price range of 4000 – 8000 yen, while one can expect to pay 15,000 yen upwards for dinnertime. A perfect option to fully engage in a traditional Japanese experience would be to stay at a traditional inn, or ryokan, that includes a kaiseki dinner as part of the rate of accommodation. You will likely be seated in a tatami room with other diners or your own room and feast on seasonal delicacies while dressed in the cotton kimono often provided at these ryokans.

1554509_10101493476582887_1010795952_n

While large cities such as Tokyo and Osaka surely have kaiseki ryori options, Kyoto is where you want to experience a kaiseki meal. Kyoto, the once capital of Japan, was home of the imperial court and nobility in days bygone. Hence, kaiseki ryori flourished in this city and to this day, many of the famous kaiseki restaurants can be found here. Check out our blog article on Kaiseki restaurants in Kyoto for more information on where to eat kaiseki ryori in the cultural capital.


Need help planning your trip to Tokyo ?

If you are interested to know more and save your time during your trip to Tokyo, You can send a message to our local guides to get a customized itinerary and quotation for an unforgettable experience.

In the TripleLights website you can find the best professional guides all over Japan to help you plan your trip. Check our local guides for Tokyo


Plan your trip to Tokyo

Chat with a local tour guide who can help organize your trip.
Get Started

Recent Tour Reviews in Tokyo

“ in depth tour of Zojo-ji ”

Excellent
2 months ago Traveler: Prasanna -   Tour Guide: Kazuharu

We were looking for an in-depth understanding of Zojo-ji, and it is not one of the popular spots in Tokyo. Kazuharu prepared and came with lots of notes and tried his best to answer all our questions. He was patient and enthusiastic.
read more

“ The best way to get around Tokyo ”

Excellent
5 months ago Traveler: Catarina -   Tour Guide: Mitsuru

Mitsuru was very careful when planning our visit, and made sure we got exactly the experience we wanted from Tokyo, with the right balance of tourist hotspots and local finds. His patience when explaining local habits and teaching us how to ride the tube were the reason we were able to get around the rest of the country, and his impecable guidance made it able for us to cover all of Tokyo in the l...
read more

“ Delightlful .... ”

Excellent
6 months ago Traveler: Jerome -   Tour Guide: Aki

Aki was very easy to work with and accomodating to our group of 6. As requested, he put together a 3 day itinerary for us based upon our interests and desired activity level. He is quite knowledgeable about "all things Tokyo" as well as the Japanese culture and history. He is a master of the Tokyo transit system and without him we would have had a difficult time navigating around. We asked Aki...
read more

“ KOJI--OUR WONDERFUL GUIDE! ”

Excellent
6 months ago Traveler: JEFF -   Tour Guide: Koichiro

In the midst of the ongoing COVID drama sweeping the world, my partner and I decided to continue on with our trip to Japan. We were a bit nervous and wary but ended up having an incredible, once in a lifetime trip and a large part of this was our time with Koji. Koji has youth and energy, knowledge about Japanese culture, food and life, and was a wonderful host during our stay in Tokyo. We felt...
read more

“ Great guide ”

Excellent
6 months ago Traveler: Kerry -   Tour Guide: Yasuro

Though it rained most of the day we had a good look around Tokyo. Yasuro was a polite patient guide with great knowledge.
read more

“ March 7 2020 Tokyo ”

Excellent
6 months ago Traveler: Teresita -   Tour Guide: Noriko

Due to lack of time I decided to hire a Tokyo local guide to make use of our time,most especially for 7 hours. I did not regret to choose Noriko ,she was professional ,punctual ,very knowledgeable and she can feel the feelings of what we really wanted to see. We were so happy because we saw the places we wanted in 7 hours time. We recommend Noriko to all travellers who wanted to see in a short ...
read more

“ First day in Tokyo ”

Excellent
6 months ago Traveler: Nathan -   Tour Guide: Nobu

Nobu was wonderful. He accepted our last minute booking and met us at our hotel at 10am. A lot of things where closed, but Nobu had a great iteneriary for us. He spoke great english and did a great job of explaining the local culture and history.
read more

“ einen Tag in Tokio, einen Tag Teezermoniechmarkt. ”

Excellent
6 months ago Traveler: Maria -   Tour Guide: Yukiko

Es war wunderschön .Yukiko Hat uns mit ihren liebenswürdigen Art und viel Wissen über die Geschichte Tokios und besten Deutschkenntnissen, Tokio zu einer der Liebenswertesten Städte der Welt gemacht, man kann sie nur empfehlen und wir hatten wunderschöne Tage, sollten wir mal wiederkommen,Dann nur mit Yukiko.Liebe Grüße aus Rosenheim Marisa, Susanne und Tanja
read more

“ I had a wonderful time with Juliana. ”

Excellent
6 months ago Traveler: Arnold -   Tour Guide: Juliana

OMG, I had a fabulous day with Juliana. She was very informative and very professional while showing me around Tokyo. I've requested to Juliana to take me to the snoopy museum. Despite being closed because of the virus, she took me there anyway to visit the Peanut cafe and Snoopy town. That's when i learned she too was a Snoopy fan. Her command of the English language is very fluent. I have learn...
read more

“ 8 hour tour worth every penny! ”

Excellent
6 months ago Traveler: Chris -   Tour Guide: Maru

Maru was quick to respond to my request and assembled a nice customized itinerary for our day in Tokyo together. The shrine we visited was incredible! She has good local knowledge and is very personable and friendly. Maru's English is excellent and she was able to help me put together a few key phrases that I used during the rest of my stay in Japan. I would highly recommend her!
read more

Related cities

Plan your trip to Tokyo

Chat with a local tour guide who can help organize your trip.
Get Started