It’s revered in Japan, but can the traditional dining ritual of kaiseki work in Dubai?
hen the decadent Heian court ruled Japan from 794 to 1159, life was very ritualistic. The aristocrats would eat delicately prepared multi-course meals that would last for hours, their faces powdered white and their teeth blackened. These court dinners were the beginning of the modern kaiseki, Japan’s answer to the degustation dinner.
Rather surreally, there’s now a 28-seat, eight-table kaiseki restaurant at the Opera District called Kohantei. The team of seven are all from Japan, and the space is very traditional. Kaiseki are meant to be served in humble surrounds, and that’s what you’ll find here: shoes off at the door, tatami mats, bright lighting, tiny tables and kneeling service.
The first bite of our six-course Sakura menu (Dhs350 per person) was a rare sliver of wagyu paired with a warming pickled wasabi (none of that horseradishdressed-up-as-wasabi tripe), and every bite thereafter was as much of a delight. Each plate was impeccably presented, and all elements on the plate were bite-sized, ready to be picked up by a chopstick.
It’s the details that make Kohantei executive chef Hisao Ueda’s food so special: soy sauce is mixed with a traditional broth to add subtlety; slivers of yuzu and ground white radish add tang and body to a broth; and on the sashimi plate a sliver of cucumber is cut into the shape of a tiny leaf, just because.
Kaiseki dining is all about balance, harmony and seasonality – so we’ll not talk you through each dish, as Kohantei’s team cook with whatever produce they have sourced that week, and the set menus change weekly, if not daily. The restaurant’s primary focus is wagyu, and they go to great lengths to source from the best farmers in Japan. With the Dhs350 Sakura menu you will sample Grade A3
Wbeef from Australia, as well as Sendai beef from Japan (the latter really does taste better). To sample the crème de la crème – Ozaki – you’ll need to plump for one of the pricier set menus (the most expensive is Dhs1,100). There is an a la carte menu for those who want to pop in for some sake, prawn tempura soba (Dhs58) and a