Tasting the Seasons of Japan - The Exquisite, Austere, Pure Kaiseki Cuisine of Hayato [Thoughts + Pics]


#41

What is the food cost of this buyout?


#42

It’s $200 + 16% gratuity per person ($232). Chef Go also takes a $100 per person deposit to book your spot which applies towards the total cost of your meal.


#43

Actually a bit of yes and no. What you clarified as kappo vs kaiseki is true in general but I’ve learned there are some exceptions and overlaps.

Some kaiseki restaurants have counter or counter only seating but are formally kappo kaiseki.
But in some of the kappo kaiseki restaurants in Japan, not absolutely everything is cooked in front of you. Some might have a kitchen to the side, but ultimately the chef at the counter plates and presents to you. In the case of where the chef’s English is not proficient enough in Japan, a trained staff member assists with explaining in English, and could be waitstaff or okami-san.

For the more well established kappo kaiseki restaurants, they also have private rooms (sliding doors, some sitting on tatami or old school on the floor) for larger parties (some may have smaller tables of four). Some high end Japanese restaurants in Kansai have this format as well and the tatami format, or rooms where you remove your shoes upon entry. There are some 100% kappo kaiseki restaurants that have an entirely open kitchen where absolutely all cooking is done in plain sight, including charcoal grilling of fish (e.g. ayu or wild unagi).

Examples:

Goryu Kubo (2 Michelin star Kaiseki in Tokyo) - has counter seating (primary) and private room for larger parties. Cooking is mostly done in the kitchen which is adjacent to the chef’s counter but prep, plating etc is done in front of you at the counter seat.

Aoyama Ichita (one Michelin Star kaiseki in Tokyo) - 100% kappo kaiseki, entirely open kitchen in plain view of the counter seats (maybe except dishwashing but I cannot remember…but definitely got a bit warmer in the evening when the chef fired up the binchotan to grill sanma and wild unagi).

Ishikawa (3 Michelin star) - format from tabelog pictures similar to Goryukubo, counter seating with head chef/owner, private rooms (with tables and chairs) available.

Kichisen (3 Michelin star kaiseki in Kyoto) has the same format except the private rooms are more old school with tatami, sliding door, guests must remove all shoes). No cooking is done in front of you by the counter, but the chef plates and presents to you (and/or his assistant).

Places that are kappo but not kaiseki generally adhere to washoku culinary principles. Washoku would be the catch all phrase to include kappo, kaiseki, shojin ryoyi (e.g. vegetarian kaiseki or tofu based kaiseki in some areas of Kyoto and Nara), or more simply put “traditional Japanese cuisine”. The emphasis would be the cooking techniques by definition.

To make it a little more confusing, there are “kappo izakaya” restaurants in Japan, where the setting is not as formal, less rigid, but intimate (key word also being a smaller place), relaxing, with upscale food and killer drinks and typical super hospitable service, and usually it’s pretty damn good already for us. Unfortunately some snobs get caught up by kaiseki and turn their noses at kappo izakaya without understanding this fundamental difference. There are kappo izakaya that charge almost as much as some of the mid tier kaiseki restaurants in Japan. In the end it’s a matter of perceived value.

Usually what all these places have in common (if a high end kappo non kaiseki) is two or three tier priced menus. The higher priced courses typically use fancier/more rarer exquisite ingredients. What I would envision for Hayato is that once they are more established and can expand upon what they are doing now (which looks superb by the way), then this may be an option, and perhaps eventually those willing to live it up a little who want something even closer to the Japanese experience, would go for something like this. I guess it will depend on seasonal ingredients availability and cost, and how the business does in the long term (and whether LA as a whole beyond FTCers and the likes will understand and embrace what he is doing with more than just an open mind).

To complicate matters in the grand scheme of things, in Japanese there are two kanji terms, both representing “kaiseki” which us Americans and English speakers don’t have to deal with, but adds context to the matter, however they mean different things

In general when translating kaiseki into kanji Japanese it is 懐石料理

But it is also written as 会席料理

Both are kaiseki ryori, but there are actually differences. These terms you will find in Japanese food media, native listings, and even booking services in Japanese.

Historically 懐石料理 is drawn from the tea ceremony, and would refer to the food served before the actual main event (the tea ceremony). Side jab…this is why when Tempura Endo first opened that if you opted for the most expensive course, you would get a…drum roll please… tea ceremony towards the end which is quite laughable and inappropriate in a sarcastic way for representing the cuisine (even though Endo is Kansai/Kyoto style tempura). Anyways this form of kaiseki supposedly has the dashi mono / soup and rice served first.

会席料理 (this definition of kaiseki) is probably the one we are more familiar with and used a bit more often in Japanese sites for the higher end places (especially if involving officials hosting state dinners). 会席 also referring to banquet / gathering, where rice and soup are served at the end, and the meal is designed to go with alcohol all the way (and in doing so optimizing the entire experience). The extremely lavish and traditional would be no counter seating, and more typical of when you go to vacation “ryokan” with hot spring spas, and then finish it off with this kind of kaiseki.

And then we have modern interpretations of kaiseki. The rules are both rigid and loose with labels and definitions and perhaps even the serving order. Or one could chalk it up to the classic case of “rules are made to have exceptions”. If I look back at my meals at Ichita and Goryukubo, the start and end of the progression as described on wikipedia would be the same where I start with some sort of amuse and end with gohan mono/rice course and soup, but the flow of everything else in between is different.

Or better yet, next time someone goes to Hayato, ask Chef Go for his definitions of kappo vs kaiseki :slight_smile: or what he thinks about what I just said.


#44

To our palates, the Miyosakae actually tasted almost savoury. Plenty of body and not too sweet or floral, yet not dry. Hard to describe; I don’t know sake or its terminology very well. Chef Go had described it as having plenty of umami. We really liked it.


#45

Does that mean Japanese style, ie service included on top of any alcohol purchased and no additional gratuity accepted?


#46

Wow! I am definitely saving this helpful explanation to guide us on our next trip to Japan!


#47

We added on a bottle of sake to pair with dinner, and we tipped extra on top of the 16% percent. It was such a wonderful experience and a lovely meal, it was really hard not to give the Hayato team something extra.


#48

Would you mind providing a couple of examples of Kappo Izakaya in Tokyo? The concept sounds quite interesting and now I kind of want to try out next time I’m in Japan! Are the food items typically ordered a la carte or is it more of a menu as you might find in normal kaiseki?


#49

Have you tried it?


#50

@Chowseeker1999: one thing to keep in mind is that places like True Sake or any restaurant, as long as one has a business account, can access the wholesalers/distributors and buy sake at wholesale prices. Some sell by the bottle, and some want a minimum purchase (e.g. a case) Maybe not everyone has the same level of access to certain inventory, but the cost to such businesses are pretty much the same. True Sake is only a reference point where an option is to buy retail and pay corkage if it makes sense for the consumer, that if you were to buy and bring to a restaurant, whether it is as practical vs ordering a bottle from the restaurant (and it wouldn’t be the same bottle of course, but that gives you an idea). From there you can guess or gauge the markup. So Chef Go’s markup is super reasonable in relation, so in that regard his profit/net is higher than True Sake for a bottle but significantly less than the competition. It’s like Kinjiro deciding to charge $950 for Dassai Beyond, versus $1200 to $1600 at some other restaurants in SF, LA or NY, and True Sake retails for $750 (as a reference point it’s about $330 retail from a high end department store basement in Japan, and US wholesale could be close or nearing $400 as a best guess).

@CiaoBob: Yes to Goryu Kubo, loved it and I want to go again soon but getting expensive. Now I am contemplating Ishikawa…but unsure (although it should be very good). If you love soba, Goryu Kubo and Aoyama Ichita both have a soba course at the end, though I would probably give the edge to Ichita’s soba since Ichita san apprenticed at a Ginza soba restaurant prior to the kaiseki restaurant. 2 years ago when I visited GK there was a staff member who worked there part time and used to live in Palo Alto California who assisted with answering questions and sake. Prices have since gone up along with the cost of ingredients but I felt it blew away the 3 Michelin star Kichisen in terms of satisfaction level, as well as the top notch hospitality. Go during the fall/winter for a wider spread of seafood delicacies and if you can afford to splurge, go for the more expensive course (although the base looks great already). I should do a post with pictures from the meal 2 years ago of GK sometime.

@Bagel: look for Mark Robinson’s book “Izakaya”, he covers a couple examples where one of the restaurants is counter seating, looks super elegant (not yakitori, not typical izakaya casual atmosphere). In Shibuya, Kotaro would fit that bill, though less kaiseki looking and more small plates, but very high level. Not easy to book, but very good. Tadenoha looks interesting, counter seating and the chef grills fish in front of you where the charcoal looks like logs perched at a campfire or fireplace, and large metal skewers of salted fish are placed diagonally / angled above the flame. There are places that also have tables in addition to counters, I suppose those count as well (Kotaro has table seating). In terms of course offerings, that depends on the restaurant. Kotaro has a preview “omakase” which are the greatest hits of the menu (and not so interesting), but the a la carte and special items are written entirely in Japanese, so if you cannot read it’s a major challenge. I do not know about the others.


#51

thanks - I’m going to try it in October if concierge can arrange it. Looks wonderful.


#52

Hi @beefnoguy,

Thanks again for the great knowledge shared on the differences of kaiseki vs. kappo. :slight_smile: Very interesting.

I hope you get a chance to try Hayato on your next trip!


#53

Hi @beefnoguy,

Great point about True Sake and wholesale pricing. :slight_smile: Yah compared to the prices around town and in SF for certain Sake we’ve seen, Chef Go’s prices seemed very low and more than fair.

I can’t wait to try Goryu Kubo and Aoyama Ichita based on your enthusiastic endorsement. :slight_smile:


#54

There is already built-in gratuity when you get the final tab at Hayato (so yes, like Japan). But of course, if you as the diner felt that the team went above-and-beyond, you are still welcome to add more gratuity.


#55

In Kyoto (which I know is also on your itinerary), definitely try Takehisa, which fits squarely into the kappo izakaya category. It is near the Imperial Palace in Kyoto.

Sushi kappo is also great in Kyoto at Nakaichi, which is located in Gion, just east of Yasaka Shrine.


#56

Wow thanks for sharing! Those places look super interesting and appreciate the recommendations and knowledge! Totally adding both to my list for next time. Now if only flights to Tokyo would come back down…


#57

Fares to Tokyo/KIX are abnormally high (on United at least) currently. If you fly into Bangkok first, then NRT, fare can be 30%+ cheaper. Then you are “stuck” in BKK for at least a little while, terrible. :slight_smile:


#58

Better than 11 hours in Iceland.


#59

Polar opposites. Brrrrrrrr

Bangkok must be the antithesis of ICEland.


#60

Funny tangent: We were dogsledding in arctic Sweden a few years back. It was a beautiful, sunny, minus 40-degree day (but it’s a dry cold because even the humidity in the air freezes and turns to frost then), and we asked our local guide from Lappland how he can possibly not be wearing gloves and yet avoid frostbite. He calmly replied that, as a native to this region, he had been herding reindeer since childhood, and thus he’s used to these biting cold conditions. He added that he cannot imagine going to warmer climates.

We then got back to our hotel, where the guide’s buddy secretly whispers to us that our guide bolts for BKK any chance he gets - LOL.

Keepin’ it on the food: Reindeer meat can be gamey, but the lingonberry sauce really makes the dish delicious.