Expanding your imagination of the space is fun and is considered to be "a feast"
n the previous feature, I talked about magical power of dishes that can take you to go beyond time, space, and distance with your imagination. I always try to do something that will touch to the other person's feelings and assist to inspire his/her imagination?
The basic manner of Cha-kaiseki (a course meal offered before tea ceremony) is that the host must always consider the guests. The host should create a tea ceremony venue by not forcing his/her values but by reflecting on those of the guests.
Please imagine that you were invited a tea ceremony party one day in fall.
First, Cha-kaiseki was served at a dim room. Next, it was time for having a weak powdered green tea. The dim room became instantly bright after opening the windows. A beautiful hanging scroll was on the alcove.
The main confectionary served before the tea was Joyo Manju, which had a vermillion line like water flow on the white bun. When you ask about Omei (the confectionary name derived from waka and haiku poems), the host responded, "Tatsuta River". Then, all of a sudden, fall leaves scattered in the Tatsuta River appeared in front of you. If this tea party is hosted by Omotesenke (a school of Japanese tea ceremony) and the tea is served in a Raku-ware tea bowl, don't you feel like you were surrounded by fall leaves in a mountain?
It is often said that you can see the universe just in a four-and-one-half tatami mat room. Which flavor that dish on the Cha-kaiseki course meal offers is not important. Of course, the course meal should be delicious. You will appreciate the course meal not by its flavor but by expanding your imagination of the space. This is considered to be the best feast and is derived from Japanese sensibilities and culture.
Ryoutei are a living museum, offering exciting space.
I always think of Ryotei as a living museum. I want my guests to enjoy various things offered in a Ryotei, such as arrangements, dishware, and dishes, like visiting a museum.
For example, when looking at a bowl in a Ryotei, yellow and red fall leaves were depicted on the entire bowl by using Maki-e technique (lacquer technique used gold or silver powder as a decoration). The bowl itself looks very gorgeous and beautiful but you will just feel "It was fabulous Maki-e".
Instead of simply appreciating its beautiful appearance, although the exterior of the bowl was colored in jet-black, if you open its lid, you will see a single leaf depicted like one stroke on the back of the lid as if it were changing its color from yellow to red. "Wow, it looks stylish and offers good taste." It doesn't look too lavish. So, you will feel "You saw something very valuable." This impression will forever stay in your mind. This is exactly something a living museum can offer.
I always keep this in my mind when preparing dishes for my guests. I carefully consider the whole preparations from the room arrangements including selecting a hanging scroll and flower, and burning incense, to cooking including selecting ingredients, menu, dishware, and food temperature, and food serving timing. I do my best to make my preparations perfect for my guests. I think such preparations are a little similar to those of a museum curator like selecting an exhibition theme and artworks.
Enjoying the throughout space is exactly to appreciate Washoku with your five senses.
In the first feature, I talked about importance of the establishment and history of each Ryotei that has been operating from generation to generation. Ryotei's history intensely appears its architecture and interior as well as the dishes that the Ryotei offers.
Since our Ryotei used to serve a samurai family, the entire house was built in the Shoin-zukuri (a style of Japanese residential architecture). Ryotei with a deep relationship with tea ceremony were built in the Sukiya-zukuri. Ryotei used for a villa were built in Goten-zukuri. Speaking of pillars used in Ryotei, square and round pillars are used for the Shoin- and Sukiya-zukuri respectively. If you closely look into the details of Ryotei's interior, you will enjoy their creativity and originality such as Karakami paper and knobs of the wood-framed sliding doors, and transoms. You can double your enjoyment if you learn about Japanese-style architecture and interior a little before vising a Ryotei.
Only after you enjoy fragrances and textures of dishes first, and then their colors and shapes, and dishware used for the dishes, and finally the space when they are served, you can fully appreciate Washoku with your five senses.
Please enjoy the details of preparations for the dishes and arrangements for the space as well as the dishes themselves from now on. You can get double satisfaction by eating delicious food and seeing valuable things. That makes us more pleasure than anything else.
■ Kikunoi (main restaurant)
459 Shimokawara-cho, Yasakatoriimae-sagaru,
Shimokawara-dori, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto