For Koen’s birthday, we decided to try Les Saveurs de Yamada, a Japanese restaurant specializing in Kaiseki Ryori. We had the pleasure of discovering kaiseki when we were in Kyoto in 2016 and were excited to discover we could experience it in Antwerp, as well!
The couple that runs the restaurant is so nice. We were able to talk a lot with one of the owners and she told us that her husband, the chef, is from Kyoto, which is why the restaurant specializes in Kaiseki Ryori. When having dinner at Les Saveurs de Yamada, you can choose from a menu of 5, 6, or 7 courses that are based on what’s seasonably available. There’s an amazing sake and tea selection as well to go along with your meal! It’s a small restaurant, so be sure to reserve ahead of time!
A couple of things to know about Kaiseki Ryori from Time Out:
- Kaiseki is best described as a traditional Japanese multi-course meal prepared by a chef with select seasonal ingredients.
- You might have heard that kaiseki is not only seasonal – it’s ultra-seasonal. There is hardly ever any set list of dishes; instead, chefs craft meals out of the ingredients that are in season at the time.
- The philosophy behind modern kaiseki is that of simplicity, humbleness and expertise. The chef is expected to conjure up dishes that allow the customer to enjoy the inherent flavour of the ingredients, and to encourage an appreciation of the moment. This includes the beauty and flavour of the dishes, one’s fellow diners and, of course, the chef himself (kaiseki chefs are still almost exclusively male).
We were at Les Saveurs de Yamada just after the New Year, so we could have a Osechi-Ryori, or the New Year’s Meal!
From Wikipedia, the New Year’s Bento:
- Daidai (橙), Japanese bitter orange. Daidai means “from generation to generation” when written in different kanji as 代々. Like kazunoko below, it symbolizes a wish for children in the New Year.
- Datemaki (伊達巻 or 伊達巻き), sweet rolled omelette mixed with fish paste or mashed shrimp. They symbolize a wish for many auspicious days. On auspicious days (晴れの日, hare-no-hi), Japanese people traditionally wear fine clothing as a part of enjoying themselves. One of the meanings associated with the second kanji includes “fashionability,” derived from the illustrious dress of the samurai from Date Han.
- Kamaboko (蒲鉾), broiled fish cake. Traditionally, slices of red and white kamaboko are alternated in rows or arranged in a pattern. The color and shape are reminiscent of Japan rising sun, and have a celebratory, festive meaning.
- Kazunoko (数の子), herring roe. Kazu means “number” and ko means “child.” It symbolizes a wish to be gifted with numerous children in the New Year.
- Konbu (昆布), a kind of seaweed. It is associated with the word yorokobu, meaning “joy.”
- Kuro-mame (黒豆), black soybeans. Mame also means “health,” symbolizing a wish for health in the New Year.
- Kohaku-namasu (紅白なます), literally “red-white vegetable kuai,” is made of daikon and carrot cut into thin strips and pickled in sweetened vinegar with yuzu flavor.
- Tazukuri (田作り), dried sardines cooked in soy sauce. The literal meaning of the kanji in tazukuri is “rice paddy maker,” as the fish were used historically to fertilize rice fields. The symbolism is of an abundant harvest.
- Nishiki tamago (錦卵/二色玉子), egg roulade; the egg is separated before cooking, yellow symbolizing gold, and white symbolizing silver, both of these together symbolising wealth and good fortune.