In addition to well-known examples such as tempura, yōshoku is a self-reflexive optic of a Japanese observing himself cooking Western dishes. I have thus far had only mild interest in Western-influenced restaurants in Japan, until I visited a few ingredient-driven temples over the past 12 months: Kawamura, the 7-seat counter restaurant specializing in wagyu and abalone; Comptoir Feu, a creative kappo restaurant in Osaka; and CHIUnE, which references other cuisines such as Piemonte for its consommé and China for its sublime shaoxing ice cream. Technically, the latter two restaurants are not yōshoku per se, as they do not rehearse the staples of the repertoire (hamburg steak, curry rice, et al.), whereas Kawamura san mainly cooks within these parameters. Normally yōshoku as a genre does not prioritize the ingredient foremost but rather the established codes of the dish. Kawamura is thus an exception in sourcing premium ingredients for the familiar repertoire. Gastroville former contributor Mikael Jonnson was among the first to expose the qualities of Kawamura’s wagyu to the anglophone world. It bears adding to Mikael’s account that Kawamura is probably the highest elevation of a yōshoku restaurant.
The high-end cuisine in most of the German speaking parts of Europe very often lacks a unique flair and identity. This is a bold statement to make and a harsh analysis, too. Having lived in the German speaking hemisphere since my birth, I’ve eaten at many gastronomic restaurants, few were able to deliver excellence. A recent meal at Werneckhof by Geisel in Munich, where the superbly talented Tohru Nakamura, who trained at the three-starred restaurants Oud Sluis, Ishikawa in Tokyo and Vendôme, is in charge of the kitchen, showed great potential.
With pronouncements vouching for Michelin’s “unrivaled integrity, independence, and expertise”, the Director of Visit California was apparently unaware of, wasn’t in a position to know about, or chose to ignore, events in Michelin’s recent history that created the transformation of the Michelin Guides from an unbiased source of rectitude, inscrutability, deliberateness, and discretion to one that has refashioned itself in the digital age by engaging in commercial ventures and activities as the sales of its guidebooks have fallen.
The term “Nouvelle Cuisine” is not as new as one might think. Marin codified 18th-century French cuisine, while Menon (pseudonym) vulgarized it, but in return helped to create a broader base. Generations of cooks learned from no less than 200 years ago by studying the “Cuisinière Bourgeoise”, first published in 1746. Both chefs, Marin and Menon, created a founding legend of cooking styles with the catchy formula “Nouvelle Cuisine”, which subsequent generations of chefs would use to promote and market their own style. Throughout the centuries, cookbook authors have judged the “old cooking” of their direct predecessors as “gothic,” “complicated,” and “heavy.”