Sunday, November 15, 2015

Japan 2015 - Zeniya: The Pinnacle of Elegance

After our wonderful meal at Beniya, we moved from the sublime to the even more sublime and dined at Zeniya, one of the best restaurants in Japan. This restaurant features "ishoku dogen," which means food that not only nourishes but heals. But this is not a health food restaurant.

In the restaurant's own words: "The pinnacle of Japanese cuisine is a collaboration between the content and the container. At Zeniya, Chef Shinichiro Takagi supervises every ingredient and detail of decor. From every dish and vessel to every flower, making each creation a perfect instant of harmony." As you can see, they were successful: a series of magnificent creations surely produced a feast for all the senses.

The meal started with a beautiful consomme with specks of shiso and a handful of trout eggs (this, arguably, was health food),

Consomme at Zeniya
and a little vegetable dish (note the seasonal chrysanthemum leaves) with a clear broth with matsutake mushrooms and a green vegetable on the side,

Vegetable dish with clear broth at Zeniya
followed by a sashimi dish,

and then, the pièce de résistence, a plate containing a "chestnut," but not an ordinary chestnut: here a boiled small chestnut is pierced by grilled soba noodles to simulate a cracked open unshelled chestnut. This was not just a virtuoso performance (the chef said it takes 15-30 minutes to make each one) but also delicious, mixing the earthy taste of roasted buckwheat noodles with the creamy sweet taste of the kernel of the chestnut. Accompanying the chestnut, and equally beautiful, was a tiny cherry tomato flavor bomb inside the skeleton of a Chinese lantern. The presentation was completed with two autumnal colored leaves and a shrimp and seasonal vegetable plate. For me, this course, and especially the chestnut, was the culinary highlight of the entire tour.

Autumn on a magnificent plate at Zeniya
After this, the orange, the green and seasonal theme continued with a pairing of a grilled shiitake mushroom and an amazingly orange organic medium-boiled egg, followed by a beef course in a bowl reflecting the orange and green and maple leaf themes.

Mushroom and meat dishes at Zeniya
Finally, miso soup and rice and pickles, but not the normal steamed rice: this rice was made with impossibly fine slices of scallion and generous slices of fried fish and mushrooms, making it extraordinary in its own right.

Rice, pickles and miso soup at Zeniya
This kind of meal is not for everyday, and I must admit that it was not the favorite meal of all members of the tour from the standpoint of taste.

But it is impossible not to be dazzled by the intellectual content, execution, taste and overall beauty of this gastronomic experience.

Bobby Jay

No comments: