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CREATIVE CUSTOM LOCAL CUISINE & HISTORICAL RYOTEI CULTURE
For The Love of The Way of Tea / The Location
Kaga-ryori, Kanazawa's local cuisine, has developed uniquely over a long period of time. This local cuisine is a sort of culmination of Kanazawa history, culture, environment, and climate.
From the Edo to Meiji periods, the old trading route by the so-called Kitamaebune ships transported a large variety of goods to Kanazawa. Furthermore, fresh ingredients from the mountains and the ocean were easily brought here because of the city’s location. All of the culture in this region was influenced both by the West (Kyoto / Osaka) and the East (Tokyo) throughout its history. In addition, the feudal lords encouraged the Way of Tea from generation to generation. The third lord assembled capable people from all over the country to upgrade kaiseki-ryori (course meal that originated from the Way of Tea) and also crafts related to the meals. As a result, by the age of the fifth lord, the Way of Tea had spread not only to the samurai class, but also as far as the common folk. With the enhancement of specialized craft skills, a love for the Way of Tea, and locally-brewed alcohol, kaga-ryori was formed.
Jibuni (duck simmered in a broth and accompanied with vegetables) is the most well known dish in Kaga-ryori, for example. The origins of the dish are unclear. Some say the first lord Toshiie loved a similar duck dish served by Mitsunari Ishida from the Ohmi region. When he arrived back to Kanazawa, he ordered his chef to cook it for him.
Kutani-yaki Porcelain / Local Lacquer
As is stated above, you can hardly discuss Kaga-ryori without also considering the tableware made in this region, such as Kutaniyaki porcelain and local lacquer ware.
The first Kutaniyaki wares were produced in Kutanimura village of Kaga City in 1655. Fifty years later however, the kiln was mysteriously closed down, and the reason is unknown to this day. This porcelain is rich in variety. Kokutani-fu (literally old Kutani style) features the five colors of red, yellow, blue (or green), ultramarine, and purple. Yoshidaya-fu (Yoshida House style) uses all the colors except red, and thus is referred to as “Blue Kutani.” On the other hand, “Red Kutani” is a feature of Iidaya-fu (Iida House style), and Chinese people are depicted in the style known as Mokubei-fu (Mokubei Aoki style). Additionally, the blue-dot line style, called Ao-chibu, is the most popular with Westerners. This line of wares was created after the Meiji Restoration, as one of the Japan Kutani styles for export.
About lacquerware, Wajima, Kanazawa, and Yamanaka cities are the geographic bases for each brand. In the early Edo period, Wajima-nuri was already popular as a durable lacquerware all over Japan. Kanazawa-shikki features gorgeous designs, like gold inlay, to meet samurai tastes. Jitsugetsuwan, a well-known masterpiece, was created in Yamanaka by the eminent restaurateur Rosanjin Kitaoji, and the artisan Sekisai Tsuj. Now many replicas of the bowls are seen all over Japan.
Attendance / Dignity / Formality
As it presents a high-class image, many restaurants call themselves “ryotei.” Accordingly, people can become confused trying to tell which ones are authentic. Strictly speaking, a true ryotei should be registered with the Traditional Japanese Cuisine Restaurants Association. It should also have an established history, operate with a level of formality and dignity, and provide the opportunity to hire geisha from teahouses for their guests. Concerning Kanazawa’s ryotei, they belong to “Kanazawa Ryotei” which is organized by the Kanazawa Restaurant Association. Fundamentally, a ryotei has private rooms to entertain their guests individually. Some accept only one group per day meaning the whole restaurant is dedicated to one group.
Kaiseki-ryori meals in ryotei are coordinated by a top-level head chef in the city. The dishes utilize seasonal ingredients and look exquisite. The various culinary ideas will delight and surprise you. Each time the waitress serves a course, she will give you a description of the ingredients, the recipe, and how best to savor the dish. Let’s appreciate the presentation and appearance before eating! If you have any allergies, please inform them in advance! However, being too picky about ingredients without reason is not appropriate when visiting a ryotei. Please do not forget that they have selected the best ingredients in season just for you, so remember to be respectful of the experience.
Sukiya-Style / Well-Maintained / Dress Code
Many of Kanazawa’s ryotei still retain their classic, beautiful structures; this sukiya-style architecture is worth a visit just for itself. From traditional tatami style floors to a chic mixture of imported items that Western people feel familiar with, there are a variety of room styles and types. Glancing outside, one can view their well-maintained private gardens on-site; these are in the Japanese style, as one would expect. In addition, decorations throughout the interior follow a classic aesthetic: arranged flowers, pottery, hanging scrolls, and folding screens. Some of the decorations might even be considered masterpieces. Why not appreciate them before or after your meal?
Needless to say, there is an unspoken fashion rule to visit such high-class restaurants. Let’s at least keep “smart casual” in mind! Furthermore, wearing socks or stockings is an essential dress code in order to follow the “shoes-off” custom.
Traditional but creative, Kanazawa’s culinary culture has been historically maintained in these structures, so ryotei is the right place to try Kanazawa’s unique cuisine. We admit eating at a first-class ryotei is not an affordable everyday occurance, yet for special occasions, it is worth it to pay for such hospitality and quality. And once you have tried it, it’s likely you will choose it again.
The long-established ryokan Asada which opened in 1868 is the original. Sekitei has been open since 1964. They serve not only Kaiseki course meals but also shabu-shabu hot pot or set meals for lunch as well.
1-9-23, Hirosaka, Kanazawa (3-min walk from Kenrokuen)
Open: weekdays 11:30-14:30 / 17:00-22:00; weekends 11:30-22:00; open everyday
Phone: 076-231-2208 (Reservation required)
[Kaiseki Course Meals (17:00-22:00)]
• ¥10000 / ¥12000 / ¥15000 / ¥18000 *Prices per person. Tax not included.
[CREDIT CARDS] Most accepted