The specialised cuisine served at Kyoto's famed Kikunoi restaurant is a feast for the eyes as well as the palate, and Kaiseki, by owner/chef Yoshihiro Murata, is at once a cookbook and a work of art. This sumptuously illustrated volume features, in seasonal format, the style of cooking that began as tea ceremony accompaniment and developed into the highest form of Japanese cookery.
Kaiseki celebrates the natural ingredients of each season with a spectacular presentation. After a front section explaining the history and components of Kaiseki's cuisine, Murata introduces his establishment's impressive menu.
Approximately 20 dishes from each season, chosen by Chef Murata, have been lovingly and carefully photographed to convey the experience of being an honoured guest at his restaurant.
At first glance, it would appear this is not a book for cooks or chefs, since it contains no real recipes amongst all of the stunning colour photographs. It's a book for the culinary philosophers... It's inspiration... it's appreciation... it's a reference book... it's not at all what I expected... it's ART.
However, upon completeing the mouth-watering read of the 150+ pages of food philosophy, complimented with some stunning scenery shots of Japanese scenery and culture, as well as some slighty disturbing images of the food in it's 'natural state', you find all the recipes tucked away in black and white at the back of the book, 25 pages worth, sandwiched in between the bulk of the book and the comprehensive glossary and index.
Though I admit to being a little disappointed with sterile nature of the instructions on how to prepare some of the dishes, particularly July's Buta Kaku-ni (Simmered Pork Cubes), because they were tucked away in the back, away from the inspiring photos and crammed in with all the others, I admit that including them up front would have required removing some of the more beautiful 'mood' pictures that make the majority of the book a work of art in and of itself.
Overall, despite the jarring layout that mildly offends my Western design esthetics, I have to say this is a kingly book amongst books when it comes to expressing some of the Eastern culture ideals relating to food. This is no generic cookbook, with it's structured recipes sterile commentary... this book brings new life to the food, giving you the background, the heart and soul of the creator, it brings you the environment, and thus context of the food. I especially loved the way the book was arranged by seasons, highlighting how the ingredients wax and wane throughout the year. Absolutely stunning stuff, worth a place on any gourmand's bookshelf. it's just a crying shame I don't fancy much in the way of Japanese food, or I'd personally have found it more appealing.
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