Japanese food is deceptively simple. Especially at its highest levels, a dish can look to have barely any ingredients at all and still be a masterpiece that took the skill, care and ingenuity that few other cuisines demand.
Katsuhiro Tamura, Head Chef, Kazahana in Tokyo shows his craft to WEALTH Arabia very carefully.
“It’s all about the pairing of each ingredient. I have more than 10 kinds of soy sauce. I can explain it in a simple way—potato and ketchup match, so Japanese ingredients must be matched as well. We have the freshest seasonal vegetables, and we have to find the right soy sauce match for each ingredient,” Tamura says.
Tamura began as a chef in the mid 1990s at a very young age—inspired by seeing Top Chef, of all things, before it was a sensation internationally. While now, still under the age of 40, he is one of the youngest head chefs in all of Japan, as it is, traditionally speaking, a job that often goes to the most experienced, he has still seen Japanese cuisine evolve.
What Japanese should be is traditional—basic ideas, basic technique, and basic ingredients. But Japanese people have experienced a lot of international ideas, so I’ve been inspired by a lot of new things, and thought how I could develop that in concert with traditional ideas and recent Western trends and tastes. I am always trying to progressively improve Japanese cuisine, not only for the Japanese, but globally.
“In the early 2000s, the trend in Japan was have more Western influence. The fusion style became very popular. That trend has been changing, however. Now things are back to more simplicity. It’s not only the idea of food, but also the people’s idea in general. At the moment, people’s minds are evolving, and are back to simplicity in life. That has affected our food,” says Tazehana.
“Tokyo is especially evolving fast. I am in Tokyo because it is on the cutting edge of everything—including Japanese food. I have a lot of inspiration not only from visiting other restaurants but everywhere—art and music too. That kind of information I take, and I translate into cuisine,” says Tazehana.
Each of the dishes he serves me, he explains, has been carefully conceived and constructed based on the season.
“It all about how I can express the four seasons in Japan. This is not only with ingredients, but also in the cutlery and fine china that I use,” says Tazehana.
While he does try to stay as traditional as possible, he realises that Tokyo is an international city full of tourists—something he caters to, rather than resists.
“I want guests from all over the world to enjoy Japanese cuisine. That is why I include popular items on the menu such as sushi and sukiyaki with wagyu beef, which are prepared through the lens of my style.”