Best kaiseki in Los Angeles
Need to take visitors to an excellent kaiseki restaurant in Los Angeles. Does anyone have any sugguestions?
re: Professor Salt
Professor: thank you for the link and clarification. However, you neglected to make a recommendation about a good kaiseki restaurant. Can I deduce that you don't think one exists in Los Angeles? That is certainly fine, if it is the case. Do you agree/disagree with any of the other mentions on this posted topic?
Kaiseki ryori isn't an aspect of Japanese cusisine that particuarly interests me, so it's in my blind spot. They are out there, but 1) I haven't paid much attention and 2) I'm skeptical about how hard line traditional they can be given the compromise for locally sourced ingredients I discuss in the link above.
The only kaiseki ryori I've had was in Japan (on expense account). Have never tried it stateside, so can't relate any personal experiences here. I was aware of the Newport Beach place that ks mentions below, but never tried it.
Next time I pore through the Japanese language publications like Bridge or Lighthouse (you'll find those at Mitsuwa, or restaurants where Japanese expats congregate) I'll see if any advertise in them. You might also ask Japanese chefs at the more hardcore sushi places when you have some face time with them. Good luck on your adventure.
I don't want to be pedantic, but just in case it matters to your guests, how are you defining kaiseki?
When I had a kaiseki meal in Kyoto it was a formal, seasonal 6-7 course meal with each course featuring a different preparation style: raw, grilled, boiled, fried, etc. We never saw the chef, had a private room, etc, etc. When I hear Urusawa referred to as kaiseki I'm a little confused because I think his is so much more with the large number of courses and sushi preparations. I understand that he refers to it as such himself, but I don't get it. I would looooove to check it out myself and discuss this with him in person! I'm sure it is an amazing dining experience.
That said, the more strict definition of kaiseki doesn't seem to be that common here, if available at all. Here's a link to a chowhound post that is the closest I've heard to the type of kaiseki I ate, but it's in Newport Beach:
re: ks in la
I was fortunate enough to experience a cha kaiseki meal in Kyoto as well. In our own private tea room - one of a handful that were placed strategically throughout a vast garden where each tea room had a wonderful view yet none of each other - was and still is the most memorable dining experience I have personally encountered. The rituals, the incredible preparation, attention to detail, and flawless presentations of the small yet perfect dishes that consisted of the best ingredients in season at that time. Is there anywhere like this in or around LA? I would guess that the price for such a memorable experience around here would make Urasawa's seem very reasonable.
ks in la and bulavinaka are right in that kaiseki involves all the senses, and not just a parade of courses eaten in a normal restaurant. Having eaten kaiseki in Tokyo, Osaka & Kanazawa, everything from the shodo scroll hung on the tokonoma to the hundred yr old yakimono dishware is chosen with care to reflect the seasons and whatever theme the chef/proprietor has in mind. So, strictly speaking, traditional kaiseki can't be replicated here in the States, except maybe in a bed & breakfast or private chef's home? And no kaiseki will offer 30+ courses, unless it's an Americanized home-style buffet version!
I got this off the Thousand Cranes (in the New Otani) web page and it's pretty close to my experience with kaiseki in Japan:
Shiizakana (Appetizers eaten with sake)
Mukouzuke (Mainly sashimi)
Kuchitori (Side dish)
Nimono (Simmered dish)
Aemono (Dishes dressed with sauce)
Hassun (Morsels from the mountains and the sea)
Sunomono (Vinegared dish)
Yakimono (Broiled fish)
Mushimono (Steamed dish)
Nabemono (Pot dish)
Dessert (eg. Ice cream or Fruit!)
I've eaten at Thousand Cranes and the food is above average, but not the freshest nor the most daring; so I can't recommend it unless you really need to have a garden setting. If I had the $$$ and needed to impress guests, I would rent out the Japanese Garden Tea House on Woodley and hire a private caterer to create an authentic kaiseki experience!
The kaiseki at TC is amazing. I absolutely love it. Each item is prepared beautifully and everything is scrumptious. The setting is beautiful, and I'm not just saying that because I got married in the garden last year!
This isn't the kaiseki, but it does give you an idea about the tenshin sampler lunch:
Somewhere I have photos of the actual kaiseki, but I can't find them right now.
Interesting that this topic comes up now, just as the Chow-Spouse asks "Does anybody in California do that multi-course seasonal formal dinner we had in Japan?".
A qucik check of posts, and the Japanese restaurant pages, convinces me that Kappo Ishita, (which "Japanese Restaurant Nav" says "uses only flesh ingredients"! )Kappo Seafood in Torrance, Thousand Cranes (I'm guessing likely to be REALLY pricey; it's not just in a hotel, it's in a JAPANESE hotel!) and the place in Newport may be it for so cal; one place in San Francisco (with downhill alerts all over) and a newer place in Menlo Park, of all places, may be mostly it for no cal.
boycotting avatars, at least until they get the searches to work!
I don't really know if I know what traditional kaiseki is, but there is an amazing restaurant in West LA called Wakasan. On Westwood between Olympic and Santa Monica. It is very small and rustic. About 8 tables. You sit down and order drinks and they serve about 8-12 small seasonal courses. They call it omakase, but it is not sushi (maybe one or two sashimi dishes are served) and it is a set price (only $35 per person). It's always different. It may not be kaiseki as it is in Japan, but from what I have read about kaiseki, it sure sounds like it. Either way, it is a great restaurant and for what you get, it is SO reasonable. Also, I don't eat read meat and they always accommodate me. I've never been to Japan, but my feeling is that this place is very traditional (when we go we are always the only non Japanese people there).
I haven't found truly outstanding Kaiseki that rivals Japan in L.A. yet, but 3 restaurants in So Cal that I've tried that have Kaiseki meals are:
2. Kappo Hana
3. Kappo Seafood - disappointing
I've been to some kaiseki served in Japanese ryonkans. They were absolutely breath taking. Unfortunately, none of the staff spoke English, my friend and I could not quit understand all the food that we ate. Nevertheless, they were excellent cultural experience. The first one was in Imanohashidate (one of the best three views in Japan) in Kyoto prefecture, second one in Niigata (can't remember the name of the ryokan), third one is in Shiretoko Grand Hotel in Kita Kobushi, most Northeast Hokkaido prefecture. All ryokans had their own onsen, hot spring. Yes, my personal experience told me that , althought I had no idea what Kaiseki meant prior to visit Japan, it used only the local seasonal ingridient. Four of us, including a very timid Japanese friend who had trouble to translate the food item into English, recognized 80% of the food. I recalled having raw whale meet in Shiretoko, and it was rather fishy. But the dining experience while wearing your own Japanese Yokata was absolutely unforgetable.
I have no idea where can I find a good Kaiseki in L.A, but if anyone interested to find out the definition and varieties of kaiseki, try wikipedia that explains fairly well...Good luck in hunting one of them.