Ichiro’s Kaiseki Experience
Being a chef seems like a destined path for Hoshinoya Kyoto Executive Chef Ichiro Kubota. His father was head chef at one of the most renowned restaurants in Kyoto’s Gion district. His grandparents loved to cook and eat, and often took young Ichiro on food adventures.
“Of course there is an influence from my father. I’m looking after him and I’m always together with him. I look at him cooking. Aside from his influence, my grandfather from my mother’s side also influenced me. He is a dentist; in my mother’s family, everybody is a dentist. It is a compeletely different world. My grandfather loved to cook and to eat; whenever I went to his place, he’d always take me to a different kind of restaurant.”
When he was 4 years old, Ichiro was once taken to a French restaurant named Rose Room located in the Hiroshima Grand Hotel by his grandfather. He was captivated by the dynamic, graceful way in which the chefs prepared the meals. The memory of eating Pottage Soup stuck with him, leading him to become one of the most influential chefs of his generation.
Ichiro began his training under the supervision of his father and top Osaka establishments before heading abroad. He landed a gig in Corsica, where he learned a great deal of Mediterranean cooking. Soon after that, he was on his way to France and was discovered by restaurateur Marlon Abela to lead Umu in London, which opened in 2004. At the age of 31, five months after UMU’s opening, Kubota earned his first Michelin star.
After honing his skills abroad, Ichiro bounced back to Kyoto and was tasked with creating a unique yet traditional dish that reflected a kaiseki experience: an intricate, multicourse meal which is a specialty of Kyoto dining. Ichiro created a set of foods that paid tribute to the weather and Kyoto’s traditions.
“Japanese cuisine is inspired by its seasons. There is an ideology about each season. In spring we enjoy the bitterness, in summer we enjoy the coolness, in autumn, we enjoy the aroma, in winter, we enjoy the warmth. Japanese cuisine is also created by two kinds of categories: culture and history. Each month we have a ritual ceremony according to Buddhism and Shintoism. Thus, I have to search for the ingredients which belong to the ritual ceremony.”
The result is a festive set of menu items consisting of green sprouts, bamboo shoots, fresh seafood, chicken and beef. The most interesting dish created is the hassun – an assorted seasonal amuse bouche. It is a plate of seven small dishes consisting of all the elements of mountains, lakes and rivers.
These dishes require dozens of seasonal ingredients and Ichiro had to go to great lengths to create the dishes as he didn’t want to use the same ingredients as he did last year. For him, kaiseki should be rich, yet satisfying to enjoy.
11-2 Arashiyama Genrokuzancho
Nishikyo Ward, Kyoto
Kyoto Prefecture 616-0007, Japan
T: +81 570-073- 066
Photograps by: Hoshinoya Kyoto