Kaiseki is a style of traditional Japanese cuisine in which a multi-course series of small intricate dishes are prepared. It showcases the skill and technique of the chef and is similar to that of western haute cuisine. It represents the very finest of what the art of Japanese cooking has to offer, and goes back as far as the 16th century from Kyoto Japan.
Kaiseki Yu-zen Hashimoto has been the prominent Kaiseki restaurant in Toronto since 1999, by Chef Masaki Hashimoto and his family. It has always been one of my bucket list restaurants. It moved to the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre in 2009 and has always been rated highly by critics, and was noted for being Toronto’s most expensive restaurant.
I finally had the opportunity to go with some other fanatic, foodie friends. With only three tables, we received a private dinner all to ourselves. Located at six Garamond Court in the Don Mills and Eglinton area. It is a serene, peaceful oasis, where you are welcomed and treated like honoured guests.
The decor is crafted in beautiful detail, with reeds, rice paper lanterns, fans, and Amari dishes as accents.
There is no menu, but you are in for a treat with an elaborate, intricately prepared 8-9 course meal, that ends with a Japanese tea ceremony. All of the ingredients are flown in from Japan, and the serving pieces and utensils, as well. The chef’s son, Kei served the meal in the most elegant and formal way. He explains where every dish comes from, how it is grown, and he even describes the exquisite dishes and hand-carved boxes we are eating from. Each time he left us to enjoy our sake and food he would walk backward and bow when exiting the room.
From artistically carved vegetables, to the finest uni and the freshest and best quality sashimi, we got to enjoy an evening of very fine and precious cuisine. The meal took over four hours, and then we retired to another room, where we removed our shoes and sat on tatami mats and watched Kei present us with a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, involving a ceremonial preparation with matcha tea imported from Kyoto. It was served with a traditional Japanese sweet to balance the bitter taste of the tea.
We all received a gift from the chef when he came out to greet us at the end.
This meal was very pricey and is really more for a very special occasion. However, it is cheaper than a flight to Japan to experience a culinary expression of art, with meticulous preparation and beautiful presentations. It is probably the best Kaiseki in the country, and I have it from a reliable source, who travels often to Japan, that it is comparable to a Kaiseki meal there. The chef’s food is a reflection of the season and he will not duplicate a meal if you return. It was a unique and extraordinary experience.