Kyokaiseki Hachisen is a couple’s long pursuit for the ultimate kaiseki experience. From exquisite seasonal recipes to subtle details like hand-picked flowers, Masayoshi Amano and his wife have enchanted guests with their warm hospitality for thirty years. Curated by the chef who is also a Zen priest, the special shojin menu in August is a meal not to be missed.
Established in 1987, the beloved restaurant is found in a quiet residential neighborhood of Nekogahoratori on the east end of Nagoya. The sight of the entrance alone reveals their sophisticated aesthetics. The large blue noren that hangs over the door is a traditional weave, featuring a beautiful geometric pattern. The round brown vase holds a picturesque arrangement of wild flowers and tall leaves, picked in the nearby woods by the couple.
Inside, a row of small tables are set neatly across the wall. The smooth black counter across seats just five guests. The couple says the restaurant is small enough for them to make sure they watch over every guest. The quiet chef and the attentive wife work in perfect harmony in creating an inviting and relaxing atmosphere.
Hachisen takes its name from Heihachi Tea House Inn and three-starred Kichisen, the two top Kyoto establishments where Amano trained before opening his own restaurant. The characters are a symbol of his great appreciation for the experiences that have become the foundations of his culinary career.
The Hachisen cuisine is based on the “art of subtraction,” the chef explains. The idea is not to overwork on the ingredients or add unnecessary elements but focus on bringing out the pure flavor of the food. Despite the minimalistic approach, every dish is deep and complex in flavor and astonishing to look at. The presentation, including the selection of tableware, is an important part of the equation in unleashing the potential of the dish.
Amano is also a Zen priest, trained at Manpukuji temple in Kyoto. As head temple of the Obaku school, the temple has a distinctly Ming Chinese influence that sets it apart from other temples and is evident in its unique architecture, rituals and of course, cuisine. To share his Buddhist learnings, the chef curates a special shojin meal during the month of August. Specifically, the style is called Fucha, which means having tea with the broad public.
"Art of subtraction”
The seasonal menu flows through the traditional style, beginning with small appetizers, followed by a plate of sashimi, a steamed dish, grills, deep fries, seasonal flavors and vinegared salad. Interestingly, the soup, typically served early in the meal, is served towards the end, just before the rice dish.
Every dish at Hachisen is a true work of art. Served in a delicate kiriko glass oval bowl is a trio of seasonal delicacies; steamed abalone topped with a little morsel of fresh wasabi, a transparent jelly square with chrysanthemums petals, and slices of jade sweet eggplant sprinkled with roasted kinome herb.
The plate of hassun is a celebration of seasonal produce. The black lacquer plate, decorated with paintings of golden leaves, is packed with little colorful bites. The day’s assortment includes a nigiri of soy-marinated tuna, sweet black beans, honey-glazed chestnuts, fresh ginger, Japanese Spanish mackerel, grilled squid glazed with egg yolk, gingko nuts, fried pike conger bones and water dropwort and carrot salad tossed in a white sesame sauce.
Served right off the stove is a bowl of steamed chestnut dumpling, glazed with kuzu gravy. The dumplings are rich and creamy as it also uses mochi rice, azuki beans and wood ear mushrooms. The plate is the work of a local artist, Tosai Yamada.
The soup, a reflection of the chef’s skills, is all about the season. Pieces of wild kuruma prawns, matsutake mushrooms and sesame tofu are bathing in the clear warm broth, infused with umami of bonito and kombu dashi. On top is a piece of green yuzu citrus that is cut in the shape of thin pine leaves.
The rice, cooked using a traditional method in a donabe pot, is infused with seasonal ingredients like snapper, matsutake mushroom, sweet fish and pike conger. The “Hagi” rice mixes ginkgo nuts and azuki beans, a perfect winter flavor.
Amano sources the highest quality ingredients from across Japan. The matsutake mushroom comes from a grower in Iida in Nagano Prefecture, a famous region for the fall delicacy. While the menu at Hachisen is made up of mostly fish and vegetables if the guest desires, he is happy to prepare some meat dishes. The drinks menu is selective yet diverse, with a collection of beer, sake, shochu and wine. Among their top sake picks is Koyuru, a vintage bottle from the local Nakano Sake Brewery. Kuheji is another Nagoya favorite.
For over thirty years, the couple has a routine to go into the nearby woods to pick beautiful wild flowers, which they bring back to display at the restaurant. They go on these walks at least once or twice a week so the flowers are so fresh and vivid. Rather than buying flowers from a store, they feel that it’s more meaningful to pick the flowers themselves as a way to show their welcome to the guests. They love finding rare species like red-tinted Japanese silver grass and sharing stories about their walks.
- The price includes our booking fee of ￥8,000
- The price includes our booking fee of ￥8,000