This Japanese restaurant in Kitakyushu, northern Kyushu peninsula, educates you about Japanese traditions and cultures. Chef Shozo Matsuyama sources primarily local ingredients and presents them with his unique style. The dishes portray not only the aesthetics of the seasons, but also the unique intricacies and deep meaning of Japanese food culture.
Chef Matsuyama dedicates himself to providing warm hospitality and care for guests, and Oryori Matsuyama has gained a dedicated group of regulars and emphatic fans.
The restaurant opened in 2011, closed briefly, then reopened in 2019 after renovations. The Michelin Guide attests to its greatness by giving the restaurant one star both in 2014 and 2019.
The first thing that will catch your eye upon arriving at the restaurant is the modern masonry exterior. As you step inside, you will notice stones called Shikoku Aoishi, famous for bringing luck, that create a unique ambiance. The interior is very simple, but you can tell the chef has a great taste in design and decor. The wood chairs are made by a furniture artisan in Fukuoka. The walls, visible from the counter, and the hot station where he prepares food in earthenware pots reflect Kitakyushu’s history as a coal mining town.
He only entertains six people daily, which means the counter has only six seats. There is a private room, but it is used as a waiting room. The room has a gorgeous floor made of chestnut wood, curved with a unique technique called a spoon cut. The dark wall and the lightning are also unique in the private room, which gives you a feeling of being transported to outer space.
The drink coaster set on the counter is made by Masato Kinoshita, a popular artist who works with kumiki (wooden interlocking art), famous for designing the interior of the luxury cruise train Seven Stars. The chopsticks are Rikyu style, made with Red Cider Wood (Yoshino Sugi). You will want to note the glassware of Old Baccarat and Saint Louis, Kyoyaki ware, Imari ware, and Bizen ware. The counter displays the complete collection of a series of cat figurines by Baccarat, each one unique, and each one sent by one of his regular customers.
Cuisine that explains culture
The cuisine of Chef Matsuyama is seasonally oriented, and the courses change every month. For example in February, the menu starts with daikon radish with shiro miso as a warm appetizer. Then moves to the first rice dish, then a crab soup, sashimi dishes, hassun, Chateaubriand (finished on a charcoal grill after a three hour sous vide bath at 57℃), spring shoots salad, fried bamboo shoots, and the second rice dish and soup. The menu finishes with a seasonal dessert, which this time is strawberry mochi made a la minute in front of you.
For the first daikon dish, the variety of Daikon used is Aokubi Daikon, which Kitakyushu is famous for producing. An example sashimi dish in February is wild-caught local hirame, which Chef aged for about two days. It is presented rolled like a camellia flower, garnished with Miyazaki’s red finger lime in the center, and served on a camellia-pattern Kyoyaki ware dish.
The vessel used for arranging hassun was specially ordered by Chef Matsuyama. The theme is the Setsubun Festival, which is held at the end of winter and is celebrated by people praying for happiness by tossing beans and yelling, “Fortune in! Evil out!”. The “Oni”, devil, is drawn on the outside of the vessel. All of this culture is packed and shown on the plate, and Chef is happy to explain why people decorate entrances with sardines and spiky holly leaves on the day of the festival.
The rice is cooked in an earthenware pot made by Kumoi-gama, a kiln famous for producing Shigaraki ware. The pot is called Yume Sansai, which is glazed with three colors. The last rice dish is served with irresistible condiments that you must try, even if you are full: red-wine simmered wagyu fillets, two-hour soy sauce marinated egg yolks, house-made chirimen-jako (tiny dried sardines), and cabbage pickles. This cabbage is called Wakamatsu Shiokaze Kyabetsu, which is locally grown and is exposed to the salty ocean breezes. The rich flavor and natural sweetness are superb, and he often uses it as an ingredient in the soup, too.
Chef Matsuyama usually does not serve tempura, sushi, or unagi on his menus, unless there is a specific reason to do so. He believes those items require a high degree of specialty to prepare properly. But the bamboo shoot dish in February was one of those exceptions, because he found that deep-frying highlighted the freshness of the local bamboo shoots best. Therefore, he deep fries them by coating with kudzu starch.
Chef personally selects the sakes that provide the best balance to his cuisine, and the pairings present 10 to 12 kinds of sake.
Chef Matsuyama uses the local ingredients of Kitakyushu, and features them prominently on his menu, which is approximately 60 percent local. Each dish contains at least one local ingredient.
He prefers a variety of rice called Genki Tsukushi which is also locally grown. The grain is relatively large, and the rice has a pleasant “sticky” texture and retains its flavor even when cooled. He also prefers to use locally caught seafood, such as that from Kanmon Straits.
His favorite turnip, a local red turnip, is grown using the slash-and burn agriculture method that results in turnips high in umami─glutamic acid. Wakamatsu Shiokaze Kyabetsu is the special cabbage grown by using oyster shells and sea water. The eggs are super fresh, pasture raised in Fukuoka. He strives to use local vegetables such as Aokubi Daikon, tomatoes, and Chinese cabbages, and he ensures the high quality by visiting those local farmers in person.
The first reason Chef Matsuyama uses primarily local ingredients at his
restaurant is because they taste fresh. He thinks it is natural for him to use local
products to increase local consumption and to contribute to local growth. He
always selects the best ones carefully.
Chef Matsuyama chooses to use Kano Crab caught in the winter months near Kanazawa. The photo shows Matsuyama dressing the top-quality crab in front of his guests, conveying the reverence of privilege of eating life from the sea. At the beginning of autumn, he uses locally sourced crab.
For the beef course, he selects Chateaubriand of Kagoshima Kuroushi, with its lineage originating in Wagyu. Chateaubriand is a larger cut filet of tenderloin, known for its extreme tenderness and buttery texture.
- The price includes our booking fee of ￥4,000
- The price includes our booking fee of ￥4,000