Refreshingly minimalist, stripped of all adornment. At Imoto the spotlight is on delectable Japanese cuisine and exquisite tableware, indulging guests in the sights and flavors of each season from their front-row counter seats.
Tucked away somewhat from the busy districts of Tenjin and Daimyo, the Yakuin area has seen an increase in eclectic shops and restaurants in recent years, and people come to experience true Fukuoka culture. Imoto is located on a quiet, upmarket residential block, but its minimalist exterior stripped of any adornment or even signage may make it tricky to find on your first visit.
Opened in 2015 by a chef still in his twenties, Imoto leaped to fame in 2019 when it earned two stars in the Fukuoka Michelin guide. In the seven years since opening, there has been great evolution in the food served, the dishes that convey them, and even the restaurant interior. While still a ten-seat L-shaped counter restaurant, it now has a very modest, refined look in a single color tone, with a traditional, hard-packed dirt floor and plastered walls using golden soil from Inariyama, Kyoto. Only the counter is illuminated in the unadorned interior, allowing diners to focus totally on the food.
A unique Fukuoka experience of Kyoto aesthetics and techniques
At Imoto, guests are welcome to start their full omakase course of ten to twelve dishes at any time during the restaurant’s lunch or dinner opening hours. Within one brief season, dishes change little by little in line with available produce, and once a month has passed, the course will be entirely different. No rules and no strict flow; this is a course composed flexibly and freely through the chef’s conversation with his ingredients. There is also no fuss, no pretense, and no undue focus on presentation.
Imoto wants guests to understand this is not pure Kyoto cuisine, most obvious in the absence of the quintessential kaiseki course called hassun. Rather it is a unique style, somewhat difficult to define, that he has created based on all his experiences, and one in which the chef feels truly free to express himself. In essence, it is a Japanese culinary journey through a given season based on the chef’s carefully selected produce and tableware. It is not possible to discuss the cuisine at Imoto without talking about tableware, an essential element in conveying the seasonality of a creation. Here, the attention paid to the harmony between the vessel and the food it carries is unparalleled.
People often associate traditional Japanese cuisine with only gentle, light flavors, but Imoto is careful to vary the tempo and strength of his creations throughout the course. It typically begins with sashimi of white fleshed fish and contains simmered and grilled items, as well as delectable bites in flavorful broths. It finishes with a bowl of seasoned steamed rice with some delicious taste of the season like bamboo shoots, hamo daggertooth pike conger, or matsutake mushrooms.
The search for the best ingredients begins with daily trips to local Fukuoka markets, but Chef Imoto does not limit himself to Kyushu produce. He is also in constant contact with suppliers in Kyoto and at the busy Toyosu markets in Tokyo. On any given day, there may be red-spotted grouper from the Seto Inland Sea, sea urchin from Awajishima, daggertooth pike conger from Korea, and sweetfish from the pristine waters of Aridagawa, Wakayama. His objective is always to find the best ingredients, wherever they come from.
The success of a Japanese dish rides on dashi, and Imoto’s exquisite broth is made from kombu kelp from Rishiri, Hokkaido, and fresh water from the rich natural region of Aso in neighboring Kumamoto Prefecture. Dashi is typically made in two steps, with primary dashi used for clear soups and secondary dashi for seasoning in simmered dishes. But at Imoto, the lovingly made primary dashi is found in every dish. The chef extracts the flavor and then rests the dashi for one or two hours before use, which allows the bonito flavor to mellow and the kombu’s sweetness and umami to deepen, thus accentuating the innate qualities of whatever it flavors.
The sake collection features 15 varieties from around Japan and two local Fukuoka brands, all light and refreshing in keeping with Imoto’s cuisine. Burgundy wines are available by the bottle and there are eight champagne choices. Elegant champagne and delicate Japanese cuisine make a truly wonderful match.
Chef Imoto is extraordinarily fastidious about tableware, and especially enthralled by the rich stories told by antiques. They are vehicles for sharing with guests a sense of the history and traditions of Japanese cuisine, and Imoto is always delighted to talk to customers about the special pieces in his collection, where they come from, and the inspiration for the dish. Through it all, Imoto is driven by the words of a favorite Kyoto antique dealer who taught him to never rely on higher prices as a sign of quality; it is critical to decide your own measure and let that guide your choices.
Summer at Imoto means Baccarat and Lalique glassware and refreshing motifs, such as an ice-like lipped bowl and dishes containing the seigaha wave pattern. There are twelve different types of lidded soup bowls, all Wajima lacquerware. Some are even order-made, like one with a wave pattern on the inside of the bowl and a roiro-nuri lid in which charcoal is used in the final coating. Imoto also has Rakuware pottery from Kyoto molded with the palms of the hand using the tezukune technique, early period Kakiemon miniature plates, and mid-Edo period Imari ware sake bottles and cups. One fascinating piece carrying charcoal-grilled ayu sweetfish is Jingdezhen porcelain from the Ming dynasty, making it at least 400 years old. Imoto loves the pairing of the porcelain’s simple brush strokes with the rustic beauty of the sweetfish, and the cool, refreshing feel of the blue tones.
- The price includes our booking fee of ￥8,000
- The price includes our booking fee of ￥8,000