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Taste of tradition.

ACCLAIMED Japanese celebrity executive chef Kazuo Takagi will be making guest appearances at Sato restaurant at the Gulf Hotel Bahrain from today until Sunday.

He specialises in Kyoto cuisine, and his creations reflect the season and unfold cultural tales with tastes of culinary expertise dating back centuries.

The 45-year-old told GulfWeekly that he had been inspired by his grandfather, an experienced chef and a love of traditional recipes soon grew between generations. "I am so happy that food lovers in Bahrain will soon be able to experience the unique flavours of Japanese food," he said.

Kyoto, as the capital of Japan for more than 1,200 years, was the kitchen of the Imperial Court. It remains famous for its tofu and its vegetarian fare. It's also regarded as a great place to sample all the main classics of Japanese cuisine.

He is owner-chef of 'Kyoto cuisine TAKAGI' in Ashiya, a city between Osaka and Kobe. The restaurant has held two Michelin stars since 2010, and Chef Kazuo is a recognised master of the super refined Kyoto style of Japanese cuisine known as 'Kyo-ryori.'

Famous for its innovation in terms of both the food itself and the decoration, Kyo-ryori cuisine uses unique and traditional methods to unfold and celebrate cultural tales and capture the changing seasons of Kyoto.

The chef has a deep respect and love for these traditions, and hopes to bring a greater understanding of them to a wider audience through cooking classes and gourmet experiences. He maintained: "True Kyoto cuisine is rare even in Japan nowadays, since preparation is complicated but I want it to continue its long history."

The complexity of his picturesque creations, which include many styles of preparation, is designed to appeal to all of the senses. Food critics suggest Chef Kazuo's delicate soup is the most 'symbolic element' of his cooking. "The taste and aroma of a soup characterises one's culinary style," he explained.

One special ingredient is the dashi fish stock made by heating water containing kombu (edible kelp) and kezurikatsuo (shavings of Katsuobushi - preserved, fermented skipjack tuna) to near-boiling, then straining the resultant liquid.

The element of umami, considered one of the five basic tastes in Japan, is introduced into dashi from the use of the two. Other kinds of dashi stock are made by soaking kelp or shiitake in water for many hours or by heating them in near-boiling water and straining the resulting broth.

Kyoto offers a rich culinary tradition. The local food culture is diverse and ranges from aristocratic Kaiseki yore course dinners to the vegetarian shojin ryori of monks and the simple obanzai ryori home-style cooking.

The first has its origin in the traditional tea ceremony, but later evolved into an elaborate dining style popular among aristocratic circles. It is particularly refined, placing an emphasis on subtle flavours and local and seasonal ingredients. A kaiseki meal has a prescribed order of courses which is determined by the cooking method of each dish.

Whereas kaiseki developed out of the affluence of the aristocrats, shojin ryori developed from the austerity of Buddhist monks. Prohibited from taking the life of other living creatures, Buddhist monks had to make do without meat or fish in their diet. Consisting of strictly vegetarian dishes, shojin ryori can nonetheless be savoury and filling.

A common ingredient in shojin ryori is tofu, which is a local specialty of Kyoto. The preparation of tofu is so common that it can also be referred to as Tofu Ryori ('tofu cuisine'). One popular dish that is widely served at restaurants is Yudofu, soft tofu simmered with vegetables in broth.

Obanzai Ryori is the traditional home-style cooking of Kyoto. It is made up of multiple small dishes that are usually quite simple to prepare. Local produce that is in season is best suited for the dishes. Although the cooking methods are usually not complicated, obanzai dishes can be made very rich by chefs skilfully bringing out the natural flavours of the ingredients.

The Michelin Cooking Experience -- a master class and lunch with Chef Takagi, is available for BD39 net. Limited slots are available, so reservations must be made. Call 17713000 for more details.

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Publication:Gulf Weekly
Date:Sep 24, 2017
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