So it's official: washoku is now a very tangible, edible, delectable UNESCO Intangible World Heritage — just as I previewed in my Food Matters piece in the Japan Times last Friday [Quality rises above the menu scandals].
Hopefully this will lead to a massive surge in interest — and justifiable pride — in Japan's traditional cuisine, not only at the highest levels of kaiseki but all the way down to the daily shokuji meal served up in ordinary restaurants and people's homes.
So where to go in Tokyo to taste washoku at its very finest? In terms of depth of flavor, of superb presentation — you could not do better than to book yourself into Kojyu.
That was where the photo that accompanied my JT piece was taken. And that's good enough reason for me to revisit that superb meal earlier this year...
Caveats and comparisons:
When Chef Okuda moved Kojyu out of the old premises last year and into the same building as his second restaurant (Ginza Okuda), it was a move up in the world in every sense: up to the 4th floor — in the old location it was on the ground floor — and into slicker, sleeker premises with just the kind of atmosphere that the well-endowed (I mean moneywise, of course) Ginza crowd like.
Whether or not that is your thing, Okuda's cuisine remains outstanding, technically faultless and breathlessly refined. However, I would caution anyone who is not used to breathing the rarefied air at that altitude of high-end kaiseki — and to rubbing elbows, though only metaphorically at that plush, spacious counter, with the kind of people who inhabit those stratas — my advice would be to instead start with the excellent and far more approachable Ginza Okuda,
For more top writing about the UNESCO heritage listing and its impact, check out Matt Goulding's recent piece in Roads & Kingdoms.
The 2014 Michelin Guide to Tokyo/Yokohama/Shonan was announced on Tuesday and the book itself goes on sale tomorrow (Friday).
And here's the man himself, Chef Okuda, behind the scenes in his kitchen — and yes, that was me with him...