Remarkably sophisticated

The vast majority of Kaiseki restaurants in Japan are tiny, seating a few handful of people at best. Many have you sit in a private dining room, totally secluded from other guests. Tokyo's Kozue, however, shows that Kaiseki cuisine is not limited to such exclusive environments

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The reasons for this are manifold. First of all, Kozue occupies a beautiful, timelessly designed space in the Park Hyatt. The dining room is large, with plenty of space, high ceilings, and most characteristically the glorious views that make this hotel one of a kind. This is no small counter-based restaurant, nor is it one, in which every single group gets its own dining room. Instead the wood-dominated decoration of the restaurant combines the idea of a Western dining room with Japanese decorative elements, and of course Kaiseki cuisine.

Another point is the restaurant’s capacity. The restaurant can seat around 100 guests, which is considerably more than the dozen or so that Matsukawa, or Ishikawa sit. With such a large restaurant, and that many covers to feed, sceptics will ask if the restaurant is able to maintain high qualitative standards, or if the food served here suffers as a result?

The answer is quite simple. Whilst Kozue does not play on the same level as some of the most revered restaurants in Tokyo, its food is of astonishingly high quality. The kitchen here does not skimp when it comes to ingredient quality, serves dishes that are clearly defined, and bear the signature of a highly experienced chef. Having run the restaurant ever since the hotel first opened, chef Kenichiro Ooe has built up a network of suppliers that deliver beautiful produce to his kitchens.

The high ingredient quality is best shown in the sashimi course. Dramatically presented in a monstrous bowl, it features some of the most finely, and lusciously marbled o-toro that we have been served in Tokyo. Finding tuna of this quality and marbling is not easy, even in a city as obsessed by it as Tokyo. Alongside, the chef serves prawns that are sweet, succulent, and demonstrate the admirable product quality on show here yet again.

Equally good is cod milt, or shirako. Whilst it might be a little odd for Westerners to eat this particular part of the fish, the result on the plate is most convincing: creamy, milky, and delicate in texture, it is a remarkable plate of food. The preparation here is the perfect introduction for anyone never having had shirako before, as it is a rather delicately flavoured dish.

Kozue’s food is remarkably sophisticated for a 100-cover restaurant. Whilst it is very different than Ishikawa, Matsukawa, or Kojyu, it is a perfect place for anyone who wants to discover Kaiseki cuisine in a less intimidating atmosphere.


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