Hotels Sustainability, Seasonality and Style at The Ritz Carlton, Kyoto

Sustainability, Seasonality and Style at The Ritz Carlton, Kyoto

Pay delicious homage to Japan's 72 microseasons at Kyoto’s new exclusive, always evolving chef’s table by Katsuhito Inoue.


By T+L SEA Staff Published on Dec 13, 2023, 01:29 PM

Sustainability, Seasonality and Style at The Ritz Carlton, Kyoto

Preparing creative, delicious fare has always been the task of fine dining, but the challenge for the modern age is doing it more sustainably and ethically. Youthful chef Katsuhito Inoue is rising to that challenge in the most delightful
way at his exclusive new six-seater Chef’s Table at The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto.

Hand-picking every ingredient from the local bounty of Kyoto’s 72 micro-seasons and using time-honored methods from the city’s cooking traditions, Inoue designs his menu combining Japanese and Western culinary techniques to be zero-waste, using his materials entirely. Vegetable scraps enrich stocks and sauces, and add color and minerality to the restaurant’s pillowy signature focaccia. Often, they appear unexpectedly. A recent dish of Awaji sea urchin was served in the hollowed-out bulb of a summer onion from the farmlands of Takagamine, the ombré yellows and browns of the papery outer layers creating a pattern as striking as any in maki-e lacquerware. You never realized the humble onion could be so beautiful.

Chef Katsuhito Inoue

Inoue’s eco-philosophy goes far beyond the kitchen itself, to include how produce is grown and harvested and even the health of the soil. He personally visits all of his suppliers, searching for freshness and seasonality, but also sustainable practices. Inoue is focused on the treatment of livestock and seafood as well. For example, drawing on experience gained in the family businesses — his grandfather was a high-end wagyu retailer and his father owned a steakhouse — he has found wagyu producers able to produce meat with unparalleled marbling and umami while providing ethical living conditions for their animals and minimizing the environmental burden of raising cattle. He works closely with fishmongers who use traditional shinkeijime methods to more humanely kill fish. The technique involves quickly destroying the spinal cord and plunging the fish into iced salt water, preserving freshness and stopping the production of stress hormones that can taint flavor.

Importantly, the emphasis on sustainability sacrifices nothing in taste or presentation. The visual impact of a meal at Chef’s Table is off the charts from the moment you step in the room. A lush garden prepared in collaboration with Ritz Carlton, Kyoto gardener Kohki Suzuki is the table on which guests are served. Touchably soft mounds of living moss, textured wood pieces, and artfully arranged rocks and leaves in seasonal colors create a botanical paradise of tranquil beauty like something from the Japan branch of the Seely Court. The aromas of wood smoke and the subtle crackling of the grill round out the sensory experience.

The meal starts with the presentation and explanation of the day’s ingredients and their provenance. Then, Inoue moves into his marble-topped kitchen counter, positioned just steps away from the table, and begins transforming them into boundary-pushing, hyper-seasonal courses that combine the local tradition with his personal story. In Inoue’s hands, a Kyoto summer classic of fried young sweetfish is given extra juiciness with a few extra seconds over a charcoal grill. The typical tadesu garnish is replaced by a foam of carpione-style vinegar testifying to Inoue’s
Italian roots and adding a pleasantly frothy texture to each bite. Or guests might be served a colorful hand-made pasta with entire perilla leaves seamlessly pressed into the dough before cutting and topped with thinly sliced squid, briny caviar, and the perilla’s delicate purple flowers.

The dishes are subtle, with an unmistakably Japanese minimalism, yet full of flavor and intriguing diversions from expectation. The storytelling component of the meal is fully realized with Inoue’s likeable presence and genuine
enthusiasm as he shares stories from his childhood, anecdotes about the producers, or explanations of his technique. Despite the luxurious venue, it often feels more like the best dinner parties: intimate, comfortable, and lively.

Chef’s Table by Katsuhito Inoue is a pitch-perfect fine-dining experience, combining a strong sense of place with an easily discernable personal style that never feels overwrought or superfluous to the dish. That Inoue is able to do so while centering a sustainable zero-waste ethos makes his restaurant a model for the new luxury benchmark: guilt-free decadence.

For reservations: www.ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/ukyrz-the-ritz-carlton-kyoto/dining/

Article Sponsored by The Ritz Carlton, Kyoto.
Images courtesy of The Ritz Carlton, Kyoto.

Written By

T+L SEA Staff

T+L SEA Staff

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