Happy New Year, Japanese Style

While everyone worries about their New Year’s Eve plans, I am always consumed with what I will eat the day after, when the people in the restaurant biz forsake Seattle diners for a long and well-deserved siesta after a busy holiday season.

So when Taichi Kitmaura, co-owner and executive chef of Sushi Kappo Tamura, told me he and his right-hand man Hirokazu Tawara would be debuting a traditional Japanese New Year’s meal called osechi-ryori, I was intrigued.  When I heard it would feed 3-4 people for breakfast, lunch, and possibly dinner (if you have more self-control than most), I was all in.

Greasy hangover food is out. Vegetables and fruit are in.

Osechi ryori is a culinary custom heavily leveraging ancient methods of preserving food such as curing and simmering in soy sauce and sake.  Vegetables and fish are king, although meat has made an appearance in more modern osechi.  Everything is stored and served in lacquer boxes and prepared to be eaten at room temperature.

Chest of drawers full of food, instead of socks and boxers

Some families still make their own osechi-ryori feast, but my buddy Yoshi says most people in Japan now order it.

The osechi unveiled

Yoshi, who partakes in this Japanese tradition every year in his hometown of Kyushu, says Sushi Kappo Tamura nailed their rendition of the osechi.  He asserts it is the most exquisite presentation he has ever seen, even topping what he has experienced in Japan.

Box 2: If I have to pick my favorite, it is the meaty and sweet-tasting Alaska king crab. Kitamura forewarned me that I would have my mind blown over this dish, and as usual, he was right

Box 3 was flush with all sorts of food art such as flower-shaped carrots and pine cone-shaped taro

My favorite in box 1 is a toss-up between herring roe which symbolically stands for fertility and the sweet satsuma-yam puree w/triple sec

Here is a glance at what it takes to whip  up this Japanese tradition:

  • Preparation: 10 chefs and two months of planning
  • 29 dishes: Yup, you read that right.  Doesn’t that make a nine-course tasting menu sound like child’s play?
  • Number of  osechi ryoris: Kitamura sold 40 this year.  90 percent were purchased by Japanese families who have grown up enjoying this tradition

The word on the street is that it is considered bad luck to leave any contents of the osechi uneaten.  No problems here.

Happy New Year, People.  Add “order osechi feast from Sushi Kappo Tamura” on your to do list for the end of 2013.

Until then, stop in and try Sushi Kappo Tamura’s weekend bento lunch to get a snippet of the restaurant’s A+ rating in elaborate presentation and quality.

Photograph courtesy of Sushi Kappo Tamura

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2 Responses to “Happy New Year, Japanese Style”

  1. January 2, 2013 at 11:20 am #

    Looks good. We’d love to know the price!

    • Roll with Jen
      January 2, 2013 at 1:41 pm #

      300 buckaroos, Jay. It is perfect for 4 people.

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