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In Japanese Zen culture, stone is seen as a concept for harmony and simplicity. It is a symbol of purity and concentration, two elements that are essential in meditation. In ancient times, Zen monks would put warm stones underneath their robes when they felt hungry with just a simple meal served in the style of the Japanese tea ceremony.
Kaiseki 懐石literally means “ a stone in the bosom.” Although this idea might indicate a sense of austerity, the modern day “bosom-stone” cuisine is nothing like a frugal meal. Known as an art form, it is an elegant, multi-course dinner that is prepared by a skillful chef. Balancing colors, flavors, textures and presentation, the chef creates memorable dishes using the freshest ingredients, adding flowers and leaves to garnish his works of art. Details that determine the sophistication of the overall arrangement include the color and the material of the plates that are chosen to present the nourishments. When it is done right, the creations should be able to evoke a sense of nature in the hearts and minds of the diners, as if we are looking into the clouds in a Zen garden, yearning for a colorful existence.
As a lover of fine Japanese cuisine, one of the two restaurants that I prefer to go for kaiseki meals is Hotel Okura Macau’s Yamazato. Signifying a blend of gracious Japanese tradition and modernity, the venue’s décor with bamboo, flowing water, diamond cut granite and clay walls exudes simple elegance. Executive Chef of the Japanese Kitchen, Akira Hayashi, prepares authentic Japanese cuisine with a personal touch inside a unique open kitchen where you can see the chefs at work.
The minimalistic, sphere shaped Tea Ceremony Room made with Washi paper enables guests to take part in a traditional tea ceremony led by the experienced Tea Ambassadors. Sushi addicts have the privilege of savoring creations from one of the most talented sushi chefs in town. Hill Ng, Chef de Cuisine of Sushi, ensures that every piece of sushi comes with the correct quantity of wasabi and whatever that is needed to be put in between the fish and the rice.
“It is important to know where to put the wasabi, on top, or just underneath the fish. The piece of sushi tastes different depending on where you place the wasabi,” he explains.
In regards to texture, the toro sushi fascinates me the most. Full of flavors and fatty acids, the piece of protein is already heavenly on its own. In the hands of Chef Ng, however, it is slightly burned. In the mouth, the oil from the fish roams free, sumptuous with a hint of smoky naughtiness. The oiliness sinks into the rice, coating it entirely as the creation slips elegantly down the throat. With a sip of sake, the body feels as if it is enveloped by warmth. I much prefer eating to warm myself up then to put a stone in my bosom. There is no way I am going to be a monk anytime soon.

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