toed-zen-state-1In Macau, it is not easy to find a Japanese restaurant specialized in Kaiseki cuisine. Housed in Hotel Lisboa, New Furusato is one of those rare Japanese restaurants that presents a creative and elegant menu with top quality sashimi and sushi. Kaiseki 懐石 literally means “a stone in the bosom.” 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 feel hungry with just a simple meal served in the style of the Japanese tea ceremony.
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.
Executive Chef at New Furusato, Nakamura Hirofumi, is classically trained in delivering outstanding Kaiseki cuisine. It is not hard to find exceptional elements of Japanese elegance in any of his dishes. Fig tempura with honey sauce, Japanese tofu and garland chrysanthemum tempura with tangerine sauce is one example of innovation and marvelous attention to details. The fig itself is a sweet fruit full of flavor, but it lacks texture. A fig tempura, however, has a crispy layer on the outside that covers the fruit, giving it a new texture with a milky flavor. The same concept of giving ingredients an outer layer of texture occurs also with the tofu, which is extremely soft. The result is a winning combination.
Theory has it that the word “tempura” originated from the Portuguese word “temperar,” to season, or “tempero,” seasoning. Portuguese and Spanish missionaries introduced deep-frying as a cooking method to the Japanese during the late 16th century. While the fig tempura is considered to be a traditional Japanese dish, it is still a product related to early globalization of the last millennium. Decorated with flowers and placed on a colorful plate, the visual impact of the entire dish is stunning. It is as if the diner is appreciating the wonderful scenery of spring on a beautiful, sunny day, full of surprises and thrilling visual nuances.
With the beauty of spring still lingering on my mind, I realize that another creation is coming. This time, it is the deep-fried black pork mille-feuille set.
“Chef, what is this huge chunk of meat doing on my table? Should I expect something on the inside?” I ask.
“Wait until you cut it and you will see,” Chef Nakamura answers confidently.
The moment I cut the pork, a light cracking sound resonates around the dining room. The meat on the dish is actually not a chunk of protein, but endless, thin layers of pork. Chef Nakamura explains that, for this creation, he cuts thin layers of meat and piles it one on top of another, putting butter in between each layer. When someone bites on it, the texture becomes fluffy on the palate, not heavy like a pork chop. While enjoying myself immensely with the buttery layers of pork, I take a sip of the warm tea served on the table. It is indeed a moment of bliss, a Zen state of mind.


Categories Taste of Edesia