If you need a quick and healthy way to blow a couple of hundred on a meal, kaiseki is certainly top of the list. Largely similar to the western concept of degustation in haute cuisine, kaiseki is the Japanese equivalent of an imperial banquet; only perhaps at a higher level of finesse and sophistication. And the more elaborate type of known as cha-kaiseki which precedes a taditional Japanese team ceremony.
It is given in any kaiseki menu that the ingredients and hence dishes change with the seasons and indeed even on a weekly or monthly basis. So you can somewhatbe assured that your produce is served at its peak. I thought it more environmentally friendly as well since you don't artificially create infrastructure like greenhouses or refrigerators to preserve off season food.
So we gave our maiden go at kaiseki at Nadaman at Shangri-La hotel as we had a credit card deal for a nights stay there. To be fair, kaiseki menus are also available at Akashi, Kumo and Wahiro as well. We gave the Aoi kaiseki (Aoi means blue) because we didn't see a need to blow an extra 50 dollars on wagyu beef portions, a familiar fixture in most upper end dining establishments and fine supermarkets.
Mugwort and sesame tofu, sea urchin, lily bulb with bonito broth jelly
Boiled spinach and yellow leek with sesame
Simmered conger eel and boiled rapeseed
Boiled prawn caviar, burdock, grilled egg and deep friend green beans
Clear soup with oyster and fish cake, seaweed, bamboo shoots and carrot
White meat fish and medium fatty tuna sashimi
Sliced yellow tail with onion dressing
Grilled tile fish with sake, egg plat and baby yam with miso paste
Simmered and deep fried minced lotus root, clam, black fungus and green pea
Boiled white rice with Sakura shrimp
Pickles and red bean miso soup
Black sesame pudding, raspberry with caramel sauce
The stand-out dishes to me were the appetiser and the grilled dish. The bonito broth jelly was thoroughly excellent, so subtle and yet fragrant. It complemented the tofu very nicely. The fried green beans that accompanied that tamago was a surprise. It tasted, excuse me, like KFC fried chicken. I think a serendipitous blend of proteins and enzymes there. I also enjoyed the drilled egg plant and baby yam with miso paste. The execution was quite brilliant. The veggies were grilled to perfect, soft inside yet firm enough to remain on the stick. Their slight sweetness was a great contrast to the saltiness of the miso. I could could honestly eat twenty skewers of that any day.
To be sure, there were some let downs and cost-cutting. You can bet that anything that goes with onion dressing is likely to be less fresh. Also, I found little synergy in the boiled white rice and sakura shrimp. But then again, I wouldn't take my own judgment was full-proof. Japanese cuisine is probably the most exquisite in the world; a true gourmet and connoisseur of it certainly cannot be made of someone raised on a diet of char kway teow, big macs and swensen's. Who knows, some of these kinds could be out there screaming bloody murder that I said sakura shrimp and white rice do not go in the month of March.
But all in all, I thought $160++ was pretty worthwhile. Service was excellent and meticulous and the green tea was fragrantly refreshing. And, without doubt, the ingredients were all incredibly fresh. Ambience and decor was ordinary but it was quiet when we went there at 9pm. Not having an MRT beside the hotel was probably a plus point.
Food 7, Service 9, Ambience 6, Value for Money 7