Innovative Kaiseki – Wakuriya Restaurant Review

Discussion
  • Chef Katsuhiro Yamasaki at Wakuriya has been awarded 1 star by Michelin Guide many years running for its delicate and innovative kaiseki ryori.

    wall decoration - Wakuriya Restaurant Review | www.justonecookbook.com

    Located in suburban San Mateo, California, Wakuriya has been awarded 1 Michelin star for its creative kaiseki ryori each year since 2011.  Nami and I actually went to Wakuriya 2 years ago when our friends took us there to celebrate our birthdays.  Yes, this post is really late and it’s because of my fault.  I simply didn’t have time to work on restaurant reviews before.  We look forward to sharing more restaurants we enjoyed with you in the future as I play catch up.

    So what is kaiseki ryori (懐石料理).  If you are not familiar with the term, it’s a multi-course Japanese meal that is usually composed of 1o or more dishes and they are served in a curated sequence from appetizer, raw dish, simmered dish, grilled dish, soup, rice, through dessert.

    In Japan, it is very common if you stay in a ryokan, a Japanese-style inn, the dinner they serve as part of your stay is usually kaiseki ryori.

    Wakuriya Restaurant Menu Welcome Statement - Wakuriya Restaurant Review | www.justonecookbook.com

    Kaiseki Ryori at Wakuriya

    In Japan, when ryokans or restaurants serve kaiseki ryori they typically focus on serving fresh and seasonal ingredients from the region they are based in.  It could be a type of fish that you can only get locally or a specific kind of beef or chicken.  The menu changes based on what’s available and in season.

    Wakuriya Restaurant Menu - Wakuriya Restaurant Review | www.justonecookbook.com

    Tasting Menu at Wakuriya

    Similar to other kaiseki ryori experiences, Wakuriya doesn’t have a permanent menu.  Its 9-course tasting menu is based on the availability of the seafood, vegetable, and meat.  If you are curious what Wakuriya (和厨) means, it means Japanese Kitchen or Harmonious Kitchen.

    sake - Wakuriya Restaurant Review | www.justonecookbook.com

    Since the menu is pre-fixed, the only choices diners have are drinks and we started the meal with some chilled sake.  Our sake was served in a interesting glassware with an uneven shape.

    Apple sake - Wakuriya Restaurant Review | www.justonecookbook.com
    Apple infused sake

    Unlike traditional kaiseki ryori which utilize regional ingredients, chef Yamasaki shows off his creative cuisine and kaiseki training by using a wider variety of ingredients he sources from all over.

    trout appetizer with ikura - Wakuriya Restaurant Review | www.justonecookbook.com
    Ocean trout confit with ikura
    assorted appetizer - Wakuriya Restaurant Review | www.justonecookbook.com
    Assorted appetizers
    Snake River Farm beef appetizer - Wakuriya Restaurant Review | www.justonecookbook.com
    Beef with mushroom sauce
    blue shrimp appetizer - Wakuriya Restaurant Review | www.justonecookbook.com
    Black caviar with blue shrimp

    As you can see from the photos, dinnerware plays a key role with kaiseki ryori’s presentation as it enhances the food, it’s important to not only tastes good but needs to look good as well.  Wakuriya’s presentation does stray away from the traditional Japanese kaiseki style and leans towards modern fusion.

    foie gras chawanmushi - Wakuriya Restaurant Review | www.justonecookbook.com

    foie gras chawanmushi - Wakuriya Restaurant Review | www.justonecookbook.com
    Foie gras chawanmushi
    fish with ponzu sauce - Wakuriya Restaurant Review | www.justonecookbook.com
    Japanese medai with ponzu sauce
    lobster tempura in matsutake soup - Wakuriya Restaurant Review | www.justonecookbook.com
    Lobster tempura in matsutake soup
    Located in an unassuming strip mall, Wakuriya Restaurant has earned Michelin Star recognition with its expertly prepared kaiseki ryori (traditional Japanese multi-course meal). #JustOneCookbook #RestaurantReivew #Wakuriya #MichelinStar
    Persimmon ginger sorbet
    duck with miso - Wakuriya Restaurant Review | www.justonecookbook.com
    Duck with saikyo miso
    tuna - Wakuriya Restaurant Review | www.justonecookbook.com
    Seared maguro (tuna)
    sesame cookie with sweet potato mousse - Wakuriya Restaurant Review | www.justonecookbook.com
    Sesame cookie with black sugar jelly and sweet potato mousse
    after meal tea - Wakuriya Restaurant Review | www.justonecookbook.com
    Post meal tea

    Wakuriya Review

    So how was the meal at Wakuriya?  It was really good and if Japan’s too far to travel and you want the kaiseki ryori experience, definitely add it to your list.

    We also admire Chef Yamasaki’s courage deviating from traditional “sushi” restaurant and establish success through authentic and delicious Japanese food.  Not only was each dish meticulously prepared, but the order of each dish being served was also taken into consideration.  The contrast in flavor and texture allowed the diners to really taste each individual ingredient based on the chef’s expression.

    Reservation at Wakuriya

    We lucked out for our visit and didn’t have to make the reservation ourselves.  It is notoriously known for the difficulty to make a reservation as they don’t offer it through email or online booking.  You need to call exactly at 12 am (midnight) San Francisco time 1 month prior to when you want to eat there and leave a voicemail.  And if lady luck is on your side and you happen to be one of the earliest callers, you might just manage to snag a reservation.

    Wakuriya Restaurant Summary

    Good for: small gathering of 2-4 people, the restaurant is very small.  Max party size is 6.

    Price: reasonable for bay area fine dining

    Noise level: quiet

    Food: memorable and much closer than Japan to enjoy kaiseki ryori

    Recommend to try: Yes

    Thank you for reading Wakuriya’s Restaurant review. If you are interested in other restaurant reviews or have a restaurant recommendation for us to try, please leave a comment below.

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