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