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‘How does she do it?’ This is the question that I asked myself time and time again as I watched my mother preparing dishes which were aesthetically pleasing, extremely tasty and also comforting. That is when my interest in cooking was born. One special event turned this interest into a passion. My first tea ceremony. Or how to express, in a single place and at a single moment in time, the entire Japanese art of living. I wanted my cuisine to produce the same sense of wholeness, this same satisfaction. After three years as an apprentice with my mentor, Hidetaro Nakamura, I joined the Kashiwaya, our family restaurant in Osaka. Since 1992, I have run its kitchens and I too have constantly striven to serve that Japanese art of living. That explains the sukiya style of the décor of the dining room which is traditionally the venue for the tea ceremony; its wealth of detail - sliding doors, paper partitions, tatami mats -; and an eight-course menu using all our skills to re-work the classical dishes of the land of the rising Sun.’
I was taught basic cooking techniques by my master. However, I prepare ise ebi my own way and give it my own personal interpretation. I use five different cooking methods to prepare it. I serve it roasted, stewed, soaked in oil, steamed or grilled, and then I add five different types of aroma – sea urchins, citrus and lemongrass, plums, caviar with coral vinaigrette, Kombu seaweed and soy, which I combine and serve to the guest’s taste.
I have loved prawns since I was a child. When I was 13, I had an unforgettable experience when I tasted ise ebi for the first time. It’s a wonderfully tender spiny lobster with a rich umami flavor. Since then, I have used it as a major central ingredient and themed dishes around it. I buy mine from Ise, in Mie Prefecture. In Japanese cooking, ise ebi (spiny lobster) is more popular than lobster, which tends to be used more frequently in Western countries.