At Chrysan in London, Yoshihiro Murata has adpated traditional Japanese cooking to incorporate at European touch. Kerstin Kühn reports
Now Murata has come to London, with the help of the Hakkasan Group, with whom he has launched Chrysan in the City. But if you think it's all about geishas pouring tea and Japanese-imported ingredients, you're wrong. There is a surprising local influence on the menu, which the chef hopes will pave the way to a new cooking trend.
"I hope that Chrysan will open the door to a lighter and cleaner style of cooking in the UK," he says. "To achieve this, the ingredients have to be locally sourced, and the dishes adjusted to suit the local climate, culture and tastes."
So while the menu at Chrysan adheres to Japanese principles, there's a real European touch too, both regarding the ingredients and the way they are served.
The tasting menu, priced at £85 for seven courses, starts off with an umami prawn cappuccino, a moreish broth comprising a dashi made from kombu seaweed, morel mushrooms and prawn heads. Next up is freshly made tofu with orange miso, which resembles custard in texture and is presented in a scooped-out orange. "The main focus of the dish is the texture of the fresh tofu and technically this is very challenging to achieve," explains head chef Dasuke Hayashi.
"We make our tofu using fresh soya milk and nigari, a very concentrated sea water, and pair this with orange to add a surprising freshness."
Meanwhile, a platter of sashimi comprises half a dozen variations of raw fish paired with unexpected ingredients - for instance, sea bass marinated with sun-dried tomato and Parmesan, or yellow tail with mooli and horseradish.
Murata explains: "I am crossing the boundary of traditional Japanese cuisine at Chrysan. For example, I use sun-dried tomatoes and Parmesan to create umami flavour instead of using kombu and bonito flakes."
Among the five options for the main course of the tasting menu is Scotland meets Kyoto, a dish based on Saikyo nabe, one of the traditional cooking pots used in Kyoto. Made with Ichiban (premier) dashi and paired with Scottish seafood including lobster, scallops and mussels, it's a gorgeous umami-rich soup that brings together the best of Japanese and Scottish flavours.
But the star of the show is sukiyaki "clouds and crystal", which adds a real sense of theatre as it arrives in a crystal bowl and is cooked over a flame at the table.
Thirty-five-day dry-aged Angus beef rib-eye and seasonal mushrooms are covered in candyfloss, which melts as Mongolian soy sauce is poured over and the meat is slow-cooked over the flame. The sweet dish is accompanied by a yuzu egg yolk dip, and, according to the Sunday Times food critic AA Gill, it's "the most original and divine way to eat a steak".
On to desserts and pastry chef Joe McCafferty ensures that they remain in keeping with the light and healthy ethos of cooking at Chrysan, according to Murata. "This means no chocolate or cream, reduced sugar and as little fat as possible," he adds. A case in point is cucumber soup with green apple sorbet and tomato pastry comprising poached cucumber and pickled cucumber, semi-confit tomatoes, diced frozen strawberries and tomato crisps as well as a tangy Granny Smith sorbet and caramelised tomato puff pastry biscuits finish this dish.
Murata may come from a long line of Kyoto chefs but at Chrysan he's certainly trying to blend the boundaries between Japanese and European cooking.
Chrysan 1 Snowden Street London EC2A 2DQ 020 3657 4777 www.chrysan.co.uk