A Trip to Japan Without Leaving our Home – Iwakura Sushi Kaiseki with Washoku Renaissance

Back in March of 2021, I started planning a celebration for my partner’s birthday that is in May. March 2021 was still in the midst of the pandemic and we were unsure of when vaccines would be available to the general public. Trying to plan things to look forward to (and to maintain some sanity), I was wondering how to safely create a special event given our circumstances. Not to mention, any sense of work-life balance has been thrown out the door during the pandemic and I wanted us to have a fun experience to get our minds off of work—Jimmy especially.

The first name that came up was Chef Youji. I remembered our good friends at Crane & Turtle (this shop is curated with the most wonderful selection of Japanese home goods, by the way) had collaborated with him previously and I decided to reach out. I asked if he would be willing to do a private omakase-style meal in our home. After all, Jimmy’s favorite cuisine is Japanese.

I was so happy he agreed to create this special event! He was equally as excited for this creative endeavor. Youji was kind and great to work with throughout the whole process. Of course, safety protocols were top priority. Youji had also made a visit to our home to check out the kitchen space so he knew what he was working with—and to assess any safety concerns.
Chef Youji Iwakura
The evening’s menu
Luckily for us, by the time May arrived, all of us had been vaccinated. And the weather was beautiful which allowed fresh air to flow through our home. It was perfect.

The event turned out to be more magical than I could have imagined. We felt like we had our very own private 3 Michelin Star-rated dinner experience at home. Youji spent a lot of time crafting the menu to create an unbelievable experience. Each bite was delicious and well balanced. As an artist, I really appreciated his meticulous attention to detail from the food to the table setting—especially his ikebana (flower arrangement) skills. I was also happy to contribute some small illustrations for the menu. Of course, I had to include our adorable cat Ollie in the menu design.

We are still having a hard time deciding our favorites, as the entire menu was delicious. Every bite from start to finish was so satisfying. Some of the dishes that really stood out were the Wagyu A5 with Japanese mushrooms on hot stone, the lobster miso-bouillabaisse, and the duck tataki from the Shogun Feast appetizers. But really, they were all beyond amazing and we will remember it all for a long time.
Shogun Feast appetizers
Youji even did spoon calligraphy with nori emulsion on each plate using the following Chengyu (idiom expression): 温故知新 (each plate had a respective character). The idiom (written in Traditional Chinese characters) means gaining new knowledge by reviewing the old. It’s an ode to innovation that incorporates tradition and this innovative energy was undoubtedly reflected in our dinner experience. This idiom is very personal to Youji as he honored his father’s favorite saying. We felt privileged to learn about our chef’s influences and the impact this had on his culinary journey.

As for the whole process, I can summarize with the word seamless. As complex and labor-intensive (for the chef) the event was, Youji made the experience so easy for us. He clearly takes great pride in his work and everything was done with passion and enthusiasm. And most importantly, Jimmy loved the experience.

As for clean up, Youji and his equally amazing assistant left our kitchen spotless. It was almost hard to believe that these masterpieces came out of our own kitchen. The only problem now is that I’m not really sure how to top this event for next year. Sorry Jimmy, it’s all down hill from here LOL.

For more information, please visit Washoku Renaissance. Also, you can follow Youji on instagram at instagram.com/youjijs.

We are proud to support API small business in the Greater Boston area.
Rosé Champagne marinated Massachusetts oyster “nanbanzuke”
Ikura with shiso-yam. Handmade spoon from Crane & Turtle
Ora king salmon and daikon radish sunomono
Duck tataki with ramp puree
Maine uni chawanmushi
Miyazaki wagyu A5 and Japanese mushrooms on hot stone
Steamed hotaru-ika with sweet miso vinegar & sumi-ika with spicy miso vinegar and dashi-nori emulsion
Organized prep

A few pieces from the nigiri sushi course

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