Kaiseki is a centuries-old Japanese haute cuisine tradition. The degustation-style meal of roughly 12 courses is meticulously prepared, beautifully plated and served in a prescribed order, using only the freshest seasonal ingredients. A traditional kaiseki will generally begin with appetisers, followed by a soup, sashimi, a few cooked or grilled dishes, a rice course and dessert. And you can experience this traditional Japanese meal at Ishizuka, a fine diner inside a basement on Bourke Street.
The restaurant has just 16 seats, all around a central counter. The fit-out abides by Japanese minimalist style, but the interior is contemporary; design firm Russell & George transformed the subterranean space into a light and airy cocoon with a huge white dome reminiscent of a Japanese lantern.
Kaiseki is devoutly seasonal, so there’s a nightly set menu ($215 per person) to change regularly.
The 11-course dinner starts with small, artfully plated dishes such as sea urchin and spanner crab, and a boiled black prawn with caviar. A Japanese clear soup (osuimono) comes next, followed by sashimi. The grilled course has in the past involved grilled red bream and Wagyu from Mayura Station in South Australia. More dishes – including Ishizuka’s signature dish of simmered duck breast, known as kamo jibuni (simmered courses are a distinguishing feature of the kaga kaiseki style that Ishizuka adheres to) – culminate in a dessert of seasonal fruits.
The drinks list is small but solid: about 30 wines and 10 sakes. Wine matches are available for an additional $110 per person, and a non-alcoholic option cost $55.