Kaiseki and Umami Dinner at Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, USA
The year 2012 marks the centennial anniversary of the gift of the cherry blossom trees from Japan to the United States. A series of events celebrating this centennial are being organized to promote cultural and people-to-people exchanges. Through these events, people from Japan and the United States will have the opportunity to reflect on the legacy of exchanges and the importance of relations between the two countries.
On April 14, in the season of cherry blossoms, to generate awareness of umami and educate about it in cooperation with Chef Yoshihiro Murata, the third generation owner and executive chef of Kikunoi restaurant, Chef Takuji Takahashi, the third generation executive chef of Kinobu restaurant and Chef Yoshihiro Takahashi, the fifteenth generation executive chef of Hyotei restaurant, the Umami Information Center and Metropolitan Museum of Art organized "An Evening of Kaiseki and Umami" in the MET's members dining room. The guests consisted of MET members, who are all patrons of the MET's activities. Among the 86 attendees, UIC reserved a seat for the wife of the Japanese Consul General in New York as a special guest.
Ms. Kumiko Ninomiya, Umami Information Center, started the event with a lecture about what umami is, along with a tasting session. In her tasting session, she showed how, by using umami, we could reduce the salt intake and also explained about umami, likening it to the bass note of a melody. She drew nods when she showed the audience the difference between a single melody note and the same melody with a bass note added to it.
After her presentation, to support this event and encourage the staff involved, Chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, the owner and executive chef of Nobu restaurants worldwide, appeared as a surprise commentator. He explained that umami originating from Japan is essential in all cuisine and introduced Chef Yoshihiro Murata, the third generation owner and executive chef of Kikunoi, the renowned Kaiseki restaurant in Kyoto, as a supreme explorer of umami.
Later, Chef Murata served an exquisite nine-course dinner: Sakitsuke (Starter), Hassun (Assortment of appetizers), Mukozuke (Sashimi), Nimono-wan (Simmered fish), Naka-choko (Sorbet), Yakimono (Grilled fish), Gohan, (Rice), Tome-wan (Second soup), Mizumono (Dessert), and explained about the role of umami in his dishes. All guests enjoyed dishes full of umami featuring cherry blossoms and applauded all the staff for their supreme feast.
In March 2012, the Japanese government proposed that UNESCO add "Washoku", Japanese traditional cuisine to the World Heritage list. The Umami Information Center hopes that this event will not only accelerate the understanding of umami in the United States, but also help its nomination as an intangible cultural World Heritage entity.