Fine things in life: Nadaman's secret is seasonal ingredients

Nadaman's success is built on seasonal ingredients, writes Janice Leung Hayes

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 August, 2013, 12:25pm

First opened in 1830 in Osaka, Japan, Nadaman has a long history of offering kaiseki, a refined cuisine served as multi-course meal which is seen as the epitome of Japanese fine dining. The restaurant's name is derived from the first syllables of the name of its founder, Mansuke Nadaya.

Nadaman began its international expansion after moving the flagship restaurant to Tokyo in 1964, and its first overseas outlet was in the Kowloon Shangri-La in Hong Kong. In 1981, the Shangri-La wanted to bring high-end Japanese cuisine to the city, and it chose Nadaman because of its impressive reputation; it had served everyone from the imperial family to prime ministers.

"Kaiseki is about following the seasons and using the best ingredients possible," says Takao Kojima, chief cook at Nadaman at the Kowloon Shangri-La. Most people see the ancient city of Kyoto as the origin of kaiseki cuisine, but Kojima says that each region of Japan serves their own version.

"The oldest kind of kaiseki is in fact cha-kaiseki, which includes tea. Kyoto-style kaiseki, or Kyo-kaiseki, is one of those regional varieties known for being meticulous about preserving traditional ways, which is their core value. The core value of Nadaman's kaiseki is to innovate and create upon tradition."

With 24 restaurants in Japan and seven around the world, it's easy to assume that Nadaman operates as a chain, with the same, cookie-cutter menu served worldwide, and with decisions made centrally.

But Kojima explains that aside from the recipes of some of the most basic items, such as sauces, each Nadaman restaurant is different.

The group is more of a philosophy than a menu. "The chief cook at each Nadaman decides their own menus, but there is regional co-operation for promotions of particular seasonal ingredients," he says.

Seasonality is paramount in kaiseki cuisine, and Kojima changes the menu every month, much like he did during his 20 years spent at Nadaman's various outlets in Japan.

Kojima says he was inspired to come to Hong Kong by his mentor Takayuki Oshima, who was the first chef at Hong Kong's second Nadaman, at the Island Shangri-La, which opened in 1991. "I wanted to see more of the world, and Oshima's stories of Hong Kong encouraged me to come," he says.

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Nadaman, Lower Level 2, Kowloon Shangri-La, 64 Mody Road, Tsim Sha Tsui East. Tel: 2733 8751. Open: noon-3pm, 6pm-11pm