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Costly cuisine worth every bite

Updated: 2010-05-21 09:44
By Li Xinzhu and Ma Zhenhuan ( China Daily)

Costly cuisine worth every bite
The entrance to Murasaki, the restaurant in the Japanese Corporate Pavilion
 in Puxi section of the Expo Garden. Photos by Yong Kai/China Daily
Michelin-star chefs from Japan provide the most tempting dining experience

Want to find peace and quiet amid the jam-packed Expo Garden? Well, if you have time and money, you will be more than satisfied by dining at Murasaki, an elegant Japanese restaurant in the Japanese Corporate Pavilion in Puxi.

The restaurant is serving kaiseki ryori, a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner. Kaiseki ryori uses mainly fresh seasonal ingredients cooked in ways that enhance the taste and without any artificial flavorings.

With a set menu priced at 3,000 yuan per person, Murasaki caught a lot of attention after the opening of the Expo on May 1.

The restaurant is a special project by the Expo by Kikkoman Corp, an international company based in Japan that is famous for its soy sauce and food seasonings.

Costly cuisine worth every bite

In Japan, the word "Murasaki" (meaning "purple") is sometimes used to refer to soy sauce. The name was first used during the Meiji period (1868-1912) in reference to the clear reddish-purple color of soy sauce, and came to be used widely.

"For us, Japanese soy sauce mostly acts as a supplementary seasoning to our cuisine, as we usually focus on preserving the original flavor of the food," said Haruhiko Fukasawa, a manager with Kikkoman Corp. "And Japanese soy sauce is different from the Chinese one, not only in flavor and aroma but also in ingredients and production processes."

The catering team is comprised of two chefs from Kikunoi Honten, a three-star Michelin restaurant, two chefs from Uosaburo, a two-star Michelin restaurant, and two chefs from Tankuma Kitamise Honten, a one-star Michelin restaurant. It is the first time a group of Japan's top chefs from such famous restaurants have come together to present kaiseki ryori.

This dream team of chefs is managed by Hitoshi Kakizawa, a food consultant who specializes in kaiseki ryori, and who formerly worked as an executive chef at the Japanese Embassy in Washington.

A total of 11 dishes in a set menu were specially designed by Murasaki for the Expo. Considering the six-month operational period of the restaurant carries over two seasons, the manager decided to make a slight difference in ingredients between summer and autumn, in order to guarantee freshness.

"I hope to provide the best experience ever to satisfy our customers," said Kakizawa. "What they have is not only the Japanese food, but Japanese culture as well."

Costly cuisine worth every bite

Hassun, the lead in keisaki ryori, sets the seasonal theme and is usually served with several smaller side dishes or sushi. Cucumbers with sesame sauce mixed with salmon roe are placed in a dedicate china bowl, with broad beans on the side. Pieces of abalone on a bamboo skewer, some asparagus, and eel and bream sushi with cucumber are included.

Next comes yakimono, which usually is served with broiled seasonal fish, but at Murasaki, Kakizawa has decided to use beef. The premier-quality beef is imported from Australia to ensure the ultimate in taste.

Keisaki ryori is famous for its original taste, so there is no extra flavoring added during the process. The beef is prepared by seasoning in soy sauce, then wrapped up seaweed and roasted. Salty, spicy and sweet sauces are added.

Besides the food, the dcor at Murasaki is also delightful. The restaurant is furnished in traditional Japanese style, with five private dinning rooms. It serves a maximum of 30 customers at one time.