Japan is renowned for its sashimi, noodles, rice, and sake, but a younger generation is adding to the culinary mix by deciphering and appreciating Italian food through the use of ingredients and knife skills as good as and often better than what you find on average in Italy.
This isn’t refinement or mimicry, the terms which Japan has been saddled with by Western critics, who somehow see Japanese appreciation for Italian cuisine as imitations when homegrown English and North American chefs, unrooted in continental European culinary tradition, are seen as original in their efforts to create fine Italian food: Vetri, Batali, Carmellini, White, Conant.
In Kyoto, a new and exciting group of chefs, who eschew the limelight, have established terrific Italian restaurants. We’re talking first rate pizzerias like Mercato and high-end dining at Cenci.
It’s the start of something new, in a way, as well as a recognition that these two broad cuisines–Italian and Japanese–have a lot in common: Lots of noodles, lots of fish and shellfish, vegetable driven meals, a strong understanding of seasonality, the use of certain foods linked to religious events.
Itadakimasu or buon appetìto!