Restaurants & Bars | September 2, 2019 1:16 pm

These Chefs Are Revitalizing Japanese Cooking Across the United States

Where innovation meets tradition, with delicious results

Food at Hannyatou
Seattle's Hannyatou is one of a number of restaurants revitalizing Japanese cuisine.

A croquette used in lieu of tempura. Fermented jalapeño Cheddar cheese bagels. Curry blended with cocoa powder. These are among the culinary innovations taking place in Japanese restaurants across the country — rooted in tradition, but boldly experimenting with different ingredients to create memorable flavors.

At T Magazine, Ligaya Mishan visited several notable restaurants and explored the processes by which these unexpected yet delicious-sounding meals were created. 

These restaurants include Seattle’s Hannyatou, in which the aforementioned bagels are prepared; Manhattan’s Odo, where ramps are paired with Alaskan king salmon; and Los Angeles’s n/naka, where Mishan describes spaghetti “glossed with mentaiko (pickled cod roe), as it might appear in Japan, then strewn with petals of razor-cut abalone and black truffles.”

Mishan is careful to note that the blending of traditional cooking styles is far removed from the “fusion” cooking of decades past. She writes:

…today’s chefs are doing the opposite — viewing the West and its culinary traditions through a Japanese lens. As the thinking on diversity in America has evolved from the metaphor of a melting pot to a mosaic, in which each piece keeps its integrity while enriching the whole, the concept of fusion has become archaic, replaced by a more organic understanding of how food changes when people immigrate and have to adapt to the ingredients on hand.

Mishan’s whole article is well worth a read, and may well give you a whole new list of restaurants to visit across the country. Its author is also one of the most knowledgeable food writers you’re likely to encounter — this Vice profile from last year focuses on her ongoing culinary interests, and is also a deeply compelling read.

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