Japanese Fine-dining with Momiji's Kaiseki Menu
Momiji is one of the very first fine-dining Japanese restaurants in Cape Town, and man, is it good. Such a treat and perfect for date night. The service is impeccable, the décor is fresh and authentic, the food is simple, and packed with layers of flavor, the presentation is divine.
The current opening menu at Momiji is called a kaiseki menu. Read the Q&A with Tjing Tjing owner Ilse Koekemoer, Chef Christina Semczyszyn and Pastry Chef Adri Louw to find out more about what kaiseki entails.
1. What does a kaiseki dining experience entail?
Kaiseki is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner. The kaiseki menu is a celebration of the season. It allows the chef to showcase her skill using the best local produce available in a simple, balanced and beautiful way.
After extensive research & travels, we have combined our own style and local flavour to create a less rigid representation of the traditional menu while still respecting the principles.
2. Where are your ingredients sourced from?
We prefer to find local alternatives to importing ingredients from Japan to ensure the best quality. Our Wagyu is farmed in the Free State and our seafood is sourced from a variety of local suppliers, with sustainability and traceability being very important to us. We are also privileged to have access to two gardens in partnership with Urban Harvest, where we grow our own organic produce. One of the gardens, at Chapel Street Primary School in Woodstock, is shared with the school. Through sponsorship of the maintenance, we are able to empower the local community and school children, teaching them about growing nutritious ingredients and how to market and sell them at the same time.
3. Please can you share on the preparation process that goes into this menu? (e.g time to prepare the dishes/ unique techniques used to prepare the dishes)
Due to the many, many elements involved in this menu, we begin preparation two days before our first dinner. Our whole team is involved in ensuring the Momiji menu runs smoothly, in conjunction with Torii, which trades downstairs during service as well as food service in Momiji Lounge and the Rooftop Bar.
4. What skills and techniques do you need to prepare a kaiseki meal and how is this divided between the head and sous chef for this specific menu?
We split the workload according to our strengths. Adri has a phenomenal knowledge of fermentation and Japanese confection, and takes charge of these elements. Christi focuses on meat, fish and the admin involved in executing this extensive, multi-course meal.
5. How did you go about pairing your food with your wine and sake selection?
It involves a bit of experience and a lot of tasting. We pair what we think will complement the meal. We also try and keep it interesting by not only pairing with wines, but also with sake, umeshu (Japanese plum liqueur) and beer – when it fits. We are pedantic when it comes to choosing and finding the right vintage – not only the right varietal – of wine and try and incorporate a good mixture between local and international.
6. How do you plan to change the menu going forward to reflect seasonality? (e.g wine/food?)
Fresh, local and seasonal ingredients will always guide our selection of dishes on the kaiseki menu. Going into summer, we will focus on light, cool dishes that don’t leave you feeling overly full and heavy.
7. What would you tell someone who is hesitant to try a kaiseki menu?
Have an open mind when trying dishes or a style of ‘fine-dining’ you haven’t tried before. The Japanese are known for seeking perfection in their craft, and their expertise in creating simple dishes – which highlight and complement the ingredients they use – shows great respect for food, the patron and the season.