Craftsmanship
Logo Okura 50 years

Yamazato’s culinary traditionsThe art of Craftsmanship

The Art of Craftsmanship is about passion for authenticity and craftsmanship. About how dedication and upholding age-old traditions can result in the most prestigious accolades. And, as you will read in this story, about the first Japanese Michelin-starred restaurant outside Japan.

In the 1970s, the Dutch culinary landscape was still rather one-dimensional. The kaiseki cuisine served in Yamazato restaurant – the traditional restaurant at Hotel Okura Amsterdam – was not an instant hit among all guests. But a lot can change in half a century... Yamazato was the first Japanese restaurant outside Japan to receive a Michelin star, and now boasts a large and loyal fan base.

A traditional kaiseki dinner at Yamazato is a truly memorable experience. Guests enjoy the authentic dishes in a set order that is designed to create the perfect balance – balance between the dishes themselves, but also between flavours, textures, presentation, and colours. Kaiseki cuisine follows five seasons – winter, spring, early summer, summer, and autumn – which inspire not only the dishes, in which fresh and pure ingredients always take pride of place, but also the tableware and even the kimonos worn by the waiters. Yamazato offers so much more than just a meal. It embodies the Art of Craftsmanship, the pursuit of perfection and authenticity by the kitchen and waiting staff. It is a true art form.

Listen to the story of Yamazato

A daunting task

In 1971, the year Yamazato opened, Executive Chef Akari Oshima faced the daunting task of offering guests such a traditional experience. His rigorous training in Tokyo had taught him everything there was to know about traditional, centuries-old kaiseki cuisine. But how could he do justice to that cuisine in a country where the necessary ingredients were so scarce? Tuna for his sashimi was only available in cans or as dry, frozen fillets. The only rice he could find was long grain, which is unsuitable for sushi. And his vegetable supplier could only muster a blank stare when asked for Daikon radish, spring onion, or napa cabbage.

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Over the years, Yamazato restaurant has succeeded in keeping its artisanal cooking traditions alive and is increasingly popular among food lovers.

Kimono lady serving clear sea bass soup Yamazato Restaurant Chef Masanori Tomikawa Waitress with sashimi selection

Increasing popularityThe art of Craftsmanship

In the early years, chef Oshima had no choice but to drive to the market in Paris every week to buy fresh fish, and he continued, relentlessly, to plead with Dutch fishermen and greengrocers for a larger range of produce. And his efforts ultimately paid off. More and more fishermen started to call him when they had caught something special, local farmers started growing Asian vegetables in their greenhouses with imported seeds, and in the Ebro Delta in Spain, where the climate is perfect for round-grain rice, special Okura rice now grows.

Over the years, Yamazato restaurant has succeeded in keeping its artisanal cooking traditions alive and is increasingly popular among food lovers. The hard work and dedication of Oshima and his team was rewarded with a Michelin star in 2002, making Yamazato the first Japanese restaurant outside Japan to receive this honour. Since then, the loyal fan base has grown to new heights. Under the leadership of chef Masanori Tomikawa, who took over the reins from Oshima in 2010, Yamazato restaurant continues to welcome a growing number of regulars who have fallen in love with the authentic, traditional Japanese food culture. And with the Art of Craftsmanship, and the Art of Okura.