Chef Kaouru Azeuchi introduces Las Vegas to Kaiseki Ryori style
By Jason Harris
Kaouru Azeuchi is one of the most underrated chefs in Las Vegas. You might not have heard of his restaurant, Kaiseki Yuzu. And if you have been to it, you’ve likely had trouble finding it. The eatery is tucked away in a strip mall in Chinatown, with no view of it from the street. You have to search it out.
As the restaurant’s name implies, Chef Azeuchi specializes in a kaiseki, a multi-course Japanese meal that requires specific types of preparation for each dish and utilizes seasonal ingredients. The plates are thought out and meticulous. And while finding Kaiseki Yuzu isn’t the easiest task, the search is worth it. This is a meal you’ll be happy you found.
We caught up with Azeuchi to learn more about kaiseki, his background and his goals for his restaurant. Here’s what he had to say:
What is Kaiseki Ryori?
“Kaiseki Ryori is a traditional Japanese cuisine based on “Honzen ryori (本膳料理).” Honzen Ryori started during the Muromachi period (1336-1573) as a formal meal served to samurais and court nobles, and 一汁三菜 (literally means one soup and three dishes). This is the foundation of the style.”
“There are two types of Kaiseki, 懐石料理, and 会席料理, and are both pronounced as Kaiseki Ryori. 懐石料理, which started as a small meal served before the tea ceremony during the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1600). As time went on, Honzen ryori and Kaiseki (懐石料理) developed into Kaiseki ryori (会席料理) during the Edo Period (1603-1868) as a multi-course dinner that you see nowadays. It is considered a banquet meal and usually enjoyed with sake.”
How long have you been training to master the art of Kaiseki Ryori?
“As a chef, it usually takes at least 10 years to master the whole course. You cannot move on to the next level until you master each course. After completion of the training, you can be promoted to a head chef or some people decide to go independent and open their own restaurant.”
“After 13 years of training, I worked as the head chef for three years at a restaurant in Japan, studied French cuisine for three years, and moved to Las Vegas to open Kaiseki Yuzu.”
Why do you want to open Kaiseki Yuzu in Las Vegas?
“I wanted to convey the culture of Japan through authentic cuisine and thought Las Vegas was a great opportunity because there are so many visitors from all over the country and internationally. When I started the restaurant, there were no kaiseki restaurants here and nobody knew what kaiseki was. Now, more people know kaiseki and I have hope that it will increase in popularity in the future.”
How often does the menu change?
“We change our menu monthly, so putting it together to ensure it’s the best we can offer our clientele is always a challenge. I must contemplate the balance of taste and texture. Designing the presentations is fun, but also the hardest part.”
“We pick seasonal ingredients while contemplating harmony and the balance of taste and texture. I work hard on creating a menu each month that customers will enjoy from start to finish.Putting seasonal ingredients together and creating new dishes has always been very interesting to me. I find it very enjoyable to see my customers pleased with my creations.”
What is your advice to a diner who wants to try Kaiseki ryori for the first time?
“My advice to new diners is do not feel intimidated, just come and try. We are happy to help customers learn more about Kaiseki and it will be more fun as you learn.”
“I want to show everyone how great Kaiseki is. It is not just an upscale meal but also balanced and healthy because it’s based on a variety of seasonal ingredients. I am immensely proud to open the first Kaiseki restaurant in Las Vegas and also want to make Kaiseki Yuzu famous in our city and beyond.”
Translation by Ayumi Koga.
Kaiseki Yuzu is located at 3900 Spring Mountain Road, Suite A-5. The restaurant is open Wednesday through Monday from 5:30 p.m. until 10 p.m. (last start at 8 p.m.). Call (702) 778-8889 for more information or to make a reservation. Reservations are required.