Suzuki-san isn't interested in modernizing Japanese cuisine. He prefers to work with traditional Japanese ingredients and techniques to produce refined Kansai-style cuisine. He eschews food processors and other modern kitchen tools, preferring to use traditional Japanese equipment and techniques. he prepares his own tofu in house and even boils down seawater to produce his own sea salt.
On one visit, Suzuki-san brought out a dumpling of kabocha squash enrobed in mochi, which he had flash fried. The dumpling was served on a braised slice of daikon in a pool of dashi and garnished with a tangle of tororo kombu filaments. He explained that the dish was prepared without any meat or fish in the traditional Buddhist style. We inquired about his interest in shojin ryori and learned that he was a Buddhist and loved to prepare vegetarian dishes.
I wanted to return to Hachi and Hachi for an entire traditional shojin ryori kaiseki meal and see what Suzuki-san could provide within the constraints of no meat, no fish, no eggs, and no garlic or onions.
Here are a few dishes from the first shojin ryori kaiseki meal Suzuki-san said he's prepared since leaving Japan:
An early course was maitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, and yuba (tofu skin) in a rich kombu dashi. Suzuki-san's kombu dashi augmented with mushrooms had remarkable depth and a rich uamami flavor. Adding a few drops of lime juice provided a bright counterpoint to the earthiness of the broth.
Another dish we really liked was marinated, pressed tofu, which was fried, grilled, and served with a maitake mushroom and a shishito chile. Somehow, pressing the tofu created a texture similar to shredded meat.
This dish featured braised lily bulb, which had a flavor reminiscent of chestnuts. The lily bulb was served on braised baby bok choi and a braised slice of daikon in more of Suzuki-san's flavorful kombu dashi.