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Having taken Cork city by storm, Takashi Miyazaki’s new kaiseki restaurant, Ichigo Ichie, shows he was just getting started.

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In Ireland we have lots of restaurants that strain to be gastronomic temples. But Takashi Miyazaki’s new Cork restaurant, Ichigo Ichie, is a gastronomic temple that strains to be a temple.
Mr Miyazaki doesn’t just want to satisfy your appetite, with his High Church cooking. He wants to feed your soul.
Minimalist, calm and demure, Ichgo Ichie is laid out so that the entrance is the beginning of a path that leads, finally, to the altar of the temple, the counter with five seats behind which Mr Miyazaki fashions his magic through the 12-courses of his kaiseki menu, working in front of an extraordinary piece of ceramics, Moonjar, made by Akiko Hirai.
Anyone who has visited Miyazaki’s Cork city takeaway on Evergreen Street will have some intimation of what is in store in Ichigo Ichie. But what you can’t configure is the totality of the experience.
This is an eating experience that chases the spiritual, that inspires a sense of awe, not least when you sink a spoon into the mushimono and the texture cleaves apart to reveal buried chicken, fish and broad beans. It’s like you have discovered treasure.
The menu offers twelve dishes, and it’s a processional of food unlike anything that has ever been offered in Ireland. Every dish, from the ethereal smoked scallop on top of the most perfect nigiri rice, to the sublime channel wrack in the Gohanmono course, with burdock, carrot, shiitake and dashi, is flawlessly concocted, and sublimely beautiful to look at.
In Ireland we view restaurant eating as a chance to relax. But Ichigo Ichie offers us a chance to pay attention, to focus on the almost microscopic detail which the kitchen has paid to the dishes they offer. Anyone reared within the realms of the major religions will recognise the sacramental aspects of this sort of food: we are paying attention to the food, much of it enclosed in tabernacle-like bowls, but we are also paying respect to the food. It’s an extraordinary gastronomic feedback loop, and there is nothing else even remotely like it in this country.
It’s not cheap, of course. Dinner costs €95 per head, but if you ate something similar in London, at The Araki, for instance, it would set you back £300, whilst in New York it would be twice that price. The sakes are not cheap but they are seriously delicious – you could make a fool of yourself with the plum sake – whilst the natural wines are superb, and offer good value – try the Austrian wines from Elizabeth Beck, especially the stunning Ink.
Partly spiritual, partly a form of culinary catharsis, Ichigo Ichie is a transcendent experience. This food, this modest little temple of culinary creativity, feeds your soul.
 

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