When is comes to innovation we can learn a lot from chefs who create restaurants and menus that push our concept and relationship with food.
One such chef is Mitsunori Kusakabe, who recently opened up his very own restaurant in San Francisco, after his stunts as executive chef at the Michelin-starred Sushi Ran in Sausalito and the executive chef of Nobu in Miami Beach.
Recently I ate at Chef Kusakabe’s new namesake restaurant, which could easily be considered the trendiest sushi spot in San Francisco right now, having been the newest restaurant to earn a Michelin star in the city.
My experience at Kusakabe was unexpected in many delightful ways. When you walk in, the ambiance is completely unpretentious and welcoming, as opposed to the sometimes intimidating sushi joints where the “sushi nazi” yells at you for dipping the sushi into soy sauce. Also, contributing to the serene and hospitable ambiance is the sustainable interior design, with its beautiful wooden bar made of a 30 foot slab of solid elm.
But of course the most unexpected and delightful part of the experience, was the menu itself (see video below for a 60 second tasting menu).
Chef Kusakabe’s innovation that has won his restaurant fame is to apply kaiseki principles and techniques to sushi. Kaiseki is reminiscent of Western haute cuisine, characterized by its meticulous preparation of multi-course dishes. And whereas sushi could sometimes be included in kaiseki-styled menus, no one has ever applied the principles to sushi itself, until now.
The kaiseki philosophy emphasizes “five colors” (white, purple, yellow, red, green), “five tastes (sweet, salty, sour, bitter, spicy)”, “five senses”(smell, taste, sight, hearing, touch), and “five methods” (roasted, boiled, fried, simmered and raw).
A fan of sushi, I was excited to see how Chef Kasakube could incorporate many different elements in his sushi servings. It’s fish on top of rice. How crazy could it really get? After the course began, I looked at my boyfriend with happy bewilderment, and our faces acknowledged the unexpected flavors and textures that revealed themselves after we placed the sushi in our mouths.
These thoughtful masterpieces by Chef Kasukabe is an inspirational demonstration of the unforgettable experience that is possible when you challenge preexisting concepts and strive to delight your customer with the unexpected.
antedote is a strategic insights and innovation consultancy based in San Francisco, and we have helped many of the world’s leading brands like Pepsico and Unilever to garner deeper insights about their consumers and identify opportunities to grow their brands.
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