The Chiso Yo Restaurant lies on a hill overlooking the Seto Inland Sea. They get fresh seafood and ingredients from the market every day to use in their creative dishes.
“It’s not that we’re particularly picky about using local ingredients, it’s just that we want to make sure they are fresh, so naturally we use a lot of local produce,” says chef and owner Mr. Shohei Yamamoto.
Mr. Yamamoto himself is also from Yanai City. He first started at a cooking school studying French cuisine, and then toiled at a first-class hotel cooking French cuisine. However, he has made a complete U-turn and is now cooking Japanese cuisine at this restaurant. He tells me that it just kind of happened that way: ”I don’t think about genres, I tend to focus on the area and the local ingredients I can get from the area. Whenever I think about what kind of seasonal ingredients to use, presentation and plates, and how to combine everything, the overall theme just turns out to be Japanese. I really don’t think about genres at all.”
Indeed, the restaurant itself does not have a set theme. They serve whatever ingredients are available that day, decorated and presented with seasonal flowers and petals from the surrounding mountains. Every single dish is an improvisation. Chef also tells me that he spends his days trying to imagine the customers that come and how to please them, right up until the last moment before serving.
On the day of my visit, chef Yamamoto managed to get hold of a halfbeak, a Hong Kong grouper, and a stingray at the local fish market. From the mountains he picked seasonal wild plants such as rape blossoms and fuki buds, and for decoration he used spring blossoms from the fields.
“The stingray is especially good today, so I figured I’d make it into sashimi. Stingray is usually boiled and cooked, but today’s catch is particularly fatty and so makes excellent sashimi.”
The head and bones of the exquisite grouper were grilled and creatively presented retaining the original shape of the fish. Truly a taste of spring, the steaming hot meat was covered in rape blossoms and deep-fried.
The restaurant only accepts advance reservations.
At Chiso Yo, customers can enjoy a delicious, unpretentious seasonal meal and the stunning view of the Seto Inland Sea at the same time. This is thanks to the chef being from the area and his trust in what it has to offer, or at least that’s what I believe after watching him cook with such joy.
Address: 1458-3 Obatake, Yanai City, Yamaguchi Prefecture
Business hours: 11:00 – 14:00, 18:00 – 22:00
Closed: Mondays and the first Tuesday of the month
※Advance reservations only. Please call to make a reservation.
Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Masafumi Fujimoto
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Masafumi Fujimoto Hi there! My name is Masafumi Fujimoto. Until the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, I was engaged in editing production at an advertising company in Tokyo. However, the earthquake was a turning point in my life and I headed home to Yamaguchi. When I arrived, I was extremely energized and motivated to help revitalize the region, but I had a hard time adjusting to the motivation level of the local people. Around that time I met an elderly lady who said: "It doesn't matter if all the people move away from the island; that's just the nature of things. Someday people will come back again." Lessening the tension I’d been feeling, those few words relieved me hugely, and I was able to finally adjust. Since then, I've been involved in writing and editing magazines, and working in advertisement production, as well as doing a little bit of farming. I also spend time walking around Setouchi searching for the many, many voices out there.
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