The certification program of Japanese Food and Ingredient Supporter Stores Overseas
Interview of Suppoter Stores Ryo Gastronomia
Eight counter seats, chef’s choice only. Just working properly by obeying fundamentals learned in Japan.
Sao Paulo / Brazil
New style, counter for small number of people, chef’s choice only
At the end of 2019, a "counter for a small number of people" was introduced in a special feature of a major local newspaper as a new movement in the food and beverage industry. The article was referring to "Ryo," a chef’s choice only sushi kaiseki restaurant. When it first opened in 2016, it was a kaiseki restaurant with around 60 seats, but in 2019, it was completely remodeled, and became a sushi kaiseki restaurant with eight counter seats and a chef’s choice only menu. Meals are all by reservation only, with lunch consisting of one sitting from 12 noon, and evening service consisting of two sittings at 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm. In particular, evening sittings are fully booked up two weeks in advance.
Ryo’s chef Edison Yamashita, who is the son of Japanese-born immigrants, went to Japan at the age of 15 and trained for eight years at Sushikan (Musashi-Shinjo, Kanagawa prefecture); after returning in 2005, he trained in sushi and Japanese restaurants in Brazil, and opened Ryo in 2016. Chef Yamashita’s indubitable Japanese cooking skills very quickly became known to gourmets in Brazil, and in 2018, the third year from opening, he gained a Michelin one-star rating.
Strong commitment to quality ingredients for better cuisine
Chef Yamashita goes to the market every morning, and uses his own expert judgment to choose the fish he buys. He also purchases directly from several reliable fisherman in Brazil.
Furthermore, he formulates vegetable cultivation plans with contract farmers and makes his own karasumi (dried salted mullet roe) and honey, etc.; in short, he is extremely particular about his food ingredients.
Since the ingredients that can be procured are different every day, he says that he decides the menu for that day at 7 o’clock in the morning.
The soy sauce for boiled soy sauce, kombu for dashi, katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), other seasonings/spices, sake, shochu, and tea, etc., that he uses are all made in Japan. However, chef Yamashita knows that there are better ingredients in Japan, and is not at all satisfied with the current situation. "I need better kombu and katsuobushi, and want to be more selective with regard to vinegar. I want Japanese marine products that can be used even after freezing, such as sweet shrimp, Japanese common squid, oval squid, and red caviar. At last, Japanese Wagyu beef (produced in Kagoshima) has recently started being imported, so I’m satisfied about that."
Commitment sensed through tongue, eyes and ears
A counter for a small number of people and a chef’s choice only menu represents a style that has been brought into Brazil for the first time, and Brazilian gourmets give it extremely high praise. The number of regular customers increases day by day, and many come around once a week. Not only does the menu change every day due to the purchased ingredients being different, but even when the ingredients are the same, the techniques and food presentation used are tailored to the customer’s individuality, and so even regular customers encounter surprises every time they visit. Because they can always converse with him in a snug space, customers can sense chef Yamashita’s commitment through their tongues and eyes, and understand it in their minds, as they enjoy the cuisine. "Many customers ask, 'Can you eat food as delicious as this every day in Japan?' and I reply, 'There are a lot of more delicious things in Japan,'" says chef Yamashita, looking slightly embarrassed. "I really have to get closer to the taste of Japan. I study every day," he continues.
Just working properly
It is around 30 years since Japanese food culture began being accepted by Brazilians, and so it is still very new, but in the Brazilian Michelin Guide, Japanese restaurants account for 7 out of 18 starred restaurants, which is a high proportion.
"With Japanese food becoming more common in Brazil, food ingredients that were not previously eaten in Brazil have become available in markets. The top chefs of contemporary cuisine are studying to incorporate the new ingredients and Japanese culinary techniques brought about by the spread of Japanese food culture. I sometimes teach two-star Michelin chefs the basics of ingredient uses and techniques," says chef Yamashita. He believes that the spread of genuine Japanese food techniques will increase the need for Japanese-made food ingredients, and so an expansion in the demand for those ingredients can be expected.
Finally, when asked about the future of Ryo, chef Yamashita thought for a while and replied, "I won’t do anything in particular. I’ll just do my work properly by obeying the fundamentals I learned at Sushikan."