Japanese Cuisine Towa
By Jaejun Jeon
Translation by David Yamaguchi*
The North American Post
*The original Japanese version of this article is in “Soy Source”
On September 26, I Love Sushi on Lake Bellevue opened the kaiseki restaurant “Towa” (Eternity) in Redmond with the concept of “introducing Japanese flavors beyond sushi to a wider audience in America.” It is currently the most anticipated restaurant where you can feel the spirit of Japanese chefs.
Heading “Towa” as executive chef is Yoshinori Morita, a native of Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan. As a child, Morita became fascinated with cooking. After graduating from high school, he attended culinary school, where he spent two years immersed in the world of cooking. He then worked in a French restaurant from the age of 20 for six years before making a fresh start at a Japanese restaurant at 26.
The world of Japanese cuisine is known for its strictness. Morita reflects on the first six years of his career in it as the most challenging period in his life, without respite.
▲Various kaiseki (set menu) dishes made with delicate consideration and skilled techniques.
Everything was about prioritizing the customers, with his own needs taking a back seat. During his apprenticeship, he mainly handled tasks like preparation and clean-up, which meant he rarely saw customers’ faces, making it difficult for him to maintain his motivation. However, enduring such rigorous training solidly cultivated his knowledge and skills. For his last eight years in Japan, he led a restaurant as its head chef.
▲Authentic Japanese tableware imported from Japan enhances the kaiseki cuisine. Photos: Keith Manembu (Graphic Designer / Shogun Enterprise Inc.)
Driven by a spirit of challenge and a desire to explore the potential of Japanese cuisine overseas, Morita came to the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021. It was a particularly trying time for the restaurant industry, but Morita remained positive, patiently waiting for an opportunity when people could once again enjoy a leisurely dining experience in restaurants. Eventually, he opened “Towa” as a sister restaurant to I Love Sushi on Lake Bellevue.
Towa has 20 seats and offers only dinner service, with seasonal kaiseki courses priced at $150, $200 and $250. Morita pays great attention to the order in which dishes are served.
“Kaiseki is served one course at a time, freshly prepared, so it takes about two hours to complete the meal. Therefore, I aim to create a visually vibrant story where flavors and textures change along the way. I would be delighted if our guests enjoy the meal with happiness from beginning to end,” he explains.
The order may also vary depending on the ingredients sourced that day, making it interesting to observe the narrative Morita weaves through his kaiseki.
Morita’s thoughts are reflected in Towa’s interior design as well. There are no partitions between the kitchen and the dining area. Moreover, the counter seats have a charcoal grill right in front of them. The chef’s final presentation is a perfect performance, bringing excitement to the moments between the dishes with various artistic presentations.
Overseeing the servers as floor manager is Ms. Aina, who hails from Oki Island, Shimane Prefecture. She came to Seattle right after graduating from high school, then studied business in college. She later worked at a game company and as a server at I Love Sushi on Lake Bellevue. She was promoted to floor manager at Towa.
“Some people might feel intimidated when they hear ‘kaiseki,’ but we want customers to relax without any airs. We aim to provide a homelike service,” says Aina.
The team’s goal is to have customers thinking, “I want to come back for another special occasion” by the time they leave.