In the backstreets of Kamakura’s popular Komachi-dori shopping street lies Enso, an innovative restaurant capturing the five senses. Part of the cosmetic and lifestyle company Osaji, Enso aims to sharpen the five senses and help heal and prepare the mind and body through cooking.
Enso was built and renovated from a 100-year-old okiya (geisha house). It is comprised of a restaurant, beauty product shop and a fragrance room.
“The staff and I renovated the okiya by hand, cleaning, repairing the decaying walls and shoji screens and even the flooring. I think Japanese people will feel nostalgia and people from overseas will feel a traditional Japanese atmosphere,” says head chef Takumi Fuji.
The location provides an oasis in the otherwise busy touristy Komachi-dori street. The serene environment combined with the old okiya house is a pleasant surprise.
All the Aromas
The various aromas of perfume as well as charcoal and cooking from the kitchen waft through the shop. Combined with the old-fashioned interior and glimpses into the outside gardens, there is a sense of calmness and relaxation. The center room has a large table that can seat eight guests as well as five tables in the back.
The core concept of Enso is the five senses, which Fuji aims to incorporate into his food. “In cooking, we mainly use our sense of sight, taste and smell. However, by adding different textures to a dish, such as hard, soft or sticky foods, you can change the rhythm of chewing and accentuate the texture of the food. The sensation of crushing an ingredient with your teeth is tactile and the sound you hear from inside your mouth through your bones is auditory,” he explains.
The wide and complex use of precise culinary techniques such as gels and flavor oils are not just for show, but all have an important role in the food at Enso. The myriad and harmony of all the subtle flavors, aromas and textures tie the goals and message of Osaji and Enso together.
For fans of Osaji, there is a small shop selling various beauty and lifestyle products. In addition, there is also a workshop room, “kako-a scent,” where you can create your own perfume from over 30 different aromas. You can enjoy both before or after your meal and complete the Osaji and Enso experience.
Mastering Both Fresh and Fermented Food
Enso’s menu is based on seasonal produce, fermentation and Fuji’s vegetable sommelier experience. He has a strong focus on seasonal ingredients, starting each day with a visit to Kamakura’s farmer’s market. Depending on the vegetables available, the menu changes.
“Up until now, I would decide on the finished dish and then prepare the food to achieve it. At Enso, we prepare items such as seasonings, fermented foods, sauces and powders without deciding how to use them,” explains Fuji.
Unique and innovative dishes fill the menu, such as the steamed anago with pickled cucumber and okura, katsuobushi, shiso flower and plum sauce.
Fermentation is Fuji’s other passion that shines in Enso’s menu. Near the entrance are jars of fermenting ingredients, such as squid, iwashi sardine and pineapple, which are used throughout the menu and in the drinks.
“Knowledge of fermentation and food preservation is traditional knowledge from back when we did not have refrigerators. Combining it with my culinary skills, I’m able to create my own unique style. From a macro perspective, it is a living creature of yeast mold and bacteria. It feels as if I am raising a living creature. And the fact that humans enjoy the by-products of this process is what makes it interesting,” says Fuji.
While always continuing to conjure up new dishes, Fuji still plays homage to classic Japanese flavors. One of his main dishes is a simple yaki onigiri, meaning grilled rice ball. It’s made from Sasanishiki rice with grilled chicken from Odawara. It’s served with an onsen tamago egg, pot of dashi and nukazuke pickles. Start with the umami-packed chicken that has been kissed with charcoal-infused oil. Then add the dashi and the onsen tamago egg for a playful take on a classic Japanese dish oyakodon. The various ways of eating such a simple dish, focus your senses from the crunch of the soy-glazed grilled rice to the strong scent of charcoal.
“There are many situations in which people eat, such as when they are home alone, invited to dinner, at a wedding, or even at a funeral. Sometimes meals are taken lightly and sometimes seriously. In many cases, we often eat just to feel not hungry, but I would like our customers to challenge this idea. I would like them to understand their meal with care, the combinations of flavor, texture and aroma, as well as the beautiful ingredients used,” says Fuji.
Before you visit Enso, it’s recommended you make a reservation in advance.