Yamazushi is located in the Woodcroft Shopping center in Durham. When you step into the restaurant you are immediately transported to restaurant in Japan. As we learnt on our trip to Japan, in traditional eateries the dining area is separated from the entry. When you walk into Yamazushi there is a narrow walkway created by a screen on your left which hides the dining area behind it. At the end of the narrow walk is a small welcoming water fountain.
As we entered, we were greeted warmly by Mayumi, the wife in the husband and wife team that run the restaurant. She immediately knew who we were as they stagger the reservations so that every guest can be welcomed and seated with personal attention. She seated us and explained the kaiseki menu. Kaiseki is a traditional Japanese muticourse dining experience which is rooted in the Buddhist culture.
Yamazushi is the labor of love for the husband and wife team, George and Mayumi Yamazawa (their story). After operating a typical and successful sushi restaurant in the space for many years, they recently changed to offering only the kaiseki menu. Each course in the meal highlights the ingredients by using a specific cooking method. Yamazushi offers an 7 course fixed menu which changes regularly.
Our meal started with ‘Otoshi’, the appetizer course which is similar to the French amuse bouche. This little bite was homemade tofu served with a few pieces of burdock root. It was a lovely, elegant play of textures! The tofu had a slight curd texture, similar to ricotta cheese. This texture was nicely complimented by the crispness of the burdock root. Based on this little bite, we knew we were in for a fantastic meal!
The second course was ‘Kobachi Sanshu’, the Sakizuke or starter course. This course was three cold small bites. The first was slow cooked satsuma potato with sweet breads. The richness of the sweetbreads was nicely cut by the satsuma potato. The second bite was edamame tofu with squash. The smooth texture of the tofu was enhanced by the sweet, crispness of the squash. The last bite in this dish was sweet beans with sardines. The white beans were soaked in sweet marinade and created a nice sweet, creaminess which played against the salty crunch of the sardines.
The third course was ‘O-Tsukuri’, the Mukouzuke or fresh dish. This was an assortment of sashimi. The dish included beautifully fresh and expertly sliced amber jack, bluefin tuna and sea urchin which were served with homemade soy sauce and miso. The taste of the homemade soy sauce was so much more subtle than the salty mass produced version!
The fourth course was ‘Ebi Shinjo’, the Age-mono or fried dish. This was a shrimp ball which was steamed and fried served in bonito and konbu dashi broth. This was a surprisingly beautiful dish!! The shrimp ball was light with a slightly crispy skin which toyed with the broth. The sweetness of the shrimp was nicely complemented by the salty broth. Just a wonderful combination of flavors and textures!
The fifth course was ‘Nasu Dengaku’, the Yakii-mono or grilled dish. This dish was grilled Japanese eggplant with a sweet red miso sauce. The sweetness of the eggplant was highlighted by the grilling preparation and enhanced with the delicate sauce.
The sixth course was ‘Hirame Uni’, the Yakimono or broiled dish. This was NC fluke marinated in white miso and broiled and served with a sea urchin sauce. A simply elegant dish! The fish was perfectly marinated and just touched by the heat of the broiler.
The seventh course was ‘Hako Zushi’, the Gohan mono or rice dish. This was Osaka style (similar to Kyoto style) boxed sushi with soybean curd, carrot, shiitake mushroom and anchovy with a soybean sheet and served with saikyo miso soup. This was the most hearty dish but still shined in the elegant combination of flavors.
The final course the ‘Mizu mono’ or dessert. This was a simple homemade mango sorbet which was served with drangon fruit. The mild sweetness of the dragon fruit was highlighted by the more sweet mango sorbet. The clean flavors were a perfect end to the meal.
Throughout the entire meal the Yamazawas offered us their highest art and craft. The service was warm and elegant. The entire meal took about two hours as the courses were nicely timed to allow us to savor the flavors and textures and look forward to the next offering. Not only is the chef an artist with the food, each of the dishes is served on clay pottery made by George himself. As Mayumi explained to us, he creates pottery pieces with a dish and preparation in mind. Chef George is definitely an artist and not simply a chef!
4711 Hope Valley Rd #6-A
Durham, NC 27707