Kenzo and Natsuko Tsujimoto’s new restaurant, Kenzo, brings authentic Asian hospitality to wine country.
Japanese-influenced menus have long been popular in Northern California, but with the opening of the 27-seat Edomai sushi and kaiseki restaurant Kenzo in downtown Napa this November, vintners-turned-restaurateurs Kenzo Tsujimoto and his wife, Natsuko, want guests to feel as if they’ve been transported straight to Tokyo.
“Margrit Mondavi, who was a great friend, had words [that] inspired me to open this Japanese restaurant in the place we both loved so much,” says Kenzo. “She said, ‘If someone could open a truly authentic Japanese restaurant in Napa, it would be you.’ Her words meant a lot.”
“[Margrit Mondavi] said, ‘If someone could open a truly authentic Japanese restaurant in Napa, it would be you.’ Her words meant a lot.”
Kenzo, who is founder and CEO of Japanese games developer Capcom, bought 3,800 acres on the slopes of Napa’s Mount George for his winery Kenzo Estate in 1990 and has since established four Kenzo Estate tasting room-cum-restaurants in Japan.
To open his eponymous restaurant in Napa, Kenzo brought on longtime friend Hiroyuki Kanda—whose signature kaiseki restaurant, Kanda, in Minato, Tokyo, has received three Michelin stars for the past nine years—as executive chef to develop menus and train the all-star culinary team, which includes the former executive chefs from two-star Kyoto restaurant Kikunoi and Kenzo’s Japan-based operations.
Dishes such as wagyu sukiyaki and snow crab and scallop shinjo combine Napa produce and ingredients flown in daily from Japan’s markets at their syun, or seasonal peak.
“In Japanese cuisine, it is important to respect the natural flavor of each ingredient, and by cooking and combining them, to enhance the flavor further. For sushi, it is fair to say that the quality of ingredients themselves is everything, so I assemble recipes according to the time of year and the most exquisite, delicate and flavorful ingredients available,” says Kanda.
Natsuko designed the dining room and seven-seat private room using only materials and products that were made in Japan. Arita-yaki, Imari-yaki and Kyo-yaki ceramics were sourced to complement the presentation of each dish; every piece of wood has been hand-tooled in Japan and shipped to Napa to be installed locally under the supervision of Japanese artisans.
“Even though the restaurant is in Napa, our guests will feel as if they are entering Japan when they step inside. While it has taken two years to physically create the restaurant, Kenzo and I have thought about it for many, many more,” says Natsuko. 1339 Pearl St., Napa, 707-294-2049; kenzoestate.com. • GEMMA PRICE.
Edited by Lesley McKenzie.