berlin: arai restaurant opening

© arai / photography: sasha kharchenko

it's something few people realize, but japanese culture has dealt with a strong chinese influence these past few centuries, and unsurprisingly, that includes all matters on a culinary level. as a result, one of the land of the rising sun's distinct culinary styles that has emerged  in the last century is called chuka ryori. hybrid and varied, it's derived from the flavours and traditional dishes of various regions of china, but isn't a mash-up as you'd expect. interestingly, the cuisine easily measures up to japan's very own omakase cuisine in its flavours, the presentation aesthetic and also the order of courses.

tucked away in a lower level of a residential builing in berlin's happening mitte district is a new gourmet establishment dedicated to this specific cuisine. called arai, it occupies a vaulted space with exposed red bricks and furnishings and flooring crafted from sturdy timber. the interior design, courtesy of japanese architect and designer kuma kenta, also makes clever use of an interplay of light and shadow that not only enlives the setting, but also is reminiscent of traditional japanese teahouses. a maximum of ten guests are seated in the main dining room around an expansive table crafted from a single piece of redwood. the table is set low into a custom-made, elevated wooden floor that also doubles as comfortable seating, thanks to a sunken recess below the table that provides space for guests’ legs.

opening shortly on the premises is a private dining room seating seven guests. the kitchen at arai is helmed by chef makoto ishii who has a wealth of experience in chuka ryori cuisine, and for this estabishment he has concocted an elaborate ten-course menu that's shaped by seasonality in the typical omakase manner, but with the possibility of individual dishes varying on a day-to-day basis in accordance with market freshness. the dishes are accompanied by sake options from the coastal town of fukui in western japan, special seasonal imports, japanese spirits, and french wines. location: arai, strassburgerstrasse 60 [mitte].

© arai / photography: sasha kharchenko