Issue 34 | 5 Minutes With

Yuichi Kamimura of Kamimura & Kitchen

Restauranteur, owner and chef of the Michelin-starred restaurant Kamimura in Niseko, Yuichi Kamimura, spent years perfecting his craft under celebrated chef Tetsuya Wakuda at Sydney’s Tetsuya’s before opening the first 12-seater Kamimura restaurant in Sapporo in 2005, and, thereafter, in Niseko in 2007. Since then, Kamimura restaurant has risen to international stardom, putting Niseko on the culinary world map with its French-inspired cuisine incorporating distinctive ingredients and flavours from Hokkaido. We speak to Kamimura-san about his journey, his inspirations, and the launching of his new restaurant – Kitchen.

Photo by Jacinta Sonja

Photo by Jacinta Sonja

It’s been 14 years since you’ve started Kamimura restaurant. Tell us a little about your journey?

We started small – as a 12-seater restaurant in Sapporo before moving to Niseko in 2007. It was just myself and my wife, Miyuki back then. I was the owner, chef, and everything else in between, and I loved it entirely. Though we have grown a little, the fundamentals have been pretty much the same. I’ve been doing what I like doing – I like making my guests happy with the food that I create.

Kamimura has been awarded the Michelin star in 2012, and in 2017. Was that the tuning point for Kamimura?

Yes, you could say that. We made the decision to move to our current location at Shiki in 2012, just before we got our first Michelin star. I think it was good timing. Before that, few people knew about us. But because of the Michelin guide, and perhaps, also because of the street front location, we started to get more bookings from both local and international guests.

Where do you get your inspirations from?

It’s a hard question... I draw my inspirations from everyday life, and everything around me, really. The beautiful seasons, the changing colours, the atmosphere of Hokkaido. I try to express that on the plate.

Tell us about your new restaurant – Kitchen.

Kitchen initially started as an extension of Kamimura’s existing kitchen. And because the kitchen is the main focus of this space, we decided to name this new dining space ‘Kitchen’. Kitchen is a 30-seater bistro/modern izakaya/restaurant/bar. I’m working with two other chefs – a head chef and a sushi chef to create new collaborative menus. We would like to do something we’ve not seen or done before. I’m excited by the infinite possibilities.

How is Kitchen different from Kamimura?

At Kitchen, there’ll be an ala-carte menu for groups of 2 to 5 persons; and pre-ordered omakase course menus for groups of 6 to 8 persons. At Kamimura, we use produce and ingredients mostly from Hokkaido, whereas at Kitchen, we also incorporate other wonderful ingredients from all over the world. I hope to make Kitchen lively, fun place, adult-only dining – a space where you can enjoy food with wine, champagne, or sake.

What’s the menu like at Kitchen?

It will be an ala-carte menu with seafood, foie gras, sushi with caviar, for example. We had the idea to use wine vinegar for the sushi rice, so we could pair it with vintage wines and champagne. We’ll use our new Jasper charcoal oven, to add a smokey flavour to breads, meats or vegetables.

What dish are you working/experimenting on right now?

We recently started making cocktails – it’s quite similar to cooking, such as a consommé with whisky, and a Bloody Mary salad/cocktail, using locally grown tomatoes from Niseko.

How do you source for your ingredients and produce?

I like visiting farms and markets. I’m curious about everything that looks vaguely edible. I see flowers, and I want to eat them.... and my tummy got upset a couple of times! I can’t stop tasting everything when I go to the farms. [*laughter]

What your greatest passion?

The most important thing in life for me is to make my guests, my family and my staff happy. At Kamimura, I believe in taking care of the tiniest things, from the food to the details of the restaurant, so that I’m able to provide an enjoyable experience for my guests.

What’s the best thing you’ve learnt through these years?

My former boss and mentor, Tetsuya Wakuda, once gave me a very good advice: “There’s just one thing you have to know – if you like something or not, that’s it.” Find out what you like, and keep doing it.