Harajuku district in Tokyo may be nearly 6,000 miles away but the authentic taste of the region is easy to access via the Harajuku Kitchen door in Bruntsfield.
And with a growing number of plaudits to her name Kaori Simpson has been crowned the best in Scotland at the Golden Chopsticks Awards in Mayfair last night.
Now in its second year, the awards, which were co-founded by Gok Wan, are one of the largest and most prestigious celebrations of Oriental food in the world.
Shortlisted restaurants, which included some of the very best in the UK such as Yauatcha, Duck & Rice and Kanada Ya were voted for by members of the public over a six-week period, with 20,000 votes registered. Harajuku Kitchen, which launched in Edinburgh in 2013 is the city’s only Japanese owned and run AA rosette restaurant.
Kaori said: “We are so delighted with this accolade; it is a real honour to be recognised alongside some of the greats of the industry such as Ken Hom and Andrew Wong and restaurants like The Araki and Yauatcha.
“We just try and focus on simplicity and flavour and in being as authentic as possible, using the recipes that were passed down from my Great Grandfather’s restaurant to my mother who taught me to cook.
“Because of this we are proud to be the official catering partner for the Consulate General of Japan, the Scottish Japan society and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce in Scotland. Whilst our food is Japanese our ingredients are, where possible, local and this is going to be an even bigger focus for us in 2019 and beyond with a commitment to sustainable sourcing and membership of the Slow Food Alliance in the UK.
“I also just think it is great that the importance of Oriental cuisine to the UK catering industry and those that work in it is being recognised and rewarded by the Golden Chopsticks Awards.”
Representatives from the Korean and Chinese Embassies attended the event as well as some of the biggest influencers in Oriental food, eminent food writers and prominent community leaders.
Gok Wan said: “The Golden Chopsticks Awards has well and truly cemented itself into the culinary calendar. What an amazing night, bringing together the good and the great from the oriental food world in one room, with winners covering the broad spectrum of SE Asian food from Chinese, Japanese and Thai to Vietnamese, Malaysian and Korean. It was fantastic to see so many accomplished restaurateurs in the room, alongside the rising stars of the future! It was a real honour to host what is now one of my favourite nights of the year.’
To top it all off, the awards kick-started with a standing ovation for Ken Hom, regarded as one of the world’s greatest authorities on Oriental food, as the entire room sang happy birthday, and presented a lucky cat-shaped birthday cake in celebration of the celebrity chef’s 70th birthday and almost 60 years of cooking.
He said: “I am more than delighted to be part of the second Golden Chopsticks Award which sets the highest standard from which Asian restaurants in the UK can all be judged. I congratulate all the winners and finalists as well as the judges for their hard work.”