Kyoto’s charisma is of mythic scale: The city is the ancient capital of Japan, but in our modern world it somehow stands for connoisseurship, simplicity, unadulterated craftsmanship and the glamor of tradition. It’s the kind of soft power few cities — and countries — possess.

The allure revealed itself in London recently in a wordless exchange behind the elegant wooden dining counter of Roketsu, a Japanese restaurant in Marylebone. The chef was plating 10 exquisite, identical dishes of Hokkaido wagyu beef with three tiny red flowers each when, just as he turned his attention away, an extraneous bright blossom wafted off the prep bowl and fluttered onto one of the vessels destined for the evening’s guests. He began to hand out the platters when his sensei — a smiling but august visitor from Kyoto observing his disciple at work — saw the out-of-place flower. Subtly, the master raised a finger. The younger man immediately noticed the discrepancy and removed the superfluous bloom. Everything then went perfectly on its way.

That blink-and-miss-it moment of exactitude transpired in about two seconds as Roketsu chef Daisuke Hayashi worked with his mentor, Yoshihiro Murata. It was a touching display of student-teacher symbiosis as they serenely dispatched a 10-course showcase of kaiseki, a culinary tradition with roots in Zen Buddhism as well as imperial and samurai cultures.