This week I saw a program on television that showcased shin-washoku, or "new Japanese cuisine," as the latest restaurant trend. The show visited several eateries where the chef/owners had gone abroad, mostly to America, to work in Japanese restaurants and since come back to Japan with a new twist on their native cuisine. Interestingly, what really makes these new places stand out from their traditional Japanese restaurant competitors is not the food. Sure, there are an avocado or two thrown into the mix for color, but the real difference is in the presentation, the service and the price.

Nanban-zuke (see recipe below)

One chain restaurant called An, with 23 locations in Kansai, serves up traditional atmosphere — tatami-mat zashiki rooms — but some of the courses come out on big, white, round Western plates and the price is less Tokyo and more Des Moines. The reporter described two more of the restaurants visited as having a cafe feel — casual tables and chairs and a Western-style open kitchen — and a ryotei taste — delicate, refined food that costs a pretty penny.