"He was a wise man who invented beer," said Plato. It wasn't his greatest line, but it sets this story up nicely: the tale of a talented man who sort of reinvented beer.

Kimio Nonaga is the third-generation chef at Nihonbashi Yukari, a kappo ryori restaurant (think kaiseki — Japanese haute cuisine — with a bit less formality) in Tokyo's Nihonbashi district.

Nonaga bagged the Iron Chef culinary trophy in 2002, at the age of 29, and was flagged by the New York Times the following year as one of five young Japanese chefs to watch. His menu adheres to Japanese culinary traditions but nudges them in new directions. Your sashimi might be seared rather than raw, and you may be served what Nonaga calls "interactive" dishes, such as a hamaguri clam and rice bowl with the clams and rice pressed to one side of the bowl and ankake sauce poured into the remainder — diners are encouraged to experiment with dipping, mixing or eating the clams and rice plain.