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Across from Osaka’s Van Gogh museum is Kaishoku Shimizu, a Japanese multicourse restaurant with a facade that looks small enough to squeeze onto a canvas. Between the counter and the two tables it can accommodate 15 diners, which may be a decent amount for restaurants of this kind but good luck trying to squeeze Japan’s rugby heroes into this intimate space. The chefs — there are no waiters — are constantly having to shift one way or another as they attend to various tasks. Presiding over the cooks is the eponymous Toshihiro Shimizu, an affable and masterful head chef.

Shimizu cooks kaiseki ryōri, Japan’s native fine dining. His food is served in and on a beautiful array of dishes and he provides his guests with information about the ingredients. This is the standard kaiseki dining experience, but where Shimizu excels is by adding a dash of creativity to his cooking, an unteachable trait, perhaps — and one that Van Gogh, in his museum across the road, would approve of.

For the hassun (second course), which typically sets the seasonal tone, a handful of luminous green gingko nuts and chestnut chips were served on a small, ornate dish. The chips tasted similar to senbei (rice cracker), but were perfectly paired with the gingko. Later during this course, a sliver of shimesaba (marinated mackerel) was served with its robust taste toned down. But what it lost in intensity was balanced by an understated lusciousness. And Sakura ebi, a dainty species of shrimp from Suruga Bay, Shizuoka Prefecture, were then folded into lumps of potato — the shrimp turned up again in the penultimate rice dish, delicately flavored with myōga (Japanese ginger).

I ate here in mid-October when Shimizu — who has a background in farming — was making great use of the fruits and fish of the season. Hamo (conger eel) turned up in nearly every course, cooked in a variety of ways. On the day I visited, Shimizu also utilized a charcoal fire and one of the great things about my counter seat was witnessing the little wing fins of ayu (sweetfish) flutter from the intensity of the fire. It was as if the fish had come alive once more, despite being skewered head to tail.

There are two set menus for lunch, and just one at dinner. I opted for the ¥5,400 lunch, which sadly didn’t include the salted sweetfish, as well as an extra serving with matsutake mushroom. However, I did get a little of the luxury mushroom in the nabe (hot pot), which included a host of other fungi, such as enoki, maitake and shitake as well as cuts of inoshishi (wild boar).

Although the pace of lunch is slow, Shimizu builds an easy atmosphere with his food and conversation.

The meal ended with fresh persimmon served in a majestic glass bowl with a drizzle of custard cream flavored with brandy. Without doubt, one of my best meals of the year.

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