All cooking is elemental — a complex chemistry of heat, time and ingredients. But nothing beats the special alchemy that derives from preparing a meal over an open wood fire.

The hiss and crackle of the timber, the wafting aromas, the glow of the flames, the heat emanating from the embers: These are the primal qualities of wood-fired cooking that have fueled its growing popularity in fine dining restaurants around the world, including Japan.

That said, wood has rarely if ever played a role as a heat source in Japanese cuisine, given the availability of premium binchō charcoal that burns at such a consistent high heat. But one young chef who is starting to blur those lines is Yu Kunisue, whose remarkable new restaurant, Shizen, opened in January in Shibuya.