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Review excerpt: Chef Koichi Hashimoto's creative cooking is like an interactive performance, in a setting that is always easygoing and relaxed. He offers only one tasting menu — a sophisticated multicourse meal that unfolds for up to three hours — and there is only one sitting each evening.

You need only glance at Hashimoto's compact open kitchen to understand why: Space is at a premium at Celaravird and his crew have to clear the equipment for each course before embarking on the next. But there is another reason: He doesn't want to spoil the element of surprise.

Some dishes are miniature landscapes, evoking sandy summer beaches or austere temple gardens. You may be served a single giant droplet resting at the base of a jade-green lotus leaf. The stones in your "rock garden" may turn out to be edible. Your dessert might even resemble a traditional Japanese hand-held firework.

Hashimoto hails from Osaka and originally trained in French cuisine. But working in Spain had an even greater impact on him — especially the season he spent at ElBulli, the celebrated (and now long-closed) modernist restaurant in Catalonia, whose cooking epitomized the term "molecular gastronomy."

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