If intention were a restaurant.
Towa is a Japanese restaurant focused on delivering a seasonal Kaiseiki menu. Chef Nori has worked in both French and Japanese cuisine and now takes his 22 years of experience to deliver a unique and masterfully curated Kaiseki experience.
We could not wait to deliver our review of this elegant 20-seat establishment on the East Side.
What is Kaiseki?
Kaiseki (懐石) is a style of traditional Japanese cuisine in which a series of very small, intricate dishes are prepared.
The word kaiseki means “stones in the breast”. It refers to the stones (seki, or 石) that monks would fold into their robes (kai, or 懐) and close to their bellies to prevent hunger.
Historically, Kaiseki was prepared in conjunction with tea ceremonies but today it has become a luxury multi-course fine dining experience.
Dishes that are typically served in a Kaiseki menu may include:
- Appetizers (Sakizuke/Zensai)
- Sashimi (Mukozuke/Otsukuri)
- Mushimono (steamed dish)
- Nimono (simmered dishes)
- A rice course
What Makes Kaiseki Different from Omakase?
Kaiseki is often considered to be the fine dining cuisine of Japan. Omakase is also considered fine dining but does not necessarily have a focus on seasonality and freshness as Kaiseki does.
Kaiseki traditionally consists of nine courses but can range anywhere between six to 15 courses. Each course is defined by a particular cooking method and consists of a sequence of small dishes that are often artistically arranged. (Source)
Kaiseki dining focuses on the Japanese principle of shun, or only taking ingredients at the peak of their freshness. Dishes are presented as they are to ensure that the true flavor of each ingredient is fully expressed and displayed at the height of their growth.
We were invited in to dine at Towa on December 28, 2023 and were presented with the upcoming January 2024 Kaiseki menu. Below, we’ll share what we ate and the pros and cons of dining at Towa.
What We Ate at Towa
Towa translates to “eternity” or “forever.”
Towa offers two Kaiseki dining options:
- 7 Courses for $180
- 8 Courses for $240
We enjoyed an 8-course Kaiseki dinner at Towa plus a bonus dish. We’ll reveal what the added dish was down below.
Course #1: New Year 12 Kind of Appetizers Assortment
This assortment of foods is known as Osechi Ryori. It’s usually packed in 2-3 layers of lacquer boxes (ojubako) and there are a variety dishes in each layer. The entire family would share a single ojubako on New Year’s Day. The multi-tiered boxes symbolize the hope that happiness & wealth come continuously.
Our Osechi included the following bites:
- Datemaki (sweet rolled omelet) with black beans
- Herring roe with Kobu kelp
- Shira ae (mashed tofu) with ripe persimmon
- Ankimo (monkfish liver)
- Simmered Tsubu shellfish with ginger
- Tenderized simmered octopus with potato balls
- Smoked salmon wrapped in lotus root
- Pork belly with Domyoji (mochi)
- Duck loin with apple miso
- Water chestnut chips (not pictured but we did receive this later during our service)
From the start, we knew that our dining experience was going to be exquisite. Chef Nori assembled the Osechi in his own unique way in a woven basket.
We honestly thought this was the entire meal, but the food kept coming.
Course #2: Tempura Anago Eel and Satoimo Taro Roots
Our next course was the tempura fried eel and taro roots. You could eat the fried morsels with salt or their dipping sauce. The flavors were very straightforward and simple.
Course #3: Seared Nodoguro and Botan Ebi Sashimi
Next up was this amazing sashimi course.
Chef Nori seared the Nodoguro with imported bamboo charcoals and served it in a lacquer box with sweet shrimp (ebi) and some of the silkiest tuna you’ll ever have. The dish was served with soy sauce and their house-made ponzu sauces.
Every piece melted in our mouths and slightly warranted any sauce. The seafood was excellent on its own.
We were also impressed with how well-ventilated the restaurant is.
Course #4: Wild Buri Shabu Shabu Dashi Soup Hot Pot
Next up is their shabu shabu hot pot course. This fish and dashi shabu shabu were served with their ponzu and sesame sauces.
Watching Chef Nori prepare this was the most exciting part for me. Slowly dissecting the bowl piece by piece was second.
Course #5: Shrimp Flavored Chawanmushi topped with Uni
Chawanmushi is a steamed egg pudding dish. The dish was prepared with shrimp flavoring. The egg and uni combo was silky.
Course #6: Tataki Seared A5 Wagyu beef with onion and yuzu pepper sauce
All the courses at Towa come with a seared meat dish.
Our Wagyu tataki was phenomenal. You literally don’t need to chew any part of it.
The meat immediately deteriorates just by pressing it against the roof of your mouth with your tongue. The yuzu ponzu sauce was delicate yet flavorful.
My favorite part was the crispy end of the steak which was stacked so that it was our last bite of this dish.
Course #7: Seasonal Nambu Iron Pot: Seabream and Watercress Rice
Every Kaiseki menu includes a rice dish. Chef Nori has over 30 Nambu rice pot recipes. He scooped the rice into bowls and personally served it to us.
Our nambu set came with miso soup and pickled cucumber.
The dish was super comforting and a great way segway into dessert.
#8 Dessert Course: Sumo Orange Parfait
Our dessert course consisted of a fruit and ice cream parfait in a hollowed-out Sumo orange. Inside the orange was vanilla ice cream, strawberries with raspberry sauce, pieces of Sumo oranges, and then topped with Sumo orange foam.
It was delicate and balanced.
Bonus 9th Course: Wagyu Sukiyaki
Before dessert arrived, Chef Nori surprised us with one more dish. He even asks if we are hungry. We had room for one more dish at this point. 😋
Chef prepares us Wagyu sukiyaki. Sukiyaki is a Japanese dish of thinly sliced meat and vegetables cooked quickly, often at the table, with soy sauce, sake, and sugar.
Chef Nori’s sukiyaki comes with an onsen tamago (egg). We were advised by Hiro, the owner of Towa (who also dined next to us this evening) that the egg yolk could be mixed into a bowl and used as dipping sauce for the meat.
Below we’ll share our pros and cons of dining at Towa.
- Chef Nori is extremely efficient. He was juggling several menus during our visit. We watched him waltz gracefully throughout the open kitchen. He also had the final touch on all the dishes before they made their way to the guests.
- The Staff were very professional, welcoming, and attentive.
- Very Punctual – The timing of our dining experience was exactly what we anticipated spending, around 2.5 hours.
- A very balanced meal. Our courses included a harmony of seafood, red meat, and vegetables. Only Wagyu beef is served in their multi-course menus.
- We left very full! Their multicourse menu was very filling. We were glad we saved our appetites for this experience.
- All the ingredients Chef Nori uses are imported and sourced fresh for that day.
- Elegant Dining Space – The restaurant only seats 20, but the space is gorgeous. It’s very well-lit and even has a traditional Japanese restroom.
- Affordable beverage options. We opted for a $35 Sake flight and a $36 combination flight that included Gaston Champagne, a glass of sake, and red or white wine. Bottles are also available for purchase.
- Any allergies and food preferences will be honored and considered.
- Not sure! We are somewhat disappointed that Towa is in Redmond and not near us in Downtown Seattle. It’s definitely worth the trek to Redmond.
How to Make a Reservation at Towa
Reservations are required to dine at Towa. You can book a reservation on Tock and secure your spot with a $50 deposit per person. The $50 deposit goes towards the cost of your meal.
Reservations need to be made one month in advance. Their dinner hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 4:30 PM to 10 PM. Dinner is expected to last 2.5 hours. We recommend sitting at the bar counter so that you can see how artfully Chef Nori moves around in the kitchen.
Chef Nori prepares his food for the day and walk-ins are not welcome. This ensures that they prevent waste and only purchase what is needed.
And if you want to try Towa’s high-quality sushi, they opened Nextowa in the same plaza as Towa. Nextowa is their casual sushi joint that is perfect for quick dining, takeout, and catering.
Hiro explained that he opened Nextowa so that people could experience the same freshness and high-quality sushi cuisine without breaking the bank.
Thank you so much for having us and giving me an experience I’ll remember forever.
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If you're a brand and want to work with us, please visit this page to get in touch.