Illustration by Inés Antuñano.
Omakase comes from the Japanese catchphrase which translates as “I leave it up to you”. When you dine omakase, you not only let the chef be your guide, your M.C., but also agree to a relationship in which he or she will read you and prepare something that fits your needs. What started as a Japanese ritual has now permeated to different cultures and gastronomies. Let’s review some of the most disruptive examples and what it means for the customer journey.
Omakase-ing across the globe
Who would have thought the omakase style would work on tacos? Since Enrique Olvera refreshed his Pujol brand in 2017 with a new location, he boldly decided to offer a taco tasting menu – omakase style. This is a great contrast to how normally tacos are served in traditional taquerías, where the waiter will always ask you how you want your taco, “¿con todo, joven?”
Los Tacos Azules
One year later, Marco García was opening another omakase-inspired taco p$lace, this time in Japan: Los Tacos Azules. Here, he welcomes you with a traditional blue corn tortilla, before spoiling you with tacos that change from season to season.
Another restaurant that found solace in omakase was the Korean-American Cote in New York City. The owner, Simon Kim, wanted attendees to try a wider sample of his steak offerings, but his prices were too high. The answer was simple: he would offer a steak omakase, 10 cuts of beef and accompaniments for the reasonable price of $125 USD per person. The extras include beef tartare, banchan, kimchi salads and lettuce wraps.
Also in New York, the new wave of Japanese cuisine restaurant Yamada Chikara offers kushiages only in omakase. These deep-fried skewers of meat, fish and/or vegetables are enhanced with chef Yamada’s molecular gastronomy techniques.
Another great example of how omakase shaped an entire experience is Ernst in Berlin. Chef Dylan Watson-Brawn runs his farm-to-table restaurant based on his relationship with local farmers; he has a keen eye for nature, he analyzes the weather each day before starting to cook. Watson-Brawn only serves his customers in omakase-style because he is certain is the best way to offer them the very best. He has believed this to be true since he started in the restaurant business, with a 6-seat offer in his own apartment.
If omakase were a music genre, which one would it be? The answer is pretty obvious to Kiminobu Saito, chef at Sushi Note in LA: jazz. Saito thinks a cook is like a musician, an artist that shouldn’t rely on technique alone, but leave room for passion, sense and improvisation. He improvises at his omakase bar to enhance the ingredients and create tastes for people to enjoy, like jazz.
Why restaurants need more disruptive experiences
Having a cool idea for a restaurant might seem easy, making sure your customers enjoy a good experience is not. With a growing generation of experience-seekers, the pressure is on creating places with ingenious touches of creativity without compromising flavor. The greatest example for this could be Platea in Madrid. Is it a food hall? Is it a gastronomic center? From the imposing entrance you can tell there is something going on. Your journey throughout this space is never boring, you have a food hall with recipes from all over the world, a couple of places to grab a drink, a full-service restaurant and a secret club at the top; all of these overlooking a stage for an exquisite performance while you dine.
Sure, maybe we went over the top with this example, but even adding something to mix things up a bit might make a difference. Adding an omakase bar to your restaurant might do the trick: it’s spontaneous, personal and gives you the opportunity to try new recipes. It also opens the way for a more clear and communicative relationship with your guests, one that is very important nowadays considering the immediacy of social media.
Omakase is an art
Omakase is an art, a gamble, it’s like going to the theatre and putting yourself at the mercy of the actors, letting them carry you on an emotional journey. Forget about the box of chocolates, life is like an omakase dinner: you never know what you’re gonna get, but you can be sure it’s tailored to your taste.
*Our specialty is the Food & Beverage (F&B) industry.