Blending Cultures
Logo Okura 50 years

The Best of East and WestThe art of Blending Cultures

The Art of Blending Cultures is the art of combining authentic Japanese traditions with the finest expression of modern Western luxury.

The most wonderful results can be achieved by harnessing the best of both worlds, and doing so with respect and reverence. Restaurant Yamazato, where sommelier Menno Tol creates unexpected pairings with wines from East and West, embodies this philosophy.

Menno is the polar opposite of his Japanese colleagues. While they modestly and discreetly keep their distance, Menno Tol’s style is much more direct and exuberant. The captivating sommelier smiles, cracks jokes, and uses a lot of hand and arm gestures. And while Western guests are often fascinated by the almost invisible service of hostesses dressed in traditional kimonos, Japanese guests appreciate the openness of the sommelier – an appreciation that grows exponentially when they hear that he speaks a few words of Japanese and has extensive knowledge of saké, the rice wine from their homeland.

Outstanding flavour combinations

Yamazato serves traditional kaiseki cuisine, which is characterised by fresh, pure ingredients and traditional preparation methods. Kaiseki cuisine also follows five seasons – winter, spring, summer, autumn, and early summer. Each season, Executive Chef Masanori Tomikawa designs a new menu comprising six to eight courses. As sommelier, Menno has the honour of being one of the first to taste them. For him, as a young Dutchman, it is always a privilege to help refine the creations of the experienced Japanese chef until they are in perfect balance with the selected wines and sakés. It is a partnership that you wouldn’t usually come across in Japan, but which here in the Netherlands produces outstanding flavour combinations.

Menno Tol

Cultural blends

Although guests are free to choose all-wine or all-saké pairing options to accompany their kaiseki menu, Menno prefers a combination of both. He prefers to serve elegant and floral sakés with pure and delicate dishes, and slightly stronger wines with dishes with more distinctive flavours. Menno serves saké the Western way – not in traditional stone or wooden bowls as they do in Japan, but in wine glasses of various sizes. Swirling saké in a glass helps to release its broad palette of aromas, and serving it slightly chilled or at room temperature brings out its subtle flavours and delicate fragrances. Although, the serving temperature is something that Dutch guests have to get used to at first...

The Japanese generally like classic wines with well-established names, but when he’s selecting his wines for the menu, Menno also likes to explore cultural blends. The sommelier delights in getting people to try something different by choosing wines with a special story, such as a lively Dutch cuvée from the Schouwen Druivenland winery in Zeeland, or a South African Pinotage; a white wine made from blue grapes and matured in Romanian oak. And that is the story of how sommelier Menno Tol and his unexpected pairings help Yamazato to keep inspiring its guests with combinations that bring together the best of both worlds. We call this the Art of Blending Cultures. The Art of Okura.

Okura Sake Hotel Okura Amsterdam - Yamazato Restaurant - Okura Sake Hotel Okura Amsterdam - Yamazato Restaurant - Serving Sake