Yas Imagine Kaiseki

A contemporary take on Japanese Cuisine

By Justin Velgus    - 3 min read

Sendai is really a foodie's paradise. The city claims nearly two dozen delicacies, such as its signature gyutan beef tongue, boasts delicious seafood and sushi from nearby Shiogama and Matsushima, and has a near endless variety of cuisine in its compact center. One such gem of a restaurant which remains unknown by most locals and nearly all tourists is Yas Imagine Kaiseki. Owned and operated by head chef Yas, the restaurant provides diners a sophisticated atmosphere, high quality ingredients, and creative Japanese menu with New York style that tastes as good as it looks.

The restaurant is surprisingly easy to access for both its location and ability to accommodate different tastes. It is just a 1 minute walk from the popular Mediatheque, which is also a stop on the Loople sightseeing bus route. Furthermore, Yas speaks English and even some Spanish. Why? He lived and worked in New York for three decades. The food is also very welcoming to concerning eaters. Locally-sourced ingredients are used in California-style sushi (a rarity to find in Japan!), fish, and veggie dishes. However, Yas makes sure to cover the entire pallet. In fact, you could come for lunch and skip Japanese food entirely with the amazing western style desserts or a big, juicy gyutan hamburg beefsteak with saffron butter rice. Upon request, he can even cater to vegetarians or Halal diets.

After learning the ropes in New York, Yas operated two restaurants on his own. He earned much publicity and hosted many celebrity and high profile visitors before he eventually decided to return to his native Sendai. First he brought home New York style by focusing on high-quality fusion dishes at his first restaurant New York Sushi. After several years, he was ready to evolve. At this point the restaurant interior and menu transformed into Yas Imagine Kaiseki. Kaiseki is a style of traditional Japanese cuisine served one-after-another in small dishes. There are only a few places in Sendai that offer it, and this is the only restaurant that does its downtown and openly welcomes non-Japanese patrons that I know of.

The menu here is impressive on so many levels. Every single bite is delicious! And I have been there 5 times already, so I know! The restaurant is high-end, and that is reflected in the higher price, service, and above all, quality. For lunch, various courses or omakase (chef's choice) sets run 3,000 yen to 7,500 yen. A must is the instagram-worthy "Afternoon Tea" set. This three-tiered tea platter features a smorgasbord of flavors. Sushi, tempura, and mountain veggies are found hovering over western-style sweets paired with aromatic roasted green tea from a famous local tea shop. Dinner features various courses, and you can even order the Afternoon Tea with a glass of champagne in the evening, if you would like. If you can, splurge on the luxurious kaiseki courses offered at 10,000 yen, 12,000 yen, and 15,000 yen. Reservations should be made 2 days in advance and you are allowed to discuss the menu beforehand. A few cocktails, some sake and standard drinks, and a full two page wine list give you plenty of options to wash down your meal.

Having been to New York many times myself for business, I can say with confidence Yas Imagine Kaiseki could hold its own against nearly any Japanese-inspired restaurant there. Plus, if this restaurant was overseas, prices would be easily double. For those reasons, I would recommend Yas Imagine Kaiseki for well-travelled globetrotters looking to be impressed or for a Sendai first-timer eager to try some of the best the city has to offer.

Getting there

Located 1 min walk and one block north from the Sendai Mediatheque on Jozenji-dori Avenue. Look for the sign on left of the sidewalk, then walk down the stairs to the entrance.

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Justin Velgus

Justin Velgus @justin.velgus

Justin Velgus (ジャスティン ベルガス) is the Miyagi Prefecture Partner for Japan Travel and a longterm contributor since 2012 with a focus on the Tohoku region.  Justin has written extensively for JT, and other publications such as VisitMiyagi and Sake Today, amassing over 350 published articles introducing the travel and culture of the region. Justin's wealth of experience and knowledge comes from studying in Akita, teaching English in Miyagi through the JET Program, and promoting sake overseas for the government of Fukushima. Now Justin helps with inbound tourism and regional promotion while also enjoying his role as a volunteer tour guide in Sendai, the gyutan capital of the world.

Join the discussion

Justin Velgus Author 2 years ago
Now the restaurant has an English website and English menu!
Elizabeth S 2 years ago
Wow, I love the way he serves kaiseki ryori like it is tea. It’s a lovely way to show off the colors, textures and flavors.

I highly recommend kaiseki Ryoki to visitors to Japan. It’s a great way to sample many exquisitely prepared dishes one at a time.
Justin Velgus Author 2 years ago
I was also impressed! The Afternoon Tea is kaiseki style for sure. Each bit of food has so much attention to it! Also, Yas does a full course dish-by-dish kaiseki mega meal I am hoping to try one day!
Kim 2 years ago
Always a good sign when a place comes so highly recommended that you’ve visited multiple times. The afternoon tea set looks fab!
Bonson Lam 2 years ago
Hi Justin, I felt like you wrote this article just for me! I remember reading the story of Chef Masa who is one of New York's most famous Japanese chefs. He apprenticed with one of the world's great sushi masters, Sugiyama Toshiaki. It is great that the best of New York sophistication and Japanese sensitivity is showcased here.
Bonson Lam 2 years ago
Masayoshi or Masa Takayama 高山 雅氏 is one special chef. He is the owner of Masa which is a Michelin-starred restaurant in New York, though he is from Tochigi. It would be a great reason for you to catch up with Chef Yas again, maybe over a glass of sake. Yes it is very rare fro someone to come back to their hometown like Chef Yas.