Kaori Simpson is passionate about sharing her brand of Japanese cooking with a Scottish audience, even recently converting the entire Scottish Rugby team, 'they all love Japanese food' she says proudly.
A keen champion of sustainability, and a member of the slow food alliance, she is keen to highlight good food being on the national agenda. In addition, telling us that wherever possible the restaurant uses seasonal produce.
Also partnering with the local Cyrenians charity to grow, locally as much as possible for the restaurant including shiso, and mizuna and hopefully this year wasabi.
Green thinking is also applied to the ethical sourcing of fish, with Scottish mackerel and Guy Grieves hand-dived (Isle of Mull) scallops appearing alongside yellowfin tuna instead of the endangered bluefin found on the menu.
Kaori said: "Scotland has the best beef in the world, so use that, instead of imported wagyu, which comes with mileage and CO2 emissions."
The restaurant itself is named after a trendy area in Tokyo which is well known for its street art and fashion and aims to provides a relaxed place in Edinburgh to eat authentic Japanese home-style comfort food.
It has a relaxed vibe with cool wall murals, where everyone is made to feel welcome. Kaori loves to showcase a range of food, anything from her award-winning aubergine curry, agedashi tofu, yakisoba noodles to more traditional sashimi and nigiri.
Kaori has a fascinating family history, telling us her mum's family came from South-West Japan, while her dad's hailed from Hokkaido in northern Japan, adding that the pair met in Tokyo in the 60s.
She said: "Post-war Tokyo was an amazing place, the fast pace of change, economically socially and culturally, it was astounding.
"Oh my gosh, it was so fun with notorious clubs open like Copacobana."
Kaori adds: "My mum modelled and even won Miss West Japan when she was 18, but she couldn't afford to make the final. She was the daughter of a traditional riverboat maker, and her grandparents ran a traditional restaurant in Fukuoka."
On a yoga retreat recently Kaori was described by a guru as being surrounded by serious warriors, something she explains as probably just some of her ancestors.
"My grandfather was one of the last of the samurai, he retired when the whole system was disbanded."
As a child, Kaori's mother lived in Fukuoka with them, recuperating from tuberculosis. It was here she learnt traditional cooking methods before going on to work in a famous restaurant in Osaka and then moving to Tokyo.
Kaori said: "My grandmother also came from a military family, she was even made to learn kendo instead of the more traditionally female pursuit of Ikebana (flower arranging).
"Some of my recipes were handed down from them.'
Kaori was born in Hong Kong, but aged seven, her father move them to the Philippines, as he became a Tuna and So Bonita fish trader. Her father's family were involved with shipping, and selling parts for boats.
"I lived with my mum and two sisters in Manila while he worked out of Cebu, an island in the South even converting to Islam to avoid attacks on our boats by pirates."
Living in the capital her entrepreneurial mother saw an opportunity to open the first formal Japanese restaurant, called Tsuji Toyo serving the large ex-pat community.
It was "very traditional in style", with three sushi chefs, huge teppanyaki and tempura sections and they even imported Wagyu beef steaks from Japan.
"My mum said I grew up eating leftovers from the kitchen at 13, I was dishwashing and waiting, not to earn money but it was the only way to see my mum. My sisters were happy to stay home with their aya or nanny.
"I was the one always in the restaurant, eating and tasting food in the kitchen."
Sadly her father died of lung cancer when she was just 14, so she had to help more with the restaurant, by 16 she was learning from watching the top Japanese chefs they hired.
After studying at international school Kaori went on to complete a business management course to run staff canteens in the family businesses. At that time there was an explosion of Japanese companies in Manila.
She also worked part-time as assistant director for Japanese TV ASAHIi, where once again her mum's cooking came to the rescue.
It helped her win a world exclusive scoop with a notorious criminal in prison, he agreed to an interview after Kaori brought him some of her mum's sushi.
Kaori tells us that after four years of "covering big international events like the ASEAN Summit", she really wanted to work in peace negotiations.
Deciding it was the right time to leave the businesses and follow her dreams, she studied international relations and politics at the University of Plymouth.
This is where she met her husband Keith Simpson, a Scot from Carnoustie.
After working and volunteering for charities for a few years, she decided to revisit to her restaurant past and enrolled on a three-year cookery course at Jewel & Esk College.
Primarily to learn western culinary skills and how to cook everything from scratch, bouillabaisse to butchery and traditional Scottish recipes like Cullen skink and haggis and neeps.
During college, she went to work as a student apprentice with Tom Kitchin on the cold section at The Kitchin.
"I don't think he would remember me, I'm still friends with a lot of the chefs from back then, but working in a Michelin starred kitchen, appealed to my Japanese attention to detail and exactness, it felt safe to me and normal."
Next, she worked and trained alongside the head chef at the Japanese consulate in Edinburgh, stepping into his shoes when he left and is still delighted to be involved catering for them.
However, as Kaori explains: "All the time my friends craved my authentic dishes from home so we tested my street food at Stockbridge Market, making gyoza.
"Ten years later we still have a stall, then we opened the restaurant six years ago."
Since then she has won a host of accolades including Best Restaurant in Scotland at the Golden Chopsticks Awards 2019, judged by Gok Wan and Ken Hom and a coveted AA Rosette for Culinary Excellence.
We ask what her restauranteur mother thinks of her award-winning achievements.
"If she is proud she doesn't say it, mum is strict always saying try to do better, work harder. You know typical Asian mum.'"
Kaori then places it on the palm of her hand, carefully spooning just the right amount of pork mixture into the centre of the disc, moistening the edges with lukewarm water all the way around, with her finger.
Then she deftly folds it in half, before adding four or five origami-style creases, which hold the tiny food package tightly together. Then repeat the process.
Kaori explains that she and her staff are quite adept at making these now, as they have to make around 9000 every week for her stall in the Stockbridge market.
She states that nine seconds is the fastest they can make one.
"I enjoy making them, it's almost meditative and relaxing and you get to chat, it takes four people two days. I used to do it all myself."
Halfway through cooking add a dash of rape oil to the pan, to crisp the bottom.
The verdict, no wonder the gyoza are so popular at Stockbridge market, definitely moreish and packed full of flavour. Each parcel crisp and soft and delicious and I can't get enough of the dipping sauce.
The Refute-Don is a triumph, each mouthful has a wealth of texture and meat flavour, accompanied by the fluffy rice. Using chopsticks means I have to slow down my eating, and savour every grain of rice, that I chase around the bowl. The green provides contrast and colour, whilst the gingers add heat to the sensational, soy and sake stock.
“Authentic Japanese comfort food, inspired by my mother’s restaurant which was traditional ‘Kappo’ style (formal and seasonal). Although, I combine my love of everyday Japanese dishes using delicious seasonal produce in an informal setting.
"My father was a tuna trader, so I learnt from an early age the importance of fresh ingredients.
"I began working in my mum’s restaurant so this is where my passion for food and cooking began, seeing people enjoy my food gives me so much passion and drive.”
“I began working in my mum’s restaurant at the age of 12, washing dishes. When I got older, I was promoted to chef. I eventually mastered all her recipes and dishes, which were passed down from her great grandfather.”
“When I moved to Edinburgh, I started off as a junior chef at The Kitchin. After that, I took up a role as the sous chef to the Consulate General of Japan and eventually became the resident chef. Since leaving and starting my own business, they have asked me to become the official caterer!”
“I like to cook North African food, so Cardamom is my favourite non-Japanese spice.
"My favourite Japanese spice is yuzu kosho (Japanese citrus with green chilli), I use it for my yakitori chicken wings.
“Nobody shouts in my kitchen, I make sure we don't do that, food portion inconsistency is my bugbear, I am a stickler for presentation and like the dishes to be presented well.
"My kitchen is organised chaos but my kitchen tops and sinks are always clean and pristine.”
“Dark soy with chilli and garlic.”
“Oh that’s a hard one. I tend to drink more coffee, I have two favourite coffee blends: Guatemalan and Indonesian Java.
"I filter my coffee, then blitz it with my Vitamix blender with a tablespoon of coconut oil. It’s like a vegan frappe chino!”
“I love Chicharrón (pork cracklings from Guatemala) dipped in vinegar with sea salt and chilli, honestly it's delicious”
“My top chef is Simon Hopkinson – I love his take on traditional British food, but my local food hero is Guy Grieves who hand dives scallops on the west coast, we love serving the freshest Scottish Scallops as sashimi.”
“I'd like to cook for Yoshiki, from the rock band X Japan, he’s really quirky and talented, not to mention he loves champagne.
"I would probably cook this meal with some French flair, perhaps serving Sea urchin with dashi jelly, grilled oysters Rockefeller and a nice tarte Tatin.”