Eating With Your Eyes: The Japanese Art of Plating

Sometimes, a meal is not just a meal, it is a work of art that almost makes you feel guilty about having to destroy it once you dig in. And as the team at Hugo’s well knows, visual presentation is as much part of the dining experience as the taste of the food itself. Indeed, the Japanese firmly believe that you eat with your eyes first. Plating in Japanese restaurants is an interplay of several cultural factors and plating principles. Great attention is paid to everything, and nothing is accidental – every choice is made with the intention of enhancing the dining experience.

The chefs at Hugo’s Lounge, popular pan-Asian eatery shares several key concepts of Japanese plating.


Japanese chefs give a lot of importance to harmony. A dish is considered well harmonised when looking at it gives a sense of peace through visually pleasing arrangements. Interestingly, Japanese culture prizes asymmetry as it is tantalising and engaging, so chefs often use the number five in particular when plating. The five senses are regarded as important to a balanced meal, as are the five tastes (sweet, salty, bitter, sour, savoury), which are key to balancing flavour. Contrast is another important element to add balance to colour, taste, texture, and food arrangement.

Serve ware

In contrast to Western restaurants, which lean towards plain plates and sets, the Japanese make use of a variety of vessels that come in an array of shapes, sizes and colours, made from different materials and decorative patterns.


The minimalist approach that defines Japanese interior design echoes through many aspects of the island nation’s life, and plating is no exception.  Portions are small and food rarely fills the whole plate, in fact, 30% is the considered minimum amount of space to leave empty. The food sits delicately in the centre, framed against the backdrop of a beautiful dish with just the right amount of negative space to draw the diner’s eyes to it while creating a sense of intrigue.

The Final Touch

Whether a vegetable transformed into a petal, thinly-sliced ginger or a simple sprinkling of sesame seeds, some form of garnish is almost always present on a Japanese plate, tying everything in with an artistic accent.

With a vast pan-Asian menu and wide choice of delectable cocktails, our team at Hugo’s ensures you will have plenty to feast your eyes and palates on here at Hugo’s Lounge!

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