Kikunoi, Kyoto

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Kaiseki –
is a traditional Japanese multicourse meal that originates from tea drinking
ceremonies in the 16th century. Kyoto and its region is the cradle of the Japanese culture as well as of kaiseki. Many say that multicourse small
portions menus in the “Western” gastronomic restaurants are influenced by the tradition
of kaiseki. It is not only about many different plates(some can be only few
bites), but also about using the best quality ingredients of that particular
season.

Kikunoi restaurant
is considered as the best in Kyoto and probably the most famous kaiseki
restaurant in the world.Yoshihiro Murata, the third generation chef of Kikunoi , has even his own book with Ferran
Adria’s introduction…

Kikunoi is
located in one of the oldest parts of Kyoto. Wherever you walk, you will see mysterious
shrines and temples. When you arrive to the restaurant you are
greeted and you are asked  to take your
shoes off.

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Then you
are shown your own private dining room.

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Just having
your own room and sitting on a floor in a traditional, Japanese style minimalictic  environment is an experience by itself. You also
have a hostess, dressed in traditional Japanese kimono, who takes care of you during
all the dinner. ( see the first picture)

The kaiseki
meal is composed of several courses – we had 11 if you count green tea, amuse
bouches and the desserts. Each of the dish of the dinner has a name and a
meaning and different ingredients are used each season.I
had quite a problem understanding how each
dish was called and even what it consisted of as the hostess didn’t speak English at all and we tried to guess the
components of each dish by looking at the book of the chef.

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The green
and hot towel… (this I understood 🙂 )

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“ The amuse
bouche” . I guess it consisted of cucumber and squid salad, shrimp with boiled
egg yolk, seaweed. I am not sure of all the ingredients though… It was pretty
good and it was also a good indicator that we would very traditional Japanese
food.

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“Pickled
plums,sea bream milt,toasted ground sesame seeds, horsetail shoots” . One of
the signature dish of the chef. After the dinner, I googled  what  "milt"  is and all i can say is that…. I was right not to eat it!

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“Yellow
jack sashimi , grated wasabi,tosa soy sauce. Shrimp, grated wasabi,tosa soy
sauce.” I found out which fish it was
only after looking at the book. The shrimp was very fresh and good, but the
yellow jack sashimi was too chewy. Didn’t eat the second piece of yellow jack
sashimi…

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“Tuna
(toro) , egg yolk soy sauce,dissolved Japanese mustard” Exellent toro, maybe a little bit too thick,
but I read in the chefs book that he liked to slice the fish in thicker pieces
to show the texture.

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I didn’t
find this dish in the book but we guessed that it was a soup with a clam
dumpling. Globally it was good, maybe the dumpling had too much eggs inside
that overpowered the taste of clams.

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“Wakasa
tilefish,sea urchin roe,saikyo miso paste.” This could have been an excellent
dish, but I founded it poorely executed. The fish was too dry and not tender
enough and the sea urchin was too much grilled and it lost its iodic and fresh
nature. A pity – the combination could have worked very well…
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Abalone and
peas salad ( I think ?) Interesting and refreshing combination. The onions on the top
gave a lot.

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Shrimp
bouillon –the taste reminded bisque of lobster. Good.

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“Nama
konoko” ,fresh sea cucumber roe with some raw root vegetables (i think). For those,who
don’t know what sea cucumber is, please click here . I found out that it was
this biblical looking creature only after googling it in the hotel. I
tried a tiny piece of it and must say
the texture of sea cucumbers roe was kind of disgusting and globally, this
dish was not for my taste.

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I didn’t
find this dish in the book so I guess it was seaweed (very jelly like) soup
with shrimp tempura and tofu. This dish was very good, probably one of the best
of the meal. I liked the texture of the shrimp tempura – it was hard and crispy
and was very well contrabalanced by the jelly aspect of the soup.

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Rice with
tiny fried anchovies and boiled egg yolk. Soup (i don’t know what it was). The last dish of the meal. I was disappointed that the rice was cold and
kind of tasteless…

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Ice cream
and green tea jelly (I guess?) A
classical Japanese dessert.

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Beans jelly
(again, I am not sure). Good.
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Green tea
to finish the dinner

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I will
probably remember this kaiseki dinner all my life- a unique experience . ( and not cheap- $400
for two). When I think of each of the
dish separately,apart of the sea bream
milt and  sea cucumber roe, I think they
were quite good, but when remember the whole dinner it was probably too much of
new and unknown tastes for me, so I don’t think I will repeat a kaiseki dinner
any time soon. We have a reservation in a three Michelin star kaiseki
restaurant in Tokyo this week, but I am seriously wondering whether to go or
not…

 

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