Kikunoi..3 Michelin Star kaiseki Kyoto

This place had the most elegant and romantic ambiance so far with respect to kaiseki restaurants in Kyoto, second only to Kitcho. We met the owner’s daughter, our server spoke some English and was very attentive. They showed us dishes from their cook book as the dinner went on.

Our room had a floor to ceiling window with the most amazing magic lightbox view of a little zen garden outide

First up was this emerald wired cage that looked like an old fashioned crab trap, conceling a mountain of goodness. Inside was an assortment of appetizers, clam, asparagus, flowering cucumber, a bright orange egg yolk pickled in white miso, octopus roe, brook shrimp, tilefish and cucumber rolls, sweet potato, cuttlefish coated with pickled bonito entrails. The house extra dry sake was ridiculous and we kept it coming to the shock of the staff at how much sake we could pound.
Then as a palate cleanser, wine poached Japanese plumquot (ume) and white wine sorbet. The density of the sorbet, was like nothing we’ve had, and the uniformity of the ingredients with the sorbet was so consistent. At no point could you tell it was flavored ice.
Followed by a sashimi of shima aji (yellow jack/aka Japanese jack mackrel) and tai (red sea bream/aka red snapper) with ponzu jelly curled cucumber and fresh wasabi.
Then a sashimi of blanched hamo (conger eel) and pickled (ume) Japanese plumquot. This was ridiculously good. We ate this so fast we forgot to take a picture. It looks just like the hamo (conger eel) with plum we had at Kichisen, but it was like a sour Mexican Lucas plum that you buy in those plastic bags and suck on till your tongue is pruned. It contrasted so nicely with the fluffy lobster like conger eel flesh with the broth that had some of the sour plum flavor infused into it.
An amazing soup of tofu dumpling stuffed with sea eel, grated yam, carrots, wood ear mushroom, and lily bulb with green beans. It is a gourmet take on the classic tofu ball ubiquitous in Japan. It has such a unique spongy, yet silky and gelatinous texture all at once, like a Japanese matzoball.
Followed by a little soup of akamoku seaweed, from the sea off Kanagawa, and has been promoted as a new specialty eaten in miso soup or jelly form, with sansho pepper flowers, chopped cucumber, and okra, for a slimy concoction that lubricated our tubes for more binge eating.
Then the omnipresent seasonal ayu (sweetfish), which we have raved about on most previous restaurant reviews, this time salt grilled on coal oven at table with vinegar. Again, the vinegar brought out the sweetness in the almost bitter fish.
Then an amazing duck breast in a mustard sauce with yuzu with baby taro and blanched taro stalkes. They grill this Mangani pepper which is the size of a Jalapeno, but with a milder profile, tastes like a green pepper or shishito pepper. Perfect combination of mustard, pepper, earthy flavors to match the rare duck breast.
Followed by chilled turtle custard, turtle soup gelee, poached shrimp, cucumber, and thread cut green onion and ginger. It was nice to have had the real deal turtle soup for lunch that day to have a reference point. it was nicely reminiscent of our lunch, but much less gamey and obviously disguised in molecular familiarity for western palates.
Then a hot pot of water shield, tilefish, mitsuba herb and yuzu zest. We love watershield now, it was all over the place and we kept asking, what the hell is this stuff. It’s like the jelly pulp that you get in those aloe drinks, but almost with a mint stem in the middle of the jelly. I wish we could find this stuff in the US. It also goes by Brasenia.
Ending with amazingly aromatic and soft textured rice with new ginger on top, served with a cabbage soup, a baked mini potato that just had the most earthy flavor, with pickled eggplant, radish and cucumber.
Followed by pistachio ice cream, mango soup, with crushed pistchio. Followed by matcha tea ceremony. I seriously had to close my eyes while eating the ice cream so I can concentrate on this unusually amazing pairing of pistachio and mango, the pistachio gave it that brown nutty roastedness, while the mango gave it that sweet, fresh sweetness. The Japanese are the masters of the contrast.

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