Funny anecdote, on our way to this place, I googled the address and was monitoring to see if driver was taking the correct route as they are very punctual in Japan and will cancel on you if five minutes late. At one point he starts going the total opposite direction. I start showing him my phone, saying “go straight, go straight” sticking my hand in his face from the back seat. He was getting anxious and just kept saying “kitcho, kitcho” pointing the other direction. I was yelling in English, “straight, straight”, it looked like a game of Cranium. I was gesticulating wildly with arm movements indicating the direction forward, lost all respect for myself and manners went out the window. Erika was appalled at my behavior. We finally call the restaurant and hostess guides the taxi driver there. I almost gave the poor guy a heart attack, Erika was so embarrassed that I had the wrong address in my phone and we didn’t even know how to apologize to the guy. In the most “I told you so voice”, upon pulling up the driver says, “Kitcho.” We were laughing all night after dinner thinking about this, and this was the comedic highlight of our trip.
Tiger prawn grilled and served with innumerous pickled kaiseki veggies.
House specialty sake, extra dry, made specifically for the restaurant, we had like four bottles of this, the waitress thought we were degenerate alkies, kept saying, “you and wife very strong”
The best part of all this is that everything was served in Baccarat crytal, gold rimmed. It was so goddamn impressive and though it sounds vane and superficial, psychologically it made the food taste even better. This is an idea that a lot of molecular restaurants now all over the world are frowning on. I hear the chefs from Eleven Madison Park and Rene Redzepi from Noma saying it doesn’t matter if we serve with sterling silver or crystal plates, but I beg to differ. This place really fancies it up, we felt like we were at a Madmen dinner party when the housewife brings out her best China for the boss coming over to dinner.
Moving on to conger eel in broth.
Then sea bream…tastes like red snapper, they were big on this fish here, served it several times.
Then grilled squid and chu-toro that you can dip in a bowl of ponzu and sesame seeds.
Then this beautiful island with two huts connected by a bridge comes out, they dim the lights when they bring this out, and there were two candles fashioned from radish peels. This was the most elegant and fancy dinner we had been to in a while, if that is your thing, this place has it in spades. What a venue for Erika to show off her newly purchased south sea pearls, totally went with the 50’s theme of crystal, gold and elegance.
Amazing dish of cold tofu with uni inside, they must have layered the tofu at different levels and put the sea urchin in between like when you put fruit in liquid jello before it congeals.
They had a little plate with cuttlefish, all sorts of pickled veggies, celery root, one of the bowls had cold abalone, another had monkfish liver, another with sea bream again, and fermented mackrel with little jelly concoctions on top.
Then the seasonal ‘sweet fish’ that is actually bitter. They cooked it on the little binchotan charcoal grill, which we decided to finally just buy once we get home at Marukai where it sells for $12, which will allow us to finally cook fish on our balcony without stinking up the house. This was served with a vinegar, which really cut the bitterness of the fish and brough out the vinegar taste.
An amuse bouche of pickled pumpkin and several other veggies that we don’t remember. The pumpkin was ridiculously sweet, like maple syrup/honey sweet, but savory at the same time.
Then tempura abalone, which entered us into the ’36th chambers of Abalone mastery’, I don’t know if you can suprise us with abalone preparation at this point, we’ve had it every way possible on this trip except for cooked in a pig’s bladder or something.
Then seared kyoto beef with mustard and burdock root rice, with pickled kombu seaweed/kelp, thick and sweet, almost meaty, pickled raddish and cucumber.
Then they skin a grapefruit and put it back in it’s skin, along with the juiciest melon. I don’t know how they select the sweetest/juiciest melons in these restaurants. The fruit dish looks deceivingly simple, but the preparation is anything but. They dip the fruits in all sorts of home made syrups, just amplifies the flavors, plays with your brain because you see the fruit and expect one flavor, but you are then surprised with an unexpected flavor once you eat it.
Finally the traditional dessert dumpling of Kyoto, called wagachi, like a little mochi sack filled with red bean paste/jelly, but fresh ground bean, not this re-fried sweetened crap they sell at Murakai, hand/home made here, unimmitable. The mochi cover was like a green tea flavor, and the powder on top was like crushed walnuts, it was so nutty, beany and amazing.
Ended with a beautiful bitter umami matcha green tea ceremony before heading back to our Ryokan. To be fair, this place was the most expensive restaurant in Japan. I really don’t know if it is worth $1400 for two people for dinner for this amount of food. Most all other Michelin meals we had on our entire trip were less than half this price for two people. Maybe it was all the bottles of sake we ordered, but what you pay for here is the real estate, it is right on the river in Arashiyama, one of the most scenic rustic places in Kyoto, the bragging rights, and the elegance of the dishware and the service, unparalleled.