January 14, 2018

Kyoto

FEAST

After a short morning walk to a nearby Buddhist Temple, I couldn't really decide what to do for lunch, so I went back to that ramen joint from last night.  I don't know, I was just craving it, again.  I ordered the same ramen dish but with an organic egg thrown in, and I ordered the same fried chicken appetizer but with a small bowl of rice to boot...I couldn't find anything else I wanted on the vending machine's menu.  And I saved enough soup to put in for another order of noodles.  Hey, why not?

Genten Nishite Chaten Ramen

Fried chicken w/white rice:

Whole Sauteed Prawns

After getting back to the hotel from the Buddist Temple and lunch, I asked the concierge for help in booking a spot at one of the two Kikunoi locations in town.  Kikunoi is a famous kaiseki restaurant that's been around for over 100 years.  The concierge didn't have any luck with getting me in at the original location, but she did get me a spot at the bar at Kikunoi Roan, their second location in the city.  The meal and service, and even the minimalist decor, were all first-rate.  It was certainly one of my favorite meals on this FEAST, so far.

Kikunoi Roan

This first course was very good, combining some sweet components with spicy, fresh wasabi.  It was a nice, light, clean dish to start off the meal.  The sea urchin was fantastic, smooth and creamy.

Azuki beans w/rice & uni:

Whole Sauteed Prawns

Up next was the snow crab, the first of the three fanciest proteins on the menu.  Earlier in the meal, the live creature was brought out and shown to me.  They then grilled a leg, claw and part of the body (snow crabs are mostly legs) right in front of me and served them right as they were ready.  It was great that they served crab fresh as can be, and it kept along the lines of pure, honest flavors, but there wasn't very much else to the dish.  Again, that could be part of the appeal, but the crab wasn't anything that I'd never had before, and it was quite a bit of work to extract the meat from the shell.  It was served with the wonderful, green, fatty, brainy stuff like what you suck out of the heads of prawn.  That was delicious, but it was more abundant than the actual crab meat.

Grilled snow crab:

Whole Sauteed Prawns

The second course was another clean dish but had a potpourri of items on the plate...not that I minded.  There was cuttlefish, dried sardines, herring roe in kelp, carrot, smoked salmon sushi, sweet black beans and a few other items.  What I noticed with this dish is that almost nothing was cooked which left you with very little else but the pure flavors of the items.

Various appetizers:

Whole Sauteed Prawns

This course was a soup, and it was out of this world.  I never would've guessed the protein in the clear soup was sea eel because I'd never had it so unadulterated.

Sea eel and yuzu pepper:

Whole Sauteed Prawns

The fifth course was pure heaven: spiny lobster with black truffle and grilled onion in a lobster consomme.  This was just one of the best soups I can recall.  The lobster was tender, the soup was light and seasoned perfectly.  The hits just keep on coming in this meal.

Spiny lobster w/black truffle:

Whole Sauteed Prawns

Next up was a delicious palate cleanser of yuzu and wasabi sorbet; I'd had these as sorbet in the past but never together.  It was sweet, sour, spicy and cool, and it was a perfect way to present the second half of the meal.

Yuzu & wasabi sorbet:

Whole Sauteed Prawns

The second fancy protein was fugu, or pufferfish, or blowfish.  You probably know that this fish's meat is poisonous if not served properly; I think, amongst other things, it has to be cut very thin.  Served with the sashimi was something pretty unique, blowfish milt, which is the fish's seminal fluid.  It was probably frozen before being served chilled.  It was very creamy and served as a nice textural contrast to the blowfish meat, which is on the tough side, and the skin, which is also tough.  The dish was served with some ponzu, a common citrus sauce, chives and olive oil.  This dish was terrific, but I don't think blowfish is particularly tasty.

Fugu, fugu skin:

Whole Sauteed Prawns

The last savory course was a fried rice dish, which is usually the case with kaiseki menus.  What made this rice special was that the some of the pufferfish from earlier was served in the rice.  Served with the rice was a sake soup with carrots, daikon and fried tofu.  Washed down with some of their house sake and some hot tea, this was a perfect way to head into dessert!

Fried rice w/fugu:

Whole Sauteed Prawns

The two options for dessert were a strawberry sorbet and a soybean ice cream with baked apple.  I went for the former which was served in a pool of strawberry soup.  I guess when it's all said and done, maybe fruit makes the best desserts because of their simplicity.

Strawberry sorbet & soup:

Whole Sauteed Prawns

Chashu ramen w/egg:

Whole Sauteed Prawns

The last of the special proteins was Kyoto beef served with Karami daikon, a radish native to the Kyoto region.  This was some of the best steak I can remember.  It was as tender as filet and as juicy as ribeye.  And as is so often with Asian dishes where protein is the star, the presence of pickled vegetables countered the richness of the meat perfectly by brightening everything.  Heck, even the dab of bitter mustard helped cut the fattiness, as well.

Kyoto beef w/daikon:

Whole Sauteed Prawns

The sashimi course consisted of sea bream and silver pomfret.  This dish was fantastic and was served with ponzu jelly and seaweed, and you could even tell how fresh the wasabi was.  Three courses into this superlative meal, and all I've had are the cleanest of flavors.

Sashimi:

Whole Sauteed Prawns