Japan: Kikunoi (Kyoto)

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Approaching Kikunoi

Dining at the 3 star kaiseki restaurant Kikunoi in Kyoto for our 8th year wedding anniversary was a highlight of the trip. Kaiseki is Japanese haute cuisine, and a big influence of the Michelin tasting menus we know today. A kaiseki dinner is made up of many courses (our’s had 12) that change monthly with the season.

Kyoto is the city most renowned for kaiseki. With so many restaurants to choose from, we did our research and in the end decided on Kikunoi. The restaurant was featured on Mind of a Chef with David Chang, and Ferran Adrià is a big fan – even writing the introduction to “Kaiseki: The Exquisite Cuisine of Kyoto’s Kikunoi Restaurant”, praising the owner and chef Yoshihiro Murata and his vision. Enthusiasm from two great chefs was enough for us, so we quickly booked!

To quote the Kikunoi’s website:

“Kikunoi’s cuisine is known as “Kyo-kaiseki” and draws on the rich traditions of Kyoto style multiple-course dining. Kyo-kaiseki represents one of the pinnacles in Japanese cuisine, a highly stylized manifestation of the principles of in-season produce and enjoyment of seasonal variation. However, Kikunoi does not seek simply to uphold tradition – we are aware of the need to constantly incorporate new ideas. We understand tradition as something that needs to be dismantled in order to be rebuilt.”

The experience itself is so special. We had a private dining room with a garden view, as well as one waitress who attended to us the entire evening, explaining every dish and its inspiration.

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Our private dining room with a garden view

 

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Browsing the sake menu

 

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Ready to start on my first course

 

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1: Assortment: smoked saury sushi with saffron rice; chestnut puree; shrimp marinated in Shao Xing (Chinese rice wine); trout roe; braised roe-bearing ayu (sweetfish); gingko-leaf-shaped sweet potato; pine-needle-shaped tea noodles; sake-glazed gingko nuts

 

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2: Poached turnip, walnut miso sauce, crushed walnuts

 

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3: Sashimi of tai (red sea bream) and botan prawn, vinegared chrysanthemum petals, wasabi, mixed sprouts, curled udo stalk and carrot

 

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4: Sashimi of koshibi (young bluefin tuna), mustard, soy-marinated egg yolk sauce

 

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5: Hamo (pike conger), matsutake (pine mushroom), and mitsuba herb steamed in a teapot, yellow yuzu citrus

 

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6: Salmon roe, grated radish and wasabi

 

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7: Salt-grilled roe-bearing ayu (sweetfish), tade (waterpepper) vinegar

 

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8: Assortment of intermezzi: smoked salmon and daikon roll with herring roe and mibuna (Kyoto arugala); marinated young Spanish mackerel, ginger, sudachi lime; salad of fresh cucumber with grilled maitake mushroom, shiso leaf; miso-marinated tofu, chrysanthemum salad; tai sashimi and liver pickled in salt with nagaimo (Chinese yam), shiso leaf, and shiso flower buds; cuttlefish pickled in sake lees with crumbled egg yolk

 

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9: Baked soymilk custard with abalone, whelk, carrot, wood-ear mushroom, yurine (lily bulb), elingi mushroom, shimeji mushroom, mitsuba herb, yuzu

 

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10: Matsutake mushroom rice, mitsuba herb; turnip soup, fried lotus root, turnip greens, wasabi, pickled turnip and turnip greens, kombu seaweed, green gourd pickled in sake lees

 

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11: Hojicha (roasted green tea) ice cream; chestnut, blackbeam, rum-raisin-fig cake

 

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12: Matcha tea and sweets

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