Kikunoi 菊乃井总店

Dinner at KikunoiKyoto was one that I was particularly excited about. A friend from Kyoto recommended it to us for an experience of a traditional, luxurious Kaiseki dining. But to be honest, it didn’t need much recommendation to begin with. High rankings on all the major world restaurants guides; the number of the Michelin stars awarded; and how much in advance you need to book a meal there… all speak for itself: it’s some serious stuff.

It was 3 weeks prior to the dinner I wanted to book at Kikunoi, Tomo (“friend from Kyoto”) said it was much too late. But luckily their families knew each other for generations, so I had her help making the reservation for us. On the day of the dinner, she whatsapped me from London reminding me not to be late and dress in something nice. 
Leaving the busy Gion touristy streets behind, as our taxi struggled slowly on a winding uphill stone laid road, the yard of Kikunoi unveiled itself in front of us. The lovely Japanese architecture sat quietly in a subtle glow in the middle. We arrived 2 mins before the booked time (phew!) and the waiter was waiting at the front door with a traditional Japanese umbrella, ready to escort us from the taxi to the house(which is about 5 steps away). 
After a series of meet and greet, our waitress of the day took us to our room, sat us down and left to prepare the first course. It was spacious traditional style room, with low seatings, and a breathtaking view of the garden. The decor was kept minimum and warm hued, which maximised the effect of all the greens in the garden that created this over-proportioned “3D” art on the wall. It was all a little surreal. 

I then sat down and studied our menu for the dinner, in both Japanese and English, 12 courses in total. 
And the wine list.

Before I got the end of the list, our first dish came, and with a “welcome drink”. 

Down with the drink, I opened up my little parcel of appetisers.

Being the month of autumn, the lot of the dishes are decorated with red , orange and yellow leaves. “Kiku” being the symbol of Kikunoi, meaning the flower chrysanths, was also made in to a delicate little container for the fish liver and mushrooms. 

The one dish had all the different textures in the mouth, featured all the great seasonal tastes of the time, and was light and pleasant on the palate. A real warm up for the evening.

There after, a stream of extravagant feast for both the mouth and eyes presented themselves on the table one after another. 

Yuzu tofu, with yuzu miso sauce, diced yuzu. 

Sashimi of red sea bream, silver pomfret, ponzu jelly, vinegared chrysanths petals, cured veggies. 

Young bluefin tuna sashimi with mustard, in soy-marinated egg yolk sauce.

Steamed red tilefish with chestnut and millet. 

A mini sorbet break- yuzu and wasabi flavour

Barracuda grilled in cedar and lime.

Duck breast grilled with pepper and walnut.

Salad with crabmeat and roe, veggies and herbs, chrysanths(again) petals, with vinegared sesame dressing, ginger and yuzu. 

Lobster coated in egg yolk in lobster consommé with white miso, poached turnip and baby field greens.

Then Okami, the wife of owner and chef Murata brought us the rice. She spoke a little English, so we talked briefly about the food, and how we heard of the restaurant, mentioned my friend Tomo and the families etc.. She said “Great dress” (PHEW again!) and served us the steamed rice with salmon roe. Paired with seaweed, cabbage soup, and a variety of pickles. 

By that time I was really too full to take anything else. I struggled with my bowl of rice. But because it tasted so good I still finished every last bit in my bowl. The rest we asked Okami to pack a lunch bag for us to take away. She must have been very used to the requirement. She smiled and showed understanding, and left the room to prepare our doggie bag. 

Last dish, the dessert was seasonal fruit daishiro persimmon, splashed with brandy. 

Then another unexpected brownie like pastry with nuts and red beans, with a cup of matcha to finish the dinner with. 

I wished to Santa for a bigger stomach the next time I visit Kyoto.