Thursday, June 12, 2014

Kikunoi Ryotei, Kyoto *3 Michelin Stars*

It had been a great day so far on my birthday :)))) We had a lovely visit at Nara during the day, feeding so many deers outta thousands of wild deers over there. Back to Osaka, prepared ourselves for one of the highlight of this trip - Kikunoi.

In order to get to Kyoto from Osaka, we'll need the ever reliable shinkanzen. Travelling at such high speed it only takes 15 minutes to arrive to Kyoto 60 km away. It's like KL-Seremban in 15 minutes. Excellent :)))
Another year older and definitely much much wiser....kakakakaka. I've gained and achieved a lot in terms of weight *kakakaka* ....knowledge, experience, success but most of all JOY and Happiness with people in my life. My most important issue was health and so far that's on balance so don't push your luck Monkey with too much of sinful food. Remember there's input and output, check and balance :))))

Just one year and so much had happened. I am very very happy and satisfied with it :))) If I don't, I better go do something about it instead of whining about it. 

Soon the board changed and more bullet trains were on its way to Osaka heading to Tokyo...It arrived 1 minute early...yes only one...and that one precious minute is your boarding time. So to be efficient you gotta queue up at the platform on the exact coach number. Anyway taking a bullet train is easy peasy and fun.
It was a Friday and working crowds were all eager to head home for the weekend. Most ppl don't live where they work, especially those with family. Hence the cities are all jam packed with single ppl.
When we arrived in Kyoto, like locals we headed our way to Yasaka Shrine to offer our prayers. JS was so proud that he could navigate Kyoto without GPS nor the map. -_-

These are not locals....they are tourists aka Gaijins.

Kyoto is such a beautiful place with beautiful people. As tourists there are shops offering kimonos and yukatas for rent plus hair and makeup service and you can walk around like errrr tourists? Just for fun but trust me it ain't easy walking in that tight kimonos and slippery high slipper in SOCKS!!!! GAH!!! I remembered I couldn't even take a bigger steps nor jump or get up the staircase. And they tied me so tight I think my rib bones were damaged by it.

Hit the bell, clap twice and awake the god

and again God asked wat do u want?
Monkey: "It's my Birthday!!!"
God: "So wat do you want on the day you caused ur mother so much pain in order to give you life?"
Monkey :P yeah I know, I wasn't easy even from birth.

There's a little restaurant tucked behind Yasaka shrine. We've been to this shrine a few time and every time we found something new :)))

JS: "Monkey now bring us to the restaurant!!!"
Monkey: "Wait la...the sun is setting, let's enjoy it for a bit :)))"
JS wokey's your Birthday

and we took a beautiful stroll along the greeneries and quietness of Kyoto. We really love Kyoto and is still the best place to be in Japan. My fav past time here is sitting under the red umbrella with a bowl of freshly whisked japanese green tea, enjoying the beautiful crimson red momiji leaves on the trees. Would love to visit here again in late autumn.

and Monkey announced that they have less than a minute later, we realised we were at the wrong restaurant kakakakakaka. The thing is both of us can't read japanese and there isn't any alphabets to be read.

Yeah if we were in Europe, doesn't matter which language there's some form of alphabets for us as a point of reference. Even GREEKS!!! we just need to decipher the alpha beta inverted K and inverted N whichever....but this was Japan....T.T

Kikunoi was further down the same road along this narrow street.
JS: "U better make sure this is the one."
Monkey: "It's already the dead end, if all the restaurants along this street isn't Kikunoi this one should be it."

we arrived on "foot" yeah so high class man. All guests arrived in their posh cars with drivers. We just lurved to walk kekekekeke. The gentleman rushed out to greet us and to confirm our reservation. There isn't any signage to boom and shout that this is Kikunoi the 3 Michelin stars and mecca of Kaiseki cuisine in the entire of Japan.

Later we found out this gentleman is 68 years old and I let out a gasp. How did you maintain your youth? hmmm must be the food served here in Kikunoi...hahahaha

after removing our shoes, we were escorted by our hostess to our room. The scent of Japanese Cypress wood hit my nose and that's exactly the smell of ryokan and onsen...AaaaAAaa sooth calming and so assuring.

and we have arrived in our room.

Kikunoi is a ryotei, a traditional japanese restaurant. In the olden days, they only accept customers through referrals because mostly are politicians. In fact it wasn't easy for us to book either....big thanks to our BUTLER!!!! because of you we were accepted thank you thank you thank you.

anyway today, you just need to book in advance or through connection to secure your reservation. The best would be....get your butler to do it!!!!! hahahaha

even Sheep Sheep was so happy, we got a huge room

The dining concept here are all rooms because ryotei are used for political and business meetings. This is to ensure privacy plus most of the guests would hire geisha to perform. We tried!!!!! Monkey wanted geisha for her birthday but all other bigger rooms were fully booked and so are the geishas.

Our private room has got a zen garden

the logo of Kikunoi on its napkin and menu card. The menu card was made from Washi paper. There's a famous shop in Kyoto selling all the beautiful *not to mention expensive* Washi paper in all designs, occasions, functions and colors. I went bonkers at the shop.

Soon we were served really fragrant genmai green tea
what a way to refresh and start our palate.

Gelee of mountain yam with fresh sea urchin on top, some fragrant shiso flowers with a bit of wasabi jelly.

The dish looked so simple but it was power packed in taste and the texture was excellent. Hostess informed us that the mountain yam was chopped into small pieces to give it some bite. So crunchy and refreshing.

such a beautiful flowers which I've forgotten its name...
wrapping our bamboo box housing all the beautiful creations that we will enjoy next.

When I opened it....Ta-DA!!!!!
Here we have an assortement of appetizers... A golden bowl of pickled tai meat and milt, fresh edamame, taro with a dollop of fermented black soybeans, anago eel rolled with the gourd strip, the yellow pic was tai roe terrine, pickled fried greenling. the beautiful pickled myoga ginger flower was homemade here as well.

Now the star of this dish was the lil conical item wrapped in fresh bamboo deserved its very own star on its own bcoz the hostess brought out the book to explain this dish.

The book...which we eventually bought by Chef Owner Yoshihiro Murata
forewords were by former World no. 1 restaurant Chef owner Ferran Adria, and the famed Nobu Matsuhisa.

When the bamboo leaves were unwrapped...the fragrant of the leaves permeates the room...

a slice of carefully cut red sea bream which was still rare sits on top of sushi rice. The balance of the rice and fish was so well crafted. It leaves u wanting more.

This was a Sashimi of Tai fish....tai/red sea bream was in season in the month of May and at its very best. The knives work by the chefs here is amazing!!!

This sashimi dish oso consist of raw spiny lobster. Oh well sashimi dish of coz everything is raw. With beautifully sliced and cut vinaigrette of yellow chinese chives, iris petal udo stalk, carrots and some wasabi. The Spiny lobster was so sweet.

the crunchy skin of the fish. I am not a fish skin person unless it's fried but this really changed my views. JS said don't ever wish for this in our part of the world when fish were not as fresh as in Japan. There's a way to kill the fish to maintain the structure of the skin and meat.

a beautiful bowl of ice...with sashimi of seared bonito. Sashimi coz the bonito was still rare.

Madame herself served us that evening with her assistant. Madame is the wife of the famed Chef Owner :))))))))

Served with shaved new onions which was just harvested the very same morning, shiso and radish sprout, ground red pepper radish and ponzu jelly on the side. Looked so simple but blew our palate away.

The winelist was excellent!!! JS found treasure among its list and ordered this lil baby

and dear readers, the experience at Kikunoi was my Birthday Pressie from dearie JS.
Arigato gozaimasu!!!!! I am a very very lucky gal :))))))))

Then we were shown on the book, our next dish

Which came in such beautiful porcelain-wares
According to chef, experiences at his ryotei should be a total dining experience, from the architecture of his building to the tableware. So everything was selected carefully with a lot of thoughts put into it.

In his book, he even wrote about it :))))

When the beautiful lid was removed....the scent of tea-steamed tilefish with fresh green tea leaves, tea soba noodles, eggs and shredded green onions with some ground red pepper redish filled the entire room. Oh my it was so clean.

Kikunoi started off 3 generations ago in 1912 as a tea house for the influential people so this dish speaks a lot about their tea ceremony then. Because tea is too strong to be consumed on its own without any food, hence dishes were created specially to complement the artisanal tea.

Vinegared water shield with cucumber, okra and flying fish roe. I guess the key sometimes is simplicity? the texture played in our mouth, crunchy slippery soft velvety and we were speechless as we drank this down.

Salt-grilled Ayu sweet fish came out with its own burner...the smokiness entered the room before we could see it...hahahahaa

It was even grilled on beautiful bamboo sticks. This was the highlight of all the dishes for me. Basically u eat everything from the head to its tail. Yummsss!!!!

What is this????

Poached abalone with its own liver soy sauce!!!
It was so tender and full of umami-ness...please gimme more~~~~

Berr :))))))

Finally the main course arrived - low temperature braised beef with potato puree, mustard, onion sauce and shiso flowers. Would you just stare at the beef and analyse its fat marbling. 

So hungry lookin at this pic. No knives nor forks were provided, just the simple bamboo chopsticks for every course. Or just use your fingers.

Madame then served our carb at the end of the meal
grilled tai rice with fragrant kinome herb. She then proceeded by removing all the meat off the bones

Look at the beautiful fleck of fish and round grains...

served with bamboo shoots pickled with sansho pepper, homemade cucumber pickled in rice bran

New cabbage soup with new potatoes inside. So yummy...
NEW as in just harvested that very same morning. Wat else could u ask for? :)))

Milk ice cream with strawberry and homemade delightful strawberry sauce
Just the right portion there bcoz we were up to our nose already by then. Just the right balance of acidity to bring our palate to a zen-ness *I would love to call it that*

Silly Tipsy Monkey
This was how she wanted to celebrate her birthday

Thank you to JS for flying all of us to Japan for this amazing experience :))))) as usual the photog refused to be photographed :P pffffttttt

One last pic for remembrance as Madame sent us out with a strong bow.
In Kyoto it's not's Ookini. So both of us faced each other, bowed gracefully with finger tips on the tatami mat...and ookini each other.

Chef was in Tokyo when we visited Kikunoi so we didn't get to see him personally, maybe another time. Now the most sought after chef in the world, I am not surprised that he's busy running 3 establishments all together from kyoto to Tokyo. More Chefs around the world are visiting him to learn his cooking technique, creation but most of all his philosophy.

He deserves every awards he earned from the Master of Kaiseki to the contemporary master of craftsman. and so the two guests who came by foot walked themselves off the courtyard of the ryotei. Hahahahaha.

Monkey: "Don't go to this's the wrong restaurant!!!"
JS: ">.< u la!!! brought us to the wrong one~~~~~"

Thank you Mr. JS. It had been a splendid experience :))))))

For more information on Kikunoi:
Kikunoi Ryotei
459 Shimokawara-cho,
Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto.
Tel: +81 7 5561 0015


mef said...

Congrats and best wishes for another year wiser.

Thanks for sharing about the food venture in Japan. Awesome looking food and great photos.

CHER-RY said...

Hello Mef :))

Thank you for the wishes. Hope you are doing great in NZ :)) Dropping by in Msia for a visit anytime soon?

Mef said...

G'day Cherry,

Not this year. Still waiting for your visit to NZ.