August 23, 2010

Tokyo 2010 day 4: Edo vs. Kyoto

Pin It

I'm starting the tour de force today, and will be hitting a number of Michelin-starred restaurants hard for the next four days.  To kick things off, I'm returning to Kyubey (久兵衛) for my regular pilgrimage.

For the second time in a row, I was late to my appointment at this place.  I didn't call ahead this time so I had to wait for the early customers to vacate their seats - an hour after my original appointed time.

My usual chef was nowhere to be found today.  I wonder what happened to him.  Anyway I was seated in front of a very jovial chef, who I think bears some resemblance to my friend the Ox... He actually knew a bunch of words in Mandarin so peppered his delivery with them.  He gave me an English menu, clearly not realizing that I've been here a number of times and familiar with the system.  I asked for omakase as always, and left him in charge.  He started me on sushi right away.

Medium fatty tuna (中トロ) - always a good way to start a meal with something like this!

Cold chawan mushi (冷やし茶碗蒸し) - for the summer, something cold like this is always welcome.

Righteye flounder (鰈) 

Cuttlefish (イカ) - sprinkled with salt and grated yuzu (柚子) rind.

Sea urchin (雲丹) - this was very sweet...

Tiger prawn (車海老) - this was of course live and just jumping and wiggling around on the plate of ice.  The chef cut off the head with one swift motion, then proceeds to remove the shell and gut the prawn as it was still writhing.  Freshest prawns you can get.

Striped jack (嶋鯵)

Abalone (アワビ) - I chose to have the abalone raw instead of steamed, so I could get the crunchy texture.

Fatty tuna (トロ) - can't complain...

Bonito (鰹) - pretty nice with the usual ginger.

Sea eel (穴子) - as usual this was served two ways: sprinkled with salt or brushed with the sauce.  Unfortunately the eel was a little over-grilled today, and was a little dry.

The usual thinly-sliced radish sandwich (大根紫蘇) - with a shiso and plum paste filling - was served to cleanse my palate.  Very refreshing.

Miso soup with small clams (蛤)

A quartet of rolls, with fatty tuna and spring onions (ネギトロ), pickled radish (お新香), dried gourd shavings (干瓢) and cucumber (胡瓜).

One of my favorites at this place is the egg (玉子) that has the consistency of a dense, spongy honey cake (カステラ).

The pickled eggplant (茄子) was pretty nice to finish with.

Dessert was melon jelly (メロンぜリー), where chunks of really ripe and sweet melon and very cold and refreshing jelly helped cool me down.  A wonderful way to end the meal.

There was definitely enough food today, although I expected the chef to serve me a little more.  Perhaps he didn't realize how much I could eat, or how willing I was to spend... The damage was actually just under half of what I spent last time, so I managed to save a little money...

The hunt for Bijoufu Yuzu Liqueur continued today... and failed yet again as the entire mall was closed for the day.

Dinner was at Kikunoi Akasaka (菊乃井 赤坂), the Tokyo outlet of the famed Kyoto establishment.  The environment was nice, with a secluded walkway leading up to the restaurant, and an outdoor garden facing diners who sit at the counter.

The service, though, was nowhere near what I expected for a place with 2 Michelin stars.  The guys at the front of house, behind the counter, did not move effortlessly in sync.  The service seemed a little haphazard - possibly thrown off by those of us who aren't native Japanese speakers - and definitely off in terms of rhythm.  In fact, things were going bad enough for the chef in charge to pull the team into the back for a scolding...

I took the set with the best ingredients:

We were poured a little bit of shiso sake (しそ酒) to start the meal with.  Not bad.

Poached fig in white miso with bonito shavings (猪口: 無花果西京煮 辛子あん 系鰹) - one of Kikunoi's signature dishes that made an appearance in the chef's book Kaiseki: The Exquisite Cuisine of Kyoto's Kikunoi Restaurant.  The sweet flavors of the fig blended well with the savory flavors of the miso, along with a little kick from wasabi.

Next came the hassun, a selection of little appetizers served in Chinese lanterns (八寸:ほうずき盛五種).

Poached sea urchin in jelly, soft-boiled chicken quail egg, ginko nuts pan-fried in sake (生雲丹煮凝リ  鶉温泉卵  酒煎リ銀杏) - pretty interesting but I kinda took the whole thing in one bite, which leaves savoring the flavors a little difficult...

Cowpea pods in black sesame sauce (京ささげ黒胡麻和え、綠筍の金平) - these were nice and crunchy, with yummy black sesame sauce.

Pike conger in cucumber (鱧水玉胡瓜  糸瓜酢漬) - this was alright, although the white sesames were nice with the pickles at the bottom.

Pike conger roe with yuzu (寄ぜ鱧の子  柚子) - these bricks made from the conger roe were pretty nice, enhanced by the fragrance of yuzu thanks to the shavings of the rind.

Bayberry manju (山桃葛饅頭) - this was nice and refreshing, with a single bayberry (Chinese call them 楊梅) inside a thin layer of agar skin.  Very yum.

Mukotsuke : wild red sea bream and striped jack (向付: 明石天然鯛  嶋鯵  水茄子  山葵) - the slices of striped jack were wrapped around some jelly made with ponzu (ポン酢), which were really nice.  The sea bream were still alive and writhing moments before it was served to me.

Pike conger two ways: raw and cooked (2種目: 鱧落とし  焼霜造り  梅肉  煎り酒  花穂紫蘇) - the fish was served two ways and with two dipping sauces.  The cooked fish was eaten with a thick plum sauce, while the raw pieces were dipped into a shiso-flavored sake.  There were also lots of shiso flowers.

One of the guys standing in front of me spent a good amount of the evening cutting the pike conger, and there was that constant grating noise as the blade went through all the little bones of the eel.  I guess someone had to do it...

Futamono : fried Kamo eggplant, peppers and deep-fried prawn ball (蓋物: 賀茂茄子の揚げだし 鷹ケ峰唐辛子 海老しんじょう) - the soup came in an eggplant-shaped cup, covered by the top of a real Kamo eggplant.  Chunks of eggplant were deep-fried and tasted pretty yummy.  The prawn was battered and deep-fried, too.  There were also pieces of spicy peppers in the soup.

Pike conger with steamed rice (お凌ぎ: 鱧の飯蒸し  茗荷  柚子) - the conger has been steamed with the rice, and drizzed in a yuzu-flavored sauce with a piece of myoga ginger on the side.  Not bad.

Yakimono : salt-baked abalone (焼物: 鮑磯焼き) - thick slices of abalone and sea urchin were covered under a thick layer of wakame seaweed (わかめ), then sealed with a thick layer of salt and baked - like salt-baked cod in European cuisine.  The abalone was tender, and the sea urchin was pretty sweet.

There was a little cup of marinated whitebait and coriander.  Kinda salty but nice.

Hiyashi bachi : kuzu somen with prawn (冷し鉢: 葛素麺  車海老艶煮  花付胡瓜  茗荷  花穂紫蘇) - this was a stunning presentation, with the noodles served inside a carved block of ice.  I love somen (素麺) in the summer, and these noodles made from kuzu had very nice bite to them.  The tiny cucumber attached to the flower must have just taken shape... very cute.

Main course: beef in miso sauce, cucumber (強肴: 牛肉味噌焼き  花丸胡瓜  辛子) - the beef was incredibly tender, having been slow-cooked at 60 degrees Celsius for an hour.  The miso sauce worked well with the beef.  The cucumber was good with the rather salty, crunchy miso - thanks to the soy beans.

A cup of hot Kyobancha (京番茶) was served at this time.  I'd never had this before, but appreciated its low caffeine level thanks to being fired at high temperature during the roasting process.  There was certainly a lot less tannins, and it tasted a little mild and fully-roasted, almost like a diluted puer (普洱).

Steamed claypot rice with eel (御飯: 鰻御飯) - I could have sworn that the waiter told me it was 雲丹御飯 but it turned out to be 鰻御飯... Oh well... Interestingly the strong flavors of kaffir lime leaves came out, although I couldn't see any trace of them.  There was so much leftover that I packed it back to Brian's place...

Manganji pepper soup with lotus root ball (止椀 : 赤万願寺唐辛子のすり流し  蓮根餅) - I definitely tasted the spiciness of the red peppers.  There was a sticky ball of lotus root at the bottom, which is a good summer veggie.  

Mizumono : Muscovado sugar ice cream with black sesame tofu (水物:  黒蜜アイスクリーム  黒胡麻豆腐) - the ice cream was very rich but not overly sweet - at least not for me.  The "tofu" actually wasn't tofu at all, but more like fern jelly (蕨餅).  A good way to finish the meal.

I had 1/4 of a bottle (一合) of Kikunoi Junmai Ginjo (菊乃井 純米吟醸), which was sweet with a slightly dry finish.

This was an excellent meal, and I'm glad I finally got to taste the traditional Kyoryori (京料理) of Kikunoi.  Presentation was absolutely beautiful, and seasonal ingredients were used to maximize the flavors.  I couldn't find much fault with the food, and the only imperfection was the service here - not that they were rude to me or anything... just inefficient.  I look forward to visiting the honten (本店) in Kyoto one of these days...

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails

TripAdvisor Travel Map