June 2, 2019

Kyoto 2019 day 3: wooden mountain

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Tonight was my biggest hope of getting some high-end kyo-ryori (京料理).  I knew I had no chance of getting into the most sought-after places since I didn't start planning my meals until about 2 weeks before the trip, but I still wanted to pick a nice place for kaiseki (懐石料理).  Thankfully I found that Kiyama (木山) - which is highly rated on Tabelog and on the OAD Top 100+ Japanese Restaurants despite having only one macaron - was still available via one of the paid concierge services, so I booked us in.  Maybe it's because the place has only been only for about 2 years.

We were led to a private room just off the entrance, so the 5 of us would be on our own.

Grilled eel with glutinous rice (鰻御飯) - kinda surprised that the chef started us off with rice, and even more surprising that it's glutinous rice.  Nice fragrance from the sansho leaves (木の芽) on top, and interesting to have chopped bits of pine nuts mixed in with the rice.

We were offered a welcome sake, which was dry and came from Fukuoka.

Fish dumpling in sakura shrimp soup with cucumber (桜海老のすり流し 真薯  胡瓜) - the dumpling (真薯) made with fish paste also came with tofu skin (湯葉).

White asparagus, Japanese tiger prawn, caviar (ホワイトアスパラ  車海老  キャビア) -  before the dish was topped with sturgeon caviar from Latvia, the white asparagus from Hokkaido and the tiger prawns were dressed with a sauce made with... you guessed it... FISH CUM!

I thought the season for shirako (白子) was over, which was why I never bothered to mention it as a dietary restriction.  But I guess I was just assuming too much...  This came not from blowfish or cod, but from great amberjack (間八).

Even my friend, who doesn't speak Japanese and is in Japan for the first time, knew what the white stuff was from the look on my face.  She's read enough of my posts to make an educated guess.

Next we had one of the cooks come in with a selection of katsuobushi (鰹節) and a box shaver, and he went to work shaving them.  I wasn't paying a lot of attention and didn't film him doing it, but it may have been the first time that katsuobushi was shaved in front of me in a restaurant.  When it was all done, we were then told that there were three different types of flakes - which would be mixed together to make dashi (出汁).

Katsuobushi, aged for 1 year

Katsuobushi, aged for 2 years - this was more smoky, but the flavors were milder.

Magurobushi (鮪節) - flavors were also milder.

We were offered a small taste of the dashi.

Bowl: fat greenling, snow fungus, gluten (椀物:鮎並  白木耳  麩) - with some myoga (茗荷) and sansho leaves (木の芽) on top.  Very delicate flavors here.  Lovely.

Chicken grunt (伊佐木) - the chicken grunt came with lightly grilled and crispy skin, topped with some wasabi and a paste that was made with finely diced plum and fern (蕨).  It's also sitting in a sauce that was made with rice, plum, and sake.  Garnished with perilla flowers.  Loved the acidity from the sauce and paste.

Bigfin reef squid and fermented sea cucumber guts (アオリイカ 海鼠腸) - so... this will be a challenge for some people.  Raw squid gets even more sticky when it's sliced and diced up, then you've got this gooey pile which is actually fermented guts of sea cucumbers...

Charcoal grilled aitchbone with grilled Kamo eggplant (京都牛のイチボ炭焼 賀茂茄子の溜醬油焼き) - we've got the aitchbone (イチボ) of local Kyoto cattle, plus Kamo eggplant which has been brushed to tamari soy sauce (溜醬油) - which is made with less water and therefore has a thicker consistency - before being grilled on charcoal.  It came with some minced ginger.

Wonderful doneness on the aitchbone.  There's so much flavor here... and it's not just coming from the fat.

Grilled scallop, Japanese horsehair crab, taro stem, sugar snap peas, water shield (帆立貝  毛蟹  白芋茎  スナップ豌豆  蓴菜) - both the scallop and the crab came from Hokkaido.  Naturally both were sweet and delicious.  The taro stems were crunchy as expected, and the water shield (蓴菜) - which were floating in the tosazu (土佐酢) - was yet another new experience for my friends... with their slippery texture.

Grilled dish: sweetfish (焼物:鮎) - BUT OF COURSE we would be having grilled sweetfish!  Very, very tasty.

Seasoned dish: green beans, shiitake, small yam, daylily (和え物:隠元豆  椎茸  小芋  金針菜) - plenty of ground white sesame here.

Fried dish: conger eel, peas (揚物:穴子  豌豆) - the peas were a little hard.

For the final savory course with rice, we were given a list of four choices.  We were told we could choose any - or all - of them.  One is also able to choose dictate the size of the servings.  Being a greedy bastard, OF COURSE I picked more than one... but I did ask for small size on both.

A bowl of egg rice with sea urchin (雲丹卵〆丼) - a box of raw sea urchin from マルマツ松浦水産 was brought in front of us, and Hello Kitty was told that she could have "as much as she wanted".  Hello Kitty replied that she would like to have "half", and the cook thought that she meant "half a row".  When she told him that she meant "half the box", he froze and the look on his face was priceless.  She ended up taking one horizontal row.  I did the same.

And it was a glorious bowl of rice!  On top of steamed rice we've also got diced Japanese yam (山芋), a raw egg, and those golden sea urchin tongues.  It's pretty tough not to like...

Pickles (香物)

Rice with dried bonito and dried young sardines (白飯  鰹節  雑魚) - how could I resist a bowl of rice with some of those delicious flakes of katsuobushi, along with a generous helping of dried sardine fry seasoned with sansho (山椒)?  I love 山椒縮緬雑魚!

Of course, this was made even better by stirring in a raw egg.  Just look at the color of the yolk!

We have a melon sorbet (メロンシャーベット), which actually was almost like granité.

Cold zenzai (冷やしぜんざい)

Matcha (抹茶)

We wanted to try out some sake, but the restaurant didn't have a list we could choose from. Instead we had to tell them what style of sake we preferred, and they would bring us a few bottles to choose from. I ended up ordering 1 go (合) of each.

Reisen Junmai Daiginjo Haneshibori (醴泉  純米大吟醸 . 撥ね搾り), 30BY, from isshobin - seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 35%.  Nose was more fermented than expected.

Jikon Tokubetsu Junmai (而今 特別純米), 30BY, from isshobin seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 60%.  Nice depth of flavors on the palate.

Shichihonyari Junmai Tamasakae (七本槍  純米  玉栄), 30BY, from isshobinseimaibuai (精米歩合) of 60%.  Very well-balanced, good with a little acidity on the palate, and actually sweeter on the finish than expected.

A pretty good meal, and I was definitely stuffed after those bowls of rice.

The night was still young, so after we got back to the hotel we decided to go somewhere near Kyoto Station for a drink. I picked Bar Island after looking around on Tabelog. While some of us took their customary gin and soda, I ended up getting a cocktail with watermelon juice as the base. I have no idea what alcohol the mixologist put into my glass, but I almost didn't detect any... which is kinda scary. I was thirsty and could have knocked back 3 of these in quick succession.

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