June 3, 2019

Kyoto 2019 day 4: silk in the river

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On my first trip to Kyoto in 1998, the most memorable meal during my stay was the one I had at Nishiki (京  嵐山  錦) in Arashiyama (嵐山).  The restaurant on Nakanoshima (中之島) in the middle of the Katsuragawa (桂川) served a very delicate kaiseki (懐石) cuisine, which I would later learn as kyo-ryori (京料理).  It was an eye-opener.

Tonight I took us back for nostalgia's sake, and I was really looking forward to tasting all those little bits of delicately-prepared and plated food, some of which would almost be too pretty to eat.

It's a Monday and we were here at 6pm, so we ended up being the only people in the public dining room.  The current menu comes with 8 basic courses, while the restaurant offers 4 main course extras which diners have the option to add on.  AND OF COURSE I added more than one dish!

Appetizer: deep-fried tofu, shredded spring onion, Tosa soy sauce (先付:揚げからし豆腐  洗い葱  土佐醬油) - the tofu had a very crispy shell, and there was a little bit of mustard inside to make it a little spicy.

Sashimi: sea bream (お造り:鯛へぎ造り) - these were thin slices, and came with perilla flowers as well as chiffonade of perilla leaves.  Condiments on the side were fermented garlic (もろみにんにく), Kyoto aomi radish (青み), and of course wasabi (山葵).

Kiwi, Japanese spikenard (垣根きうい  菖浦独活)

Bowl: pike conger and minazuki egg tofu in miso soup,  watershield, sansho leaves (お椀替わり:合わせ味噌仕立  はも  水無月玉子  じゅん菜  木の芽  粉山椒) - see, this is what I love about kaiseki and kyo-ryori.  They even took time to decorate the lid of the bowl with a small maple leaf.

Floating in the miso-flavored broth were triangular wedges of fluffy egg tofu (水無月玉子), along with some watershield (蓴菜) and sansho leaves (木の芽).

The seasonal pike conger (鱧) has, of course, been scored to cut the bones, but I could still tiny bits of it.

Next came my favorite course - the house specialty lacquered box containing a variety of little - and often pretty - bites.

Upper level: (桜宿膳:上段  酒肴) - these were meant to accompany alcohol...

Houseboat: prawn sushi (屋型船  海老小柚寿司) - listing up the roof of the house reveals a piece of prawn sushi inside, topped with a thin and translucent piece of kelp.

Small bowl: gizzard (鯛目小付  砂肝時雨煮)

Raft: Eel and burdock roll (筏 鰻八幡卷) - typical of Yawata City (八幡市) in Kyoto, this type of cooking involves wrapping meat or fish around the local burdock and cooking them.

Minazuki egg custard (水無月玉子) - a minazuki (水無月) version of tamagoyaki (玉子焼き), with azuki (小豆) on top.

Taro with sea urchin (小芋雲丹焼) 

Nanban red spotted masu trout (尼子南蛮漬け) 

Edamame (枝豆塩茹で)

Lower level: duck meatball, simmered pumpkin, green beans (桜宿膳:下段  炊合わせ  鴨丸旨煮 南瓜含ませ煮  青み) 

Then came the two extra main courses I chose:

I just LOOOOVE the presentation!  A hut with thatched roof, the sauce in a boat-shaped dish, and what looks like a cage...

Pickled dish: pike conger, sea grapes, myoga (酢の物:はも切り落とし  海葡萄  刻み茗荷) - picking pike conger is a no-brainer in this season, and I always love how it looks when cooked after scoring.  Dipped in irizake (煎り酒) served in a boat...

Aspic with sea bream roe (鯛の子煮凍り) - the cages are meant to resemble ones used to catch fireflies, which can now be found buzzing around. 

Grilled dish: salt-grilled sweetfish (焼き物:鮎の塩焼き  あしらい  たで酢) - and OF COURSE I was gonna get sweetfish... Can't get enough of them.

Rice: mozuku rice soup, ginger, Kyoto aomi  radish (ご飯:もずく雑炊  しょうが  あおみ) - nice and comforting, with little bits of fish.

Pickles (香の物  錦のなめ茸) 

Dessert (水物) - this matcha panna cotta came topped with some azuki paste, and what looked like a small yokan (羊羮) shaped like a maple leaf.  Not surprisingly the serving vessel was classic and pretty.

Arashiyama Nishiki Draft (嵐山錦 生貯蔵酒) - sweet on the attack but dry on the palate.  With some spiciness, a hint of fermentation, and a bit rounded on the palate.  Made by Kinshi Masamune (キンシ正宗).

I was very happy.  This brought back memories of my first trip to Tokyo, and it was exactly the kind of experience I wanted to share with MorgChop and his family.

Nakanojima and Togetsu Bridge were now deserted, and all around us was pitch dark.  We made our way to the nearest JR station and took the train back to Kyoto Station.  My plans to meet up with The Man in White T-shirt had to be cancelled as I ended up working in the hotel room for the rest of the evening.

But I was grateful to have spent the last 3 days with my friend's family.  Hope to see them again real soon... and maybe back in Hawaii.

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