Kaiseki in Kyoto

Saturday, 31 December 2016

One of our favourite dining experiences in Japan was Kaiseki - traditional Japanese haute cuisine. Kaiseki of tends to be quite expensive and as we'd already indulged in a number of 'experience' meals, it wasn't on the cards. That was until we walked around Gion, worked up a massive appetite and decided on impulse that we would after all try it the multi-course meal. Kaiseki restaurants in Gion, we were informed, can seem a bit impenetrable due to Japanese only menus and a sometimes cool attitude towards foreigners. Gion Karyo, we read was not only more relaxed but also (by Kaiseki standards) more affordable.

After walking through a quite and sparsely decorated hallway, we were ushered into a quiet dining area with basic wooden tables and benches. We chose a glass of Sake from the menu and waited for the dining extravaganza to begin. Our host brought us a menu that explained the different courses and asked (haltingly in English) if we had any questions.

Our meal started with an amuse bouche style entry followed by Wanomo - clear Japanese soup - before moving on to a series of curious looking dishes - all of which challenged and satisfied our taste buds in different ways.

The fresh fish preparations were particularly excellent - and all of it was very aesthetically presented.

The open kitchen meant we could closely watch what the chefs were up to and the attention to detail whilst preparing each course was very evident.

Unlike in the West, where chefs (Gordon someone, for example) sometimes tend to be arrogant, the Japanese culture dictates courtesy and respect for the guests. The chefs often see you to the door after a meal - unheard of back home and something we were very (pleasantly) surprised by.

They seemed quite happy with us clicking away too.

The final course was pudding - simple and yet it totally hit the spot. Choux pastry and matcha ice-cream. Despite copious matcha intake all through our stay in Japan, I always had room for more!

I must admit, I left thinking that if this was the slightly affordable version of Kaiseki, how much more fantastic would the fancier ones be? Ann x

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