Gion Namba なん波
Shijo Hanamiｋoji Higashi iru, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto
Quite a difficult find again this single starred restaurant is; hiding away along a super narrow alley perpendicular to the bustling main street, it is really easy to miss it if you forgot to make that sharp turn. Though not exactly coming across as an exhilarating, bold restaurant, its stellar and spot on presentation at Gion Namba なん波 did invite some exclamation from us. 3 lunch sets given and the cheapest one at around 5000円 was chosen.
The first course – Creamy Shirako Fish milt with tofu and kombu looking gorgeously vibrant already, was cut through by the lightly tart chilled tomato puree and yuzu zest. Very beautiful bowl, appetite perfectly whetted.
Clear soup with hints of yuzu, as again, commonly expected in almost any Kaiseki restaurant in the Kansai region, Michelin or not. Still delicious and refreshing in its own right but the largely similar taste is starting to turn monotonous. The squid paste ball with shrimp and ginko nut encapsulated within though, was beautifully textured.
Sashimi – Tai Sea Bream, squid and yellow tail with kikuhana (yellow flower). You know the yellow tail has been aged really well when the broken down proteins (into amino acids) melt sweetly in your mouth.
Fried fish, Shredded kani crab meat, Mackerel sushi, shellfish with mentaiko, topped with the huge yellow ginko leaf symbolic of the autumn season. Precision, accuracy, and balance, all three attributes found in the multi-faceted flavours, yet not confusing at all.
Chawanmushi as a course? It definitely has got to take some guts to present a seemingly insignificant dish that is ordered usually as side dishes from chain Japanese restaurants as a course. And boy we understood why. Uniquely prepared as a semi-broth with a less starchy consistency, the ingredients used were meticulously prepared as the grilled Mackerel fish hidden within tells it all, while sweet potato was added to give it the adequate sweetness.
Steamed rice with small fish, perfumed lightly throughout by the kikuhana yellow flower.
Smooth, refreshing yuzu sorbet made special with a faint bitterness that complemented beautifully the mushy sweet persimmon.
Red bean manju with the super bitter, anti-oxidant packed matcha to end the meal beautifully.
As you would have agreed, presentation was stunning and you could feel the thoughts and effort put in every course. Delicious in its own right still, there were however certain courses that were little more conservative and lacking in boldness, such as the clear soup and rice course (that I have gotten accustomed to and have my anticipation naturally written off for those courses when they’re on the menu). Having said that, all the other qualities you would have looked out for in a Michelin restaurant are still well executed.
Verdict: A good restaurant.