Gion Namba なん波 – Aesthetically so strong the sets are!

Gion Namba なん波

Shijo Hanamikoji Higashi iru, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto

DSC_0944Quite 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.

DSC_0946The 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.

DSC_0952Clear 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.

DSC_0958Sashimi – 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.

DSC_0965DSC_0966Fried 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.

DSC_0967DSC_0968Chawanmushi 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.

DSC_0974Steamed rice with small fish, perfumed lightly throughout by the kikuhana yellow flower.

DSC_0975Smooth, refreshing yuzu sorbet made special with a faint bitterness that complemented beautifully the mushy sweet persimmon.

DSC_0977DSC_0978Red 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. 

Fujiya 1935 – The outstanding meal that Christmas reminded me of!

Fujiya 1935 

Japan, 〒540-0026 Osaka Prefecture, Osaka, 中央区鑓屋町2-4-14

DSC_1203As my previous michelin kaiseki experience seems to suggest that the flavours in Tokyo are much bolder and electrifying than the Kansai region, we took a gamble and decided to break away from tradition. Paid a visit to a Spanish-Japanese fusion Michelin restaurant this time round, and it was the best Michelin experience during this entire trip, partially due to our familiarity with the Kansai palates that made those meals, good in their own right but slightly less exciting. Fujiya 1935***, one of the four restaurants in Osaka with the highly coveted three stars, was where the memories were made. With only one menu that changes seasonally, this Autumn one ¥15000 took us through an exhilarating ride that lasted for 2.5h, after which we could only crave for more.

DSC_1202Longtooth Grouper from Nagasaki and Shimonita Leek – Simmered together with tomatoes and a little bit of olive, this broth, perfumed thoroughly by the sweetness of the grouper, tasted light yet extremely refreshing.

DSC_1206Soft Cod Roe and burdock with Autumn truffle – With a little bit of chilli spice cutting through the heavier burdock soup, the flavours of the fried burdock and flamed cod roe has been lifted beautifully.

DSC_1215Spaghetti, Tanba wild boar and carrot sauce – It was only a small tasting portion but the porky umami-ness exuding from the light creamy spaghetti was unforgettable.

Sandwich of Shitake Mushrooms – Slotted in between these wheat biscuits lies a creamy slather of heavy-tasting mushroom fillings.
Fried Lotus root, Ginko nuts, mukago – It might be a fried dish, but definitely not one-dimensional with its multiple textures within it. Continue reading

Jiki Miyazawa 食宮ざわ – The all sesame tofu that gave it its fame

Jiki Miyazawa 食宮ざわ (1 star)

553-1 Yaoha-cho, Sakaishijo Agaru Higashigawa,Kyoto 604-8123, Kyoto Prefecture

Near Gion Shijo station

DSC_0830Bridges, you would soon realise, is an integral form of architecture in the kansai region as they give these cities their unique character and charisma. While those in the more modernised Osaka exuberate a grander, sky-scraper laced skyline, those in Kyoto consolidate its rustic charm. Now we may seem to be slightly out of point here, but the gorgeous view you would get en route to Jiki Miyazawa 食宮ざわ じき宮ざわ from Gion Shijo subway is definitely unignorable.

DSC_0831DSC_0835Having searched for quite a few Japanese michelin restaurants previously, we have grown wiser to keep a lookout for the less conspicuous and quieter side road. And there we were, got past the curtain, ushered promptly to our comfortable counter seats, and got a Lager Kirin beer while waiting for the ¥3500 set lunch.

DSC_0833Starter – Plump and refreshing crab meat forming the base, topped with the lighter radish and salmon roe

DSC_0836Clear soup – Perfumed throughout with the shimeji mushroom fragrance, while its refreshingness is further lifted by the citrusy yuzu zest; all with the purpose of bringing out the natural sweetness of the scallop encased tofu.

DSC_0838These Spanish mackerel sashimi were lightly steamed at the side yet still maintaining its tenderness, while the rawness is preserved within, thereby increasing the complexity of its overall texture.

DSC_0841Showcasing its culinary acumen, the Sesame tofu, topped with a blob of savoury sesame sauce and lashed with sesame sprinkles on top is definitely the star of Jiki Miyazawa. Lightly sweet, savoury, fragrant, the nuances in the sesame flavours have been brought out by the different textured ingredients. With so many elements in just a seemingly simple course, this is definitely not straightforward but has been prepared with much finesse. Notably, the tofu has a thicker and bouncier consistency yet still maintaining its silkiness, this is the first kind that I ever have had.

DSC_0849Rice course: Together with the peppercorn sardine, it was a good finish to the meal. Do not be shy to ask for more if you need more carbo as they will gladly scoop more for you!

DSC_0854Considered as the fruit in Autumn or winter, the fuyugaki (literally winter persimmon), with a meltingly soft flesh, tasted very sweet and juicy. All ended by the sweet hojicha macaroon counterbalanced by the ultra bitter quality matcha.

DSC_0840While I wouldn’t say that this lunch is mindblowing as most of the tastes, we were already familiar with. However, at just ¥3500, that includes the brilliant sesame tofu, I say it is worth a visit.

Verdict: A good restaurant.



梨吉 Rikichi – The story of the chef who previously rejected the Michelin star

梨吉 Rikichi

95 Sueyoshicho, Gion, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto

DSC_0705 DSC_0708Who would in the right mind choose to reject the highly coveted Michelin star?! Not any chef in this world I suppose, but such a strange scenario is however not uncommon in the land of Michelin restaurants – Japan. We may get the jitters when we first step into a Michelin Japanese restaurant, with a slightly haughty-looking chef behind the counter who only expects respect from his customers for his lofty culinary skills. I didn’t expect anything less than such a demanding attitude, especially so when I have chosen to visit Rikichi 梨吉 that previously rejected the star. This might sound a little nerve wracking but the curiosity behind the chef’s story beckons!

DSC_0709 DSC_0710And upon stepping into the one-man restaurant, who is both the chef and waiter, I felt absolutely relaxed, totally unlike what I have expected. Very casual counter bar restaurant with typically just a few seats, the old chef who has helmed this restaurant for 29 long years, coming to 30, is perhaps the friendliest one that I’ve ever met. Just like a grandfather cooking for his grandson, apart from the fact that I have to pay 8000 yen there after. After being seated comfortably on the wooden chair with a simple cushion over it, down-to-earth appetisers were first served. Showcasing the subtleties of the appetisers, the crunchy hanaguri clam has all it takes to whet the appetite.

DSC_0711Japan has been highly revered of its naturally sweet underground roots without additional flavouring from condiments at all. Perfectly embodied by the two fat moist pieces of satoimo or Kyoto yam, the sweetness has been perfectly locked by the sequential steaming and frying process with much precision.

DSC_0712One of the most favourite dishes that night – Yuzu Nasu dengaku. The miso rendition has always been the one being served at restaurants; yuzu – that must be a first for me and most. Really creamy slab of tangy yuzu puree spread over the comforting tender aubergine, that was a perfect combination as its sourness manages to reconcile beautifully with the savouriness of this dishContinue reading

Kikunoi Roan 菊乃井 露庵 – less than $50 for a 2 Michelin starred lunch!

Kikunoi Roan 菊乃井 露庵

In between Gion Shijo or Kawaramachi Metro

DSC_0732Affiliated to the 3 Michelin Starred Kikunoi Honten 菊乃井本店, the sister restaurant Kikunoi Roan 菊乃井 露庵 (2 Michelin stars) starts its lunch kaiseki set for as low as ¥4000. The second michelin restaurant visited in Kyoto and somehow there seems to be an apparent difference when crosschecked with the experiences from the Tokyo michelin. More casual perhaps and a slightly less polished service rendered, I think the Tokyo experiences felt more wholesome. Well, nevermind about that as we came here mainly for the food.

DSC_0733 DSC_0736Once seated comfortably, you will be served with a saucer of cold refreshing sake before the chilled appetisers are served. Pretty good platter of appetisers that embodies the subtleties of Japanese cuisine which otherwise, not overly outstanding for a shout out.

DSC_0737My first actually – A very refreshing take on sashimi as these succulent slices of bonito are served with a jelly-textured ponzu sauce that adds a desired subtle sour tang to the already very fresh fish slices. Definitely not as straightforward as it seems, much thoughts must have been put into this ponzu sauce! 

Continue reading