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! 

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Sushi Tokami 鮨とかみ – The michelin sushi that uses red vinegared shari

Sushi Tokami 鮨とかみ

B1F, Ginza Seiwa Silver Bldg, 8-2-10 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

DSC_0330Going to a Michelin sushi place has somehow turned into a ritual whenever I am in Japan. Not deviating away from the usual practice, after quite a long search due to the massive closure of Michelin restaurants during the Golden Week, Sushi Tokami (One Michelin star) is one of the rarest few that is still open on one of the days. But that comes with a caveat as its original 5000 yen set for a 10 piece sushi course went up by more than 50% to an unforeseen 8000 yen due to the sudden jack in market prices of the fishes charged by the famous Tsukiji Market that are also set to close for the next few days. Well, so we got the 10 piece sushi and lets get a glimpse on what were served!

DSC_0332 This perfectly marinated Octopus tasted lightly sweet and tasted really flavourful without an overly chewy texture. Being one of the freshest octopus that I’ve ever had, this appetiser was definitely one of the highlights of the sushi course.

Tokyo Kyoto 2015-001Before getting into the more exciting Sushi, lets take a look at the more common or basic sushi that are served in most Michelin restaurants. Anticlockwise: Tai snapper, Marinated Tuna, Chuttoro, Kohada, Anago and Sweet Ebi. Fresh is a given over here and the melt-in-your-mouth sensation is common as well. The Sweet Ebi though had a different texture with its succulent springy meat.

And I realised that there is a major difference in these seemingly similar Michelin sushi restaurants after having visited quite a few in Japan – The Shari or sushi rice; literally splitting them into two distinct groups. What we might have been more familiar with, the mirin marinated sushi rice that has more sweetness than sourness (usually white in colour), is replaced by the red vinegar shari (brown in colour) by a large number of restaurants (or it could have been the other way round depending on who came first). So it really depends on your preference, whether the sweeter rice or slightly more sour one suits your palates. As for now, this is my list of the two major groups:

White shari – Ginza Sushi Ichi, Sushi Iwa, Shinji by Kanesaka

Brown Shari – Sushi Shin, Sushi Tokami

And personally, the white shari appeals more to me, which I believe is the same for most Sgreans. So next up for the highlights! Continue reading