Kyoto #08: Roan Kikunoi, 菊乃井

Kaiseki, considered the epitome of fine Japanese cuisine, has it's roots in the Buddhist monastic tea ceremony. It has been refined continuously for centuries right up to its present day artform that uses only fresh seasonal ingredients and strives to balance taste, texture, appearance and colours. Along with the thought and detail poured into each dish, the careful placement of food and choice of plates to enhance the look and seasonal theme are all there to be appreciated. (Japanese diners will often lift, admire and feel the appearance and texture of the pottery prior to commenting on the balance of elements and only then get stuck in). When stepping into Roan Kikunoi, one of three restaurants established by Yoshihiro Murata, Japan's celebrated kaiseki master, I feel strangely anxious of my gaijin ignorance as I have never before in Japan. Thankfully we are in safe hands and, although we don't meet Master Chef Murata, we are delighted and surprised by who appears from the kitchen to greet us at the end of our meal!  

Springtime brings delicate cherry blossoms (sakura) to places all around Kyoto. Even our sake is infused with
the flavour of these flowers. Served in shallow bowl, the pool of sake is a little window transporting the
viewer to the cherry tree lined waterways of Japan. A heart warming drink to remember, exquisite
in both seasonal presentation and taste.

The appetisers (hassun) consisting of beautifully presented tuna pate with white poppy seeds (Matsukaze),
Urai with vinegar jelly, Salmon and radish roll, red sea bream (Tai) sushi, fish cake, mountain yam "butterflies"

A play of colours, patterns and shapes unites this plate of Red sea bream (Tai),
baby tuna (Korshibi) sashimi and seaweed to please the eye.

It's the detail, in this cup of roasted green tea (Hojicha), that make its mellow flavour all the more enjoyable.

The Yuba and mibuna soup.
Under the leaves the tofu pouch is filled with lots of tasty sunken treasure waiting to be rescued (by our stomach).

Steamed mugwort (Yomogi) jelly with Miso 

Another treasure box filled with ...
Prawn, sweet potato, udo tempura placed... just... so... carefully

Rice with bamboo shoots, green pea soup with Japanese pickles
(seabream with sweet miso, pickled daikon, kombu pickled with sake).

Our skillful chef, Hiroki Maruyama, swiftly beheads these fish with spartan knife strokes. 

Almond jelly with basil seeds and strawberry. Perfectly balanced and simply delicious.

We met Roan Kikunoi's co-owner and brother of Master Chef Murata! 
Thank you S-san for making the reservation for us!

Finally a big part of why we chose Kikunoi was because of my own personal experience of cooking from 'Japanese Home cooking with Master Chef Murata'. which makes delicious Japanese food unbelievably easy using a small number of ubiquitous ingredients. I cannot more highly recommend a basic Japanese recipe book than this.

Name: Roan Kikunoi,菊乃井
Website: http://kikunoi.jp/english/store/roan/  (in English)
Address: 118 Saito-cho, Shijo-sagaru, Kiyamachi-dori, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto 600-8012
Prices: 4,200 yen lunch
Do make reservations!

Visited: 22 Apr 2013