Before heading back to the US, my friends and I decided to splurge on a kaiseki dinner at Kikunoi.
Kikunoi is a Michelin three-star restaurant located at the foot of Higashiyama Mountain Range in Kyoto. Legend has it that water from a local well called “Kikusui-no-i” 菊乃井 was used by the first wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣 秀吉) to make tea, causing spring water to burst forth in the pattern of a chrysanthemum (“kiku” 菊花 in Japanese) in full bloom. The locals took care of this well for many generations, and eventually began to use its water in cooking. This was the origin of the name Kikunoi – literally meaning “chrysanthemum well.” The namesake restaurant was established in 1912 and is currently headed by the third-generation owner-chef Yoshihiro Murata.
Our meal was exquisite, with a strong focus on seasonality. It was masterfully crafted and seamlessly orchestrated by the wait staff start to finish.
Below is a photographic document of our culinary journey (I provided links below to some of the ingredients that are unfamiliar to us non-Japanese, feel free to click on them if you want to learn more about those ingredients):
Starting with an Assortment of appetizers…
“Horse reins” sushi (sardine and prawn); icefish with yuzu; tofu marinated in red-pickled ume; fuki (coltsfoot) bud marinated in miso; rapini dressed with mustard; cod roe terrine; sweet black beans; wasabi greens; ume (Japanese plum) agar-agar jelly
Cod roe terrine
Steamed Prawn, grated red turnip, wasabi
Sashimi of tai (red sea bream) and spicy lobster, udo (wild mountain vegetable) curl, carrot curl, wasabi, marinated fresh nori
Sashimi of koshibi (young bluefin tuna), soy marinated egg yolk sauce
Salt-grilled yellowtail, grated mustard radish, Seville orange
Served gracefully by the beautiful chef’s daughter
who proudly introduced her father’s English cookbook: The Exquisite Cuisine of Kyoto’s Kikunoi Restaurant
Kumquat-wasabi sorbet as palate cleanser
Steamed cod milt tofu in a San-po-kan citrus cup, red pepper, ponzu
Wakame seaweed noodles, soft shell turtle soup, minced white onion and Kujo onion, ginger, pickled daikon stalk, pickled daikon leaf, red-pickled chopped eggplant
For dessert – baked apple, ginger candy ice cream
Followed by matcha tea and sweets.
All in all, we wanted this dinner to be memorable – signifying a successful conclusion to our trip in Japan.
At Kikunoi we achieved just that. We left happy with sweet melancholy. Happy that we had a wonderful time together. Sad that it was time to say goodbye. But we knew this won’t be the last time because we can always come back.
Address: 459 Shimokawara-cho, Yasakatoriimae-sagaru, Shimokawara-dori, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto 605-0825