If Joel Robuchon’s name is synonymous with haute French cuisine, then Yoshihiro Murata, third generation Chef Patron of Kikunoi Honten, is the name to beat in the rarified world of kyo kaiseki (Kyoto-style kaiseki). Almost a century after the 1912 inception of its flagship restaurant in a century-old villa at Gion-Maruyama (Kyoto), Kikinoi is spreading its wings mightily – first with the debut of Kikunoi Tokyo in 2004 and come September 2012, Murata will cut the ribbon to his maiden venture beyond Japanese shores
Kikunoi London. While the jury is still out on how his London outlet will capture the deliciousness of the Japanese seasons, time-starved kaiseki aficionados who cannot afford the schlep to Kyoto can count on Murata’s 2-Michelin-starred
Tokyo outpost to deliver those moments of culinary epiphany. Unlike its 3-starred Kyoto flagship - which boasts 11 airy tatami rooms spread over two storeys in an enormous mansion sited just a stone’s throw from the Kodaiji Temple - the Tokyo outlet is decidedly boutique with just only 6 counter seats, 2 alcoves with raised tatami and 3 regular tables set in a wood-swathed space smack bang in Akasaka.
If you’re lucky, snag one of the seats by the hinoki wood-topped counter where diners banter with chefs whilst tucking into those exquisite zen plates proffering Murata’s umami-rich, dashi-accented creations that run on both classic and contemporary tracks. From our 11-course summer kaiseki, standouts include Murata’s trademark dishes of sea eel-stuffed tofu dumpling in an aromatic dashi bath and the hearty pot of water shield-studded snapping turtle soup flavoured with dashi, ginger juice and sake.
Murata’s dish of seasonal vegetables presented as rainbow-coloured layers in a vegetable terrine bound by savoury dashi jelly served alongside a refreshing tomato sorbet also reflects the chef’s occasional play with European techniques to excellent results. Kikunoi Tokyo
|6-13-8 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo| Tel: 81-3-3568-6055| www.kikunoi.jp |Lunch from JPY5,250, Dinner from JPY15,750 www.facebook.com/bibikgourmand
Evelyn Chen traded her frequent flyer miles from her jet-setting corporate days for a critic's pen, and has been eating and drinking on the job ever since. She is a former Time Out food critic and current editor of Zagat Guide (Singapore); her food and travel features have published in CNN Travel, New York Times, Telegraph and Destin Asian, amongst others. Follow her on www.facebook.com/bibikgourmand or www.twitter.com/bibikgourmand for updates on where she's eating right now.