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Kikunoi @ Kyoto, Japan


As usual I had my list of kaiseki places to try and of all the dining reservations we had in Kyoto, I was looking forward most to Three Starred Kikunoi. Finding Kikunoi is by no means an easy feat since the signages were lacking and I vaguely remember Kiku refers to Chrysanthenum in chinese!


We were warmly welcomed into the property and made our way into a maze.


Down the corridor with our hostess and finally shown our private room.


Million dollar view in a room so calm and quiet, I could almost hear my own heart beating. Their interior is changed to reflect the four seasons, just like their seasonal menus. The restaurant itself was established in 1912 and is currently headed by the third-generation owner-chef Yoshihiro Murata.


Our pretty hostess shared the cook book of Chef Murata, one full of recipes. Every year the dishes are repeated based on the book and the creations look exactly as they are photographed and presented. Talk about precision to the finer details.


Green tea and a warm towel began our kaiseki journey.


A surprise swig of sake, as nudged by the hostess. A clean and very crisp sake befitting of winter.


Assortment of appetizers
Smoked salmon sushi, mustard dressed rapini, haddock roe terrine, lotus root stuffed with mustard, cured karasumi (grey mullet roe) rolled in cuttlefish, tofu pickled in white miso and pomegranate, salad of sea cucumber and turnip

The lacquer box of appetizers was winter, explained. I love eating from a lacquer box filled with compartments because variety gets me excited and each of these morsels told a story in winter, showcasing very exquisite ingredients and married the past and present beautifully.


Smoked salmon sushi was a modernist take indeed, the smoked fish was a tasty treat.


Salad of sea cucumber and turnip was most interesting in terms of texture, the sea cucumber was so chewy and slippery at the same time.


Haddock roe terrine looked least appetizing but was soft like mousse and packed savoury surprises with every bite.


Sashimi of yellowtail and tai, grated mustard relish, vinegared chrysanthenum petals, curled udo and carrot, wasabi

The most exquisite sashimi platter this winter and the only time I did not have tuna.


Red tilefish steamed with grated kabura turnip, wood ear mushroom, lily bulb, mitsuba herb, fresh uni, gingko nut, wasabi

A starchy winter soup that reminded me of shark's fin soup somehow, except this was alot more exotic with uni and winter fish. Very comforting indeed, without much seasoning required.


The uber cute porcelain ware the dish was served in.


Ebi imo (Kyoto taro) coated with ground rice crackers, yuzu

Unfortunately I thought this was a tad bland though conceptually it worked - I love taro and this was on the dry side.


Hotpot of duck breast, kujo onion, shimonita onion, duck meatballs, sansho pepper

I frowned at the thought of more soup, given how particular I am with my double boiled soups only preference. Plus duck breast, a not so commonly used ingredient.


The broth was packed with so much sweetness from the onions and leeks used and you bet I was slurping this bowl after bowl leaving the duck breast to the last to savour.


Porridge of rice, bone-in pufferfish meat, rice cake, yuzu, chives, egg rolled pickled turnip, pickled daikon radish, salt cured giant kelp

I was slightly disappointed with another soupy course but in winter, broths are a staple.


I never quite had the guts to take on puffer fish head on and was pretty much left with no choice on this one. The porridge was most comforting and flavoured with fish, chives and yuzu. Delicate flavours there and glad to say, I enjoyed this tremendously. I lived to tell a tale after consuming pufferfish which like most other fish had a chewy texture. Hah!


Pickles are their equivalent of palette cleansers, I enjoyed them all.


Buckwheat walnut sponge cake, caramel icecream, strawberry, amakusa orange, caramel sauce, mint

I definitely was expecting something more traditional with this kaiseki but that said, this looked absolutely festive. It was a dessert that had so much in store - sweet with a bittersweet caramel icecream and mildly sour orange and refreshing mint. Best part? It worked like magic.


Eating icecream with a handmade glass spoon is quite an experience - keeps the cold alot longer and I wish I could have these at home too!


This view kept me starring at it for so long - and I felt like an intruder in this tranquility.


Taking on a pensive moment.


Oh hello winter.

The meal ended on a happy note, bellies filled and hearts full of memories. That's the thing about a kaiseki that I favour more than omakase - there's always so much to reflect upon with the changing of seasons and life, even.

Kikunoi Main Restaurant
459 Shimokawara-cho, Yasakatoriimae-sagaru, Shimokawara-dori, Higashiyama-ku,

A foodie born to eat, shop and travel. Forced to work.

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