Dinner @ Tominokoji Yamagishi (Kyoto, Japan)

October 8, 2020 in Japanese

A few days were spent in Kyoto for my February/March 2019 trip to Japan. Well… 2 days to be exact. And for the very short period spent in Kyoto, my dinner reservation at 1 Michelin-starred Tominokoji Yamagishi was made via Tableall. I sent my reservation request as early as July 2018 for my meal in February 2019. Uh huh… Kiasu-ism (fear of losing out) at its best. Haha! Don’t judge me please.

But it was kinda crazy that just 2 days before my dinner, I received an email from Tableall informing that Tominokoji Yamagishi had hiked the price because ingredients in winter were more expensive in general. So the last notice was in no way Tableall’s fault. Pure coincidence as Tableall also offered the option for a full refund if I wasn’t comfortable with the price increase. And for my dinner at Tominokoji Yamagishi, it was planned with another foodie friend @terenceongwh to check out the place together.

  

For our 9pm dinner reservation, we reached early at 8.40pm. And we were directed to a separate hut located just beside the open car park. However, the restaurant wasn’t strict with the first-come-first-sit policy.

A couple arrived after us and was waiting in the waiting hut with us. And because they reached after us, they were nearer to the door of the hut. So when the staff came for us, the couple exited the waiting hut first and entered the restaurant before us. And oddly, I noticed another group was already seated at the counter when we entered. Hmm…

Do note that we had to remove our footwear for both the waiting hut and restaurant. So one may want to make sure no holes in socks, or wear footwear that’s easy to slip in and out. Thank goodness I’m a sneakers person and not a boots or heels person. Keke.

And once all 9 of us customers settled down, chef-owner Takahiro Yamagishi commenced our ¥25,000 dinner with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Cod milt with radish.


  

2) Dish #2 (above) – Sandwich of Spanish mackerel (sawara), rice cake and penshell clam (tairagai). And the seafood were all grilled over charcoal. We were each given a wooden plate for us to place the ‘sandwich’ down. But because this was handed to us by head chef Yamagishi san, I didn’t notice the plate and finished it quickly after snapping a picture. Ha.

  

3) Dish #3 (above) – Steamed egg (chawanmushi). There was also another ingredient inside which texture reminded me of fish maw.

4) Dish #4 (above) – Blow fish (fugu) sashimi and blow fish milt with ponzo sauce. I enjoyed this!


5) Dish #5 (above) – Taiza crab in white miso soup. I was really excited for this. Only available during winter, Taiza crabs are snow crabs (matsuba crabs) caught in Taiza Port and are ranked top in quality and flavor. And for this, head chef Yamagishi san started off by cooking the vegetables in the stock. After removing and portioning the cooked vegetables, he skimmed off the scum before continuing to cook the crab meat in the simmering broth (shabu shabu). Such a treat!

  

6) Dish #6 (above) – Taiza crab in white miso reduction.


  

7) Dish #7 (above) – It’s only after my meal at Tominokoji Yamagishi that I learnt this dish was called ‘Sugi Hassun’; A tray of tidbits made with ingredients from the seas and mountains. Typically 1 kind of sushi and several smaller side dishes. And supposedly the ultimate signature dish that symbolized the essence of the restaurant.

8) Dish #8 (above) – Belt fish (tachiuo) topped with chopped onion, and served alongside burdock.

  

9) Dish #9 (above) – Mackerel stick sushi (saba bozushi) with shiso leaf, sesame seeds and ginger.


10) Dish #10 (above) – Sea urchin hand roll. And for this, head chef Yamagishi san went round and asked how full we were. I guess he adjusted the sushi rice (shari) portion according to our responses. But now… One may have seen pictures of this hand roll with 2 rows of sea urchin. But that’s really for his regulars. Everyone, in that 9pm seating, were given just 1 row of sea urchin. Still a lot (of sea urchin), I say!

11) Dish #11 (above) – Baby white anchovy (shirauo) and urui (a type of mountain herb).


  

12) Dish #12 (above) – Grilled sardine (iwashi). We were also given pollock roe (mentaiko), nameko mushroom and dried baby sardines to enjoy with the fish and rice. White radish (daikon) was also available. But instead of placing the radish in bowls for us to help ourselves, the staff would go round and ask if we wanted the radish. Which they would then put into our bowls upon request.

13) Roasted tea (above)

14) Dish #13 (above) – Sticky renkon (lotus root) mochi, served slightly warm. And I liked how the leaves left a refreshing mint aftertaste.

15) Matcha (above)

I had always thought Tominokoji Yamagishi was a kaiseki restaurant. But again, it was only after my meal that I learnt Tominokoji Yamagishi’s cuisine was cha-kaiseki; Based on the tradition of tea ceremony. Interesting…

Would I recommend Tominokoji Yamagishi? Well… I am actually on the fence for this. A good meal is made up of many factors, and not just food alone. And I was slightly thrown off guard by head chef Yamagishi san. Based on all the pictures shared on Instagram, I imagined him to be a very friendly and smiley person, and always gamed to pose for the camera. But he wasn’t all that. He did pose for the my camera, but was selective in who he posed generously for. So it was disappointing because it was pretty obvious that I was among the few who were into ‘camera eat first’. I ended up feeling slightly awkward and extra conscious of myself during the meal. And am pretty sure I wasn’t being over sensitive.

But food wise, it was a pure treat. Winter was definitely the right season to visit Tominokoji Yamagishi. I especially enjoyed the blow fish and crab dishes. Although I be outright honest too that I wasn’t impressed with the sea urchin hand roll. Yes, it’s great for Instagram, but any chef could pull off that ensemble. One just needed the right ingredients.

And because I booked my meal at Tominokoji Yamagishi through Tableall, I pre-paid ¥32,000 (including tax, Tableall’s handling fee, etc). And for my drinks order (hot green tea), I topped up another ¥1200 at the restaurant.

TOMINOKOJI YAMAGISHI 富小路 やま岸
560 Honeyanocho, Nakagyo, Kyoto, Japan (京都府 京都市中京区 富小路通六角下る骨屋之町560)
+81 75 708 7865, Website, Tablelog
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon, Wed – Sun : 18:00 – 23:00
Ambience: 8
Value: 8
Service: 7
* Closed on Tues, 2nd & 4th Wed

Dinner @ Ogata 緒方 (Kyoto, Japan)

April 18, 2019 in Japanese

For my annual trip to Japan in 2019, I (finally) ventured out of Tokyo. Grin. And when I decided to head to Kyoto, I knew I had 4 restaurants that I wanted to try; Ogata, Tominokoji Yamagishi, Acá 1° and Hirasansou. Having read that it’s really difficult to secure a booking at 2 Michelin stars Ogata, I decided to use Tabeall.

I sent my reservation request to Tableall in end September 2018 but was informed that Ogata only take reservation for February from 1 December. However a few days later, I received another email from Tableall confirming that they had secured my booking with Ogata for dinner in late February 2019. Yeah.

For my 7pm dinner, I was the second to reach the restaurant. And instead of directing me to the empty seat beside the first group of customer, the staff led me to the other end of the counter which was beside a full-height glass window with a view of the indoors garden. And I liked my seat because it’s directly in front of the charcoal grill. VIP seat to witness chef-owner Toshiro Ogata’s grilling actions. Keke.

After seated, I was asked for my choice of drink which I went with iced green tea. And once everyone had settled down, I commenced my ¥33,000 dinner with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Sea urchin with sticky rice, topped with grated yuzu and pine nuts which was so light I nearly mistaken as puffed rice. In fact, I initially thought the topping was meat as the urchin’s colour was very dark. But its dark colour was from the seasoning.


2) Dish #2 (above) – “A type of Japanese pasta,” the staff said. And this was somen served with grated radish.

  

3) Dish #3 (above) – Baby tuna (meiji-maguro) sashimi. And when this was presented with a fox mask over it, the staff explained it’s a Japanese culture celebrated on 2 February. “A major day for Japanese,” he elaborated. I was told that the fox mask and leaves were used to ward off evil. The staff further shared the leaves were personally collected from the place of prayer and hand-carried back for Ogata’s customers. Wow. And after the explanation, the staff asked me to lift up the mask to expose the sashimi beneath. But just as I was about to do that, head chef Ogata san came over and assisted me. He continued to take the leaves and demonstrated what the Japanese would do by hitting himself on the chest. Once on each side with the leaves. He even got me to follow suit! And just as I was about to tuck in, I noticed head chef Ogata san whispering to his staff and nudging his staff in my direction. Apparently he asked his staff to take my handphone and take a photograph of me posing with the mask. So cute! I was honestly touched as his actions made me feel included. Fox mask and leaves aside, the baby tuna which was slightly grilled (aburi) was really tasty too.

4) Dish #4 (above) – Belt fish served with toasted sesame seeds. The toasted sesame seeds was very aromatic. It tasted almost similar to the peanuts used in our muah chee (glutinous rice snack coated with sesame seeds or peanuts).

5) Dish #5 (above) – Tempura butterbur (fukinoto) flower bud on tempura butter fish.

  

6) Dish #6 (above) – Tempura carrot. And for this, the other customers were exclaiming in excitement when head chef Ogata san placed the tempura carrot onto their plates. I concluded it must be a really special carrot especially with its deep-red colour. Even with my first bite, I mistook it for sweet potato because it was as sweet as roasted sweet potato.

7) Dish #7 (above) – Tempura abalone served with its liver sauce. And I was expecting it to be soft (like simmered kind of soft) but its centre was hard and crunchy. And the sauce definitely had something else besides liver. It contained small chunks which tasted like baby white shrimp (shiro-ebi). I ain’t too sure but it sure was yummy!

  
  

8) Dish #8 (above) – Blowfish (fugu) and milt. Shortly after my plate of milt was placed on the counter, head chef Ogata san appeared with the ice snow ball. Head chef Ogata san opened the snow ball with chopsticks to expose the packets of individually packed blowfish sashimi within. And we were told to personally take out our pack from the snow ball. I got to learn it was a tradition which the Japanese do for good luck. Food wise, one could eat the blowfish on its own or dip it in the milt sauce.

9) Dish #9 (above) – Hot sake with grilled blowfish fin.

  

10) Dish #10 (above) – And I very clearly heard the staff introduced the ingredient as round radish and not Japanese radish. Served with kelp (kombu).


  

11) Dish #11 (above) – Moroko fish. I was told this fish could only be found in the biggest lake in Japan. And we were given 3 each. Yum.

And it was a sign that the rice dish was to be served next when the assorted pickles was placed in front of me. And for the rice dish, the staff mentioned there’re 3 flavours. Unsure, I asked for recommendation and the staff proposed the oyster dish. But he went on to say I could have all three too. So I requested small portions for all. Keke. Stomach was bursting but I was greedy.

12) Dish #12 with options of:

(A) Baby white anchovy with egg omelette on rice (above)

(B) Deep-fried oyster on rice (above)

(C) Buckwheat noodle (above)

13) Roasted tea (above)


  

14) Dish #13 (above) – Filled with azuki beans, I was told cherry blossom was also used.

15) Green tea (above)

Head chef Ogata san certainly impressed. Dinner was fabulous! How do I put it… He wasn’t extravagant in terms of plating. One would realised from the food which were presented simply. But the taste of the dishes weren’t simple. He was able to bring out the best in each ingredient. And I was very impressed by how he also mixed tradition/culture into the dishes. Like the fox mask (kitsune).

I initially thought I would be neglected cause head chef Ogata san didn’t seem to be able to converse in English. The first few dishes were presented by his staff. But his passion and sincerity in wanting every customers to enjoy their dining experience must had made him cast aside his shyness and came up to me. Yes, the third dish! And for that, I was honestly touched and grateful. I ended up enjoying myself a lot. Head chef Ogata san looked stern on the outside but was actually mild and gentle. Even charismatic I must admit. Keke.

As I made my way to the exit, head chef Ogata san and his wife were there to say goodbye. And as a souvenir, I received a pair of chopsticks. Wow!

Would I recommend Michelin-starred Ogata? I definitely would! The raves about Ogata were real. And since I booked my meal through Tableall, it’s to note I pre-paid ¥44,000 (including tax, etc). And for the iced green tea which I ordered during the meal, I topped up another ¥1000. The ¥33,000 which I mentioned was the meal course, but tax not included yet. So if one did the mathematics, handling fee by Tableall is almost ¥4800. Very affordable, considering Tableall has been the most reliable third party reservation website. To me, at least. I always rely on Tableall for the super-hard-to-book restaurants.

OGATA 緒方
726 Shinkamanzacho Shimogyo, Kyoto, Japan (京都府 京都市下京区 綾小路西洞院東入新釜座町726番地)
+81 75 344 8000, Tablelog
Overall: 9
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 9
Tues – Sun : 16:00 – 21:30
Ambience: 8
Value: 9
Service: 9
* Closed on Mon

Dinner @ Kappo Shunsui 割烹 旬水 (Revisit)

January 22, 2019 in Japanese

My siao-on instagram foodie friends were keen in visiting Kappo Shunsui for their supper menu. And since Kappo Shunsui’s head chef had changed from Tomo Watanabe to Nobu Nishi from my past visit, I thought “why not.” And since we were visiting for their supper menu, we agreed to dine at 9pm.

However, when the call was made to make our reservation, we were informed there was no supper menu. Ie, only dinner menu. Hmm… And in the same tele-conversation, the staff mentioned there’s $150 (8 courses) and $250 (9 courses) for us to choose from. Since the main difference between the 2 menus was a beef dish, we decided to go with $150.


On the day of our dinner, my ‘siao-on’-sters agreed to meet straight at the restaurant. And to enter, one was required to press the console for the staff to open the door. But regular customers would be able to open the entrance door easily just by scanning one’s finger print as the restaurant would have regular’s fingerprints registered into the digital lock system. And since we had pre-selected our menu, we commenced mizu course ($150) with:-


1) Dish #1 (above) – Bonito.


2) Dish #2 (above) – Fish cake with scallop, melon skin and eggplant in dashi broth.

3) Dish #3 (above) – Sashimi assortment of medium fatty tuna (chutoro) and lean tuna (akami).


  

4) Dish #4 (above) – Sweet fish (ayu) tempura served with seasonal vegetables (yam, corn and green pepper).

5) Dish #5 (above) – Big-eye snapper (kinmedai) and winter melon.


6) Dish #6 (above) – Rice topped with sea urchin and salmon roe (ikura) in claypot.

7) Dish #7 (above) – Miso soup.

8) Dish #8 (above) – Sweet corn pudding.

9) Brown rice tea, Complimentary (above)

Would I still recommend Kappo Shunsui? Well… I really ain’t too sure. There wasn’t many “wow” moments except for the bonito dish. I am sure the ingredients served depended on the season, but I doubt it would have been any more impressive had we opted for the $250 course. You know… Like better ingredients would be used.

But if one was in Somerset and needed a quiet-yet-can-still-impress eatery to go for late dinner or supper, Kappo Shunsui would be the place. Although walking within Cuppage Plaza to get to Kappo Shunsui wouldn’t be that quiet. Ha.

KAPPO SHUNSUI 割烹 旬水
5 Koek Road, Cuppage Plaza, #04-02, Singapore
6732 0192, Website, Facebook
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Tue – Thur, Sun : 18:00 – 01:00
Ambience: 7
Fri – Sat : 18:00 – 02:00
Value: 7
Service: 7
* Closed on Mon