Saturday early evening, dinner at Kyo-ya. I read about Kyo-ya here and had to go, but decided I could only go on a special occasion — “lucky” for me, A. has moved away and so for his first return trip, we went and splurged on the Kaiseki dinner. An $80 menu that is worth every penny.First course, Zensai. On the japanese menu I can make out the characters that in Mandarin are chien tsai which I suppose translates to first course/appetizer. This came in a little laquered box, served on a tray that was our place setting for the remainder of the meal. But once I opened the box, I was stunned. It was an array of tiny things that were so pretty to look at I didn’t want to eat it. A small round lime, hollowed out and filled with miso marinated ikura (salmon roe, I think). Two pinwheels of red and white fish cake wrapped around a soft cheese. A marinated pickled sardine wrapped in paper thin layers of daikon and carrot, resting atop a slice of lime. Two chunks of herring roe sprinkled with bonito flakes. A little kite-looking thing on a toothpick with japanese characters and a little bit of some evergreen were placed in the box. The most gorgeous slice of fish cake I have ever seen, in the shape of a bell with a pink handle and a branch of cherry blossoms on the bell. The flavors were incredibly luscious — the miso in the ikura was intense and only made the oily-ness richer and fuller. Yum.
Second course, Sashimi. This was a plate with five small slices of halibut, served with a ponzu dipping sauce. A small pile of diced scallions and a small pile of something pink that I couldn’t discern were on the plate and meant to garnish the sauce. A few springs of a tiny flower nestled between some of the fish slices. Each slice of sashimi started with the sweet and sour taste of the ponzu and the crunch and slight spice of the garnishes, and, as you chewed on the fish, slowly gave way to a delicious fleshy salty fish. It was amazing and stunning.
Third course. A combination of Uni and Miso on top of a fillet of red snapper. The uni and miso had been mushed up and plasted on top of the fish before broiling. Mmm. A bit of pickled vegetables. Mmm.
Fourth course. Tempura. Shiso Leaf, Nori, Lobster. The menu says red ginger but I don’t remember any tempura ginger. It must have been on the side. The lobster was in the form of two small fish balls. The tempura shiso and nori were a surprise and were actually quite tasty, and the tempura batter was surprisingly substantial. A green tea flavored flaky salt was provided to sprinkle over the tempura, which the waitress told us was the traditional way that japanese eat tempura, although she would bring us some dipping sauce if we preferred, which we didn’t.
Fifth course. Beef wrapped papaya with our special sweet and sour sauce. By this point I was starting to feel pretty satisfied with the quantity of food. The papaya was tender and rich, although I wasn’t convinced the texture matched well with that of the beef. The meat was served on top of sprouts, and a small salad of thinly julienned daikon and carrot. Their “special sweet and sour sauce” was quite tasty.
Sixth Course. Ochazuke. Broiled Musubi in a Delicate Fish Broth. This was a little rice patty, broiled, placed in a broth with a little mound of wasabi on top. I smushed it up and stirred the wasabi in.
Dessert. Mizugashi. Refreshing Japanese Jell-o with an Assortment of Sweet Beans. A clear gelatin, slightly sweet but mostly just tasted clear, and beans of all colors inside. Quite strange, it was topped with some little crunchy candies the size of nerds, some were chocolate and some were something else. They were hard and round and we spent some time chasing them around the plate with our forks. Little slices of orange fruit jellies, you know, just like the sunkist kind. Silly looking, I wasn’t sure if it was intentional, but it was a good light dessert to cap off the evening.
We had some really good sake to go with it, whose names I won’t remember and the next time I go to a restaurant I still won’t know what to order. I just remember that the first one we got had this description: “Simply the best.” So of course we had to order it!
I’m a couple hundred dollars poorer but oh, that was so worth it. We’re going again and we’ll try out the sashimi menu, which is astoundingly expensive to my inexperienced eyes, with four slices of sashimi running about $20. We got there early in the evening but ate for 2 1/2 or 3 hours, and at no time did the place really fill up. Maybe it’s more of a lunch place, it’s definitely an expense account kind of place. Very, very quiet for a restaurant on a saturday night.