This Michelin-starred kaiseki restaurant will have your eyes and your taste buds enthralled for at least an hour.
Kyoto is well known for its many kaiseki restaurants like Gion Karyo that offer multi-course set menus (much like the French degustation menu) of creative, and beautifully presented small Japanese dishes made with fresh, seasonal ingredients.
A typical kaiseki meal consists of the following course:
– Sakizuke, an appetizer served with sake
– Nimono, a soup or simmered dish
– Mukozuke, a sashimi dish
– Hassun, an expression of the season
– Yakimono — a grilled course
– Hanmono or shokuji, a rice dish.
The menu at Gion Karyo is very accessible for Japanese cuisine initiates, and like in most kaiseki restaurants, watching the chefs in action is half the fun. The wonderful thing about the kaiseki experience is the anticipation and sense of mystery that builds up before each dish arrives, and finally the joy of feasting your eyes, and senses on the dish being presented to you.
Service: Watching the chefs artfully slicing fish and removing each microscopic bone with tweezers, you get a good understanding of how seriously the Japanese take their food. There were three wait staff who were very attentive, and though their English was limited, they were able to explain the key ingredients for all the dishes. There is also a printed English menu at your seat when you arrive.
8 Course Lunch Menu At Time of Review:
Appetiser: Corn tofu with radish and wasabi; eggplant soup with prawn, edamame, water shield and ginger
Soup: Pike conger, carrot, Japanese ginger and onion soup
Sashimi: Yokowa (baby Maguro), octopus and squid
Small dish: Udon, potato, okura and corn with goma dressing
Assorted dishes: Sea bream, hammo sea eel with cucumber, Japanese tofu and peach dressed with white sauce, sweet potato infused in yuzu, duck, octopus, mixed vegetable and scallop tempura
Steamed dish: Japanese beef wrapped in eggplant in a gourd soup
Hearth-cooked rice: Small sardines and rice with pickles and miso soup
Dessert: Fruit jelly and lemon sorbet with tea or coffee
Ambience: Gion Karyo has bar counter seats on the street level and an upper floor with small, private tables. The restaurant is bright and modern, and from the bar counter you can enjoy a 360-degree view of all the action in the large spacious kitchen. There is also a little landscaped rock garden that brings natural light into the dining area.
Average price per person: ¥5,000 for lunch; ¥10,000-13,000 for dinner. (Prices exclude drinks, tax and service charge). Reservations are required.
Address: Gion Karyo. 570-235 Giommachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0074, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan. www.karyo-kyoto.jp. Tel: (81) 75 532 0025. Closed on Wednesdays.