Eat Like Japanese Nobility at Kyo-to KaisekiJune 19, 2017
- Bea OsmeñaWords
A glass window display case. Fan-shaped windows. A square sconce. Stone steps and a wooden sliding door. It’s one of those places you may not have noticed the first time you walk by, but once you see it, you can’t believe how you never saw it there (It’s only been open for a few months, but considering it’s located on the busy Makati street of C. Palanca, the restaurant took us by surprise). From the minimalist signage with its tiny lettering to the manicured bonsai trees, the flair of its elegant and anassuming exterior is in the details—a theme that emerges in its cuisine as it seems Kyo-to Kaiseki specializes in subtlety. Through the traditional sliding door, you enter a narrow hallway that leads to the host station.
From entrance, the dining host can take you to the main dining room on the left, which seats an intimate number of 24 (the area can also be separated into three private rooms that fit eight persons each), one of two small private rooms also on the left (each fit four to six), or go straight ahead to where the action is at the counter (seats eight to ten). The counter give you a direct view of the head chef Ryohei Kawamoto and his team as they carefully put together the Kaiseki, and a finer appreciation for the craftsmanship that goes behind preparing these dishes.
A traditional multi-course meal, Kaiseki were presented to the Japanese noble class and have since become a dining experience associated with the former imperial capital of Japan after which the restaurant is named. At Kyo-to, their Kaiseki courses range from five to seven plates depending on the ingredients made available. Each dinner is reflective of the season so that they can serve only the freshest of what Japan has to offer. Thus, the menu does not follow any strict schedule but rather adapts to what is available for chef Ryohei to play with.
Last June 13, we were privileged a 5-course experience. Here’s what we ate.
SAKIZUKE or appetizer
We begin with a 3-part appetizer consisting of Hokkaido crab with cucumber vinegar jelly (a refreshing delight!), salmon kombu with special dressing, and crab paste served with iwashi in the form of a rectangular cracker (and just as crunchy too). The starters were each good for a couple of bites, but each bite was something you want to hold in your mouth and close your eyes as you taste it.
Afterwards, we were served the heartiest single serving of chawan mushi we’ve ever seen: the steamed egg custard was thick and bold, in a bowl that was 5 times the size we are used to being served. Kyo-to’s generous bowl of chawan mushi was made decadent with chicken, crab, shrimp and unagi (eel), each piece of meat the size of a perfect bite.
mukozuke or sashimi
A platter of seasonal sashimi is par for the course, and we were treated to fine, fresh servings of uni, scallops (which had a kiss of sweetness), and the swankiest tuna cut you’ll ever have: toro from the tuna belly. Instead of being, as one might imagine, jelly-soft and melt-in-your-mouth rich, the toro had some bite and chew, letting you experience the a full fishy-flavor.
yakimono or grilled dish
Also part of a typical kaiseki experience is a grilled dish, and for our grilled main course we were served the fatty and juicy hamachi kama (yellowtail collar). Crack through its grilled glossy surface to its almost custard-soft, fresh-tasting interiors that slip through chopsticks with its thick coating of natural fish oil. The salted and delicately crisp exterior seasons its clean white fish meat, each bite tempered with a scoop of sticky Japanese rice.
Finally, for dessert we have a scoop of their homemade vanilla ice cream with mochi and red bean, and sprinkled with kinako (soybean flour) and matcha on top.
Kyo-to is a kaiseki restaurant led by chef Ryohei Kawamoto, who was the private chef of the Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines for three years.