Monday, September 15, 2014

Seasons and Transitions: Kaiseki Dinner at Ishikawa (Tokyo, Japan)

When I had an overnight layover in Tokyo, I asked drtomostyle to take me to have kaiseki, the traditional multi-course Japanese dinner. We headed to the 3 Michelin-starred Ishikawa in Kagurazaka, along with two of her friends.
We started with a course of pike eel. This was the last of the season of pike eel, which requires a lot of knife skills to prepare. The delicate eel was served with a pickled plum sauce (a classic pairing for pike eel), shiso, wood ear mushroom, and wasabi. 
It's a wonderful start that really increases our anticipation. 

The next dish marks the transitions of the seasons. There are deep fried ayu (river fish) which at the time of the meal was at the end of its season. It was served with an ingredient just beginning its season: ginkgo. They're all served atop of daikon radish jelly.
In other words, this was probably about the only time each year where you can have both ingredients together, and Ishikawa pairs them beautifully.

Of course we had to have some sake with dinner. It wasn't just the sake and the food that I loved here, but also the presentation. The sake is served in Edokiriko glasses. These are beautiful hand-cut artisanal glasses, unique to Tokyo.
Next: a soup course (again, beautiful serving ware)
Clear soup, matsutake, young melon, thin sliced Japanese beef, daikon

Followed by Sea bream sashimi: fresh and bright 

Steamed abalone, innard, liver, abalone stock 

Anago (Conga eel) brushed with salt marinated bonito stomach (a delicacy), grilled over charcoal, sweet onion, white radish 

Remove all your preconceptions of what anago should taste like. This was much more delicate than the eels that I am used to. 

Pepper from Kyoto, white sesame tofu, fresh figs, taro
I never knew there were figs in Japan!

Hot pot dumpling with soft shell turtle (believed to give a lot of energy) and shiitake, topped with rice paper, dashi, mitsuba, shredded white scallion 
True, this isn't quite like having suppon (which I still have never had), but the dumpling gave me my second, stronger glimpse into turtle meat (the first being turtle soup in New Orleans).

I knew our meal was coming to an end when the miso soup with housemade pickles came.
Then the chef personally came to make our last savory course: fried rice mixed with amadai (snapper)
He mixes all the ingredients in for a lovely rice bowl. While seemingly the most simple dish it was also one of my favorites.

The dessert is light and fruit-focused: Muscat grapes, fresh pear, apple flavored tea gelee, coconut at the bottom.

Green tea to cleanse everything.

The rest of the rice was made into onigiri for us to take home. They made a great breakfast on the train to the airport the next morning!

Even though I had very limited time in Tokyo, I was very glad I had the chance to experience Ishikawa. I loved not only the flavors but what the ingredients signify in terms of seasonal transition. Everything was well thought out and well executed. 

Kagurazaka, Shinjuku
Tokyo, Japan


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