During my research about Tokyo, I was surprised to learn that the small city boasted the largest number of Michelin star restaurants. Once I discovered this, I knew that I would make my first Michelin star dining experience in Tokyo. More research was conducted, many calls were made and finally, I was able to make reservations at the 2 star Kikunoi in Akasaka. The restaurant bases its menu on the theme of chrysanthemum, incorporating the ingredient into every course. Three different meals are offered at 15000, 18000 and 21000 yen but the menus are not revealed until your visit. As I know it, the lowest priced menu is vegetarian, the next has seafood and the most expensive has meat. Having opted for the 18000, here is my dining experience.
An assortment of appetizers: yuzu sansho cup, autumn leaves squid, cured mullet roe, kombu basket, duck liver terrine, water chestnut crackers, chestnut crackers, salted gingko nuts, and green tea noodle fans. The most impressive element? The kombu basket. The basket was so exceptionally prepared that it felt and appeared just like a basket, so much so that my companions and I made the mistake of not consuming it. It was, to say the least, one terrible mistake.
Yuzu tofu with miso sauce
Sashimi of butterfish and tai (red sea bream), wasabi, chrysanthemum petals, curled udo and carrot. I still cannot tell you what the jelly texture on the butterfish was but it was tart, soft and delightfully delicious.
Sashimi of koshibi (young bluefin tuna), mustard, soy-marinated egg yolk sauce. Let me tell you about this soy-marinated egg yolk sauce. I can drink that sauce. Creamy, a little salty, just beyond words. The tuna was outstanding as well, but that sauce!
Red Wakasa tilefish steamed with millet, baby daikon radish, tied kintoki carrot, yuzu, chrysanthemum sauce.
Sudachi citrus and wasabi sorbet. A palate cleanser with a kick.
Grilled barracuda, shiitake mushroom. I’ve never had the pleasure of having barracuda but if I ever do again, it must be prepared the same way as this dish. The fish is topped with a shiitake mushroom, wrapped and smoked. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice and take a bite of the most wonderful fish. My eyes almost popped out of my head as I was astonished as to how much flavor was in the fish. It looks deceivingly plain but it is anything but. Barracuda, where have you been my entire life!
Seko crab salad, tosa-vinegar dressing. Under the crab was more crab followed by more roe and then more crab. Unlike other fine dining restaurants where portions are 1-inch cubes, Kikunoi is very generous with their portions. Every last bit of crab was scraped out of my shell.
Hotpot of Spanish mackerel, poached turnip, ebi taro, kintoki carrot, baby field greens, tofu, ponzu, grated radish with red pepper, green onion. Each individual is presented with a small burner and their own hotpot to enjoy. The broth for the hot pot was the perfect balance of flavors and seasonings while the mackerel was tender and moist. The servers even poured the rest of the hotpot into your bowl, allowing you to enjoy every last drop.
Steamed rice with salmon roe, seaweed, napa cabbage soup, black pepper, pickled turnip and turnip greens, Kyoto-style chopped vegetables. This rice is another great example of how certain ingredients in Tokyo are far superior to elsewhere. The rice was salmon roe, seaweed, and rice. It only took 3 ingredients mixed together to create this perfect concoction. Parts of the salmon roe popped while being mixed, seasoning the rice. It was such a large portion that the servers were generous enough to pack up the remaining for us.
To end the meal, we were given a choice of either caramel ice cream and buckwheat cake or daishiro persimmon splashed with cognac. I chose the latter but after trying other people’s ice cream, I should have chosen the former. The persimmon was juicy and sweet but did not stand out like the cake and ice cream. 3 hours of eating the fanciest, most beautiful food and I had trouble walking. It was time to go back to the hotel, put on sweats and crawl into bed.
An outstanding experience and hopefully not my last. Kaiseki, we will meet again soon. Next up, Kyoto!
Check out the rest of “A Taste of Japan” series:
Part 1: Tsukiji Market
Part 2: Sushi Dai
Part 3: Tokyo
Part 5: Kyoto Pt 1
Part 6: Kyoto Pt 2
Part 7: Osaka
Part 8: Exploring Osaka
Part 9: Kikunoi Ryotei