Shiki Kaiseki lunch
Having become an employment (or unemployment) statistic recently, I have been trying to explore some places and meals at times that I could not previously have done so easily. I was out for a long walk and on my way to Dok Bua, which I love, for a cheap lunch. Instead my footsteps took me to Shiki. I'm glad I went. I have often complained about the lack of the kind of lunch it's so easy to find in Tokyo (or the rest of Japan I assume), the ones that look amazing and make your mouth water long before you even smell or taste them, a colorful and artistic array of healthy and delicious foods. At $22, this is not an everyday lunch, but if you need it, this place has it.
I chose the Matsu (pine) Kaiseki lunch, this was the most expensive or #1 set according to the Japanese ranking that includes take and ume as 2 and 3 respectively. I've attached a poor photo from my phone so you can get a visual on this, and please, everyone, post more pics! Note that the fan, which was given me by the atentive waitress who saw that I was hot after my walk, and the large Kirin beer, are not included in the lunch set.
Clockwise from top left:
Green salad with lettuce and cucmber. Lettuce was very fresh and not typical iceburg. Dressing tasted more like French than the typical miso-ginger one, and was quite good. Nothing special here but fine.
Cold udon noodles in broth. The noodles had a nice chew to them, the broth cool and refreshing and included some fresh seaweed as well. I loved this.
Chawan Mushi, custard perfectly cooked and creamy, the usual seafood, fishcakes, chicken, mushroom inside. It was not as strongly flavored as I'm used to, but I'll call it suble and delicious.
Tempura with shrimp and two kinds of squash. The batter was not as crispy as I'd like, so lost some points there, but it was still very tasty and the shrimp were excellent quality. The dipping sauce, off to the right, did not allow for me to mix in any grated radish, but it had a bit in it already and was good.
Dessert, two cherries and four grapes. Very pretty and a nice touch.
A chirashi block of sushi rice topped with shredded tamago, unagi, and ikura. The rice was perfectly cooked and seasoned, and the toppings, though spare, made it a lovely dish on its own.
Four amuse (what would these be called in Japan, anyone know?). These were essentially four types of fish/sashimi "salads" artistically presented atop or within vegetables. To be honest I couldn't identify each of them, at least not after I had eaten them. One, however, was saba or pickled mackerel, and this fish was perfectly prepared, then diced finely and set atop a slice of lemon.
A sashimi sampler. All of the fish was extremely fresh tasting and sliced properly. I thought this was excellent.
Two slices of roasted pork. This was a very lean cut, and in spite of that it was roasted perfectly, very tender and juicy, and served with sauce.
Glazed roasted fish. I guess this was black cod, it was also perfectly roasted and seasoned.
Service, as I mentioned, was attentive and also very pleasant. All in all I wish I could eat lunch like this a couple of times per week. Recommended if you've got the money for lunch, next time I will try one of the cheaper sets and see how that goes.
Not much has changed about the kaiseki lunch in nearly 4 years, though it's up a buck at $23 (Matsu). That's a pretty decent value for the quantity of food, though there's nothing particularly spendy on the plate (heavy on salmon & shrimp). It's mostly all quite good, but slightly misses the finer points here and there (chunky chawanmushi, tempura needing a bit more crisp, udon broth a touch flat). The four-pour sake tasting is nice, accompanied by salmon sashimi in a yuzu-soy dressing and some funky squid liver which always surprisingly pairs well with the subtle sakes.
Thanks for the report. I like to treat myself to the kaiseki lunch at Shiki on days I can get out of work early. The service is so slow, though, even at lunch! I had to go back out to feed the meter the last time. As I recall, the dining room was about half full with most parties ordering the set lunches. The whole lunch took just over 2 hours. I come to expect it now and make sure I have the time, so I'm not really complaining. Was the timing for your lunch similar?
I actually went again today since I was craving such a meal. Both times I started on the early side -- 12ish -- and had quick service. I lingered long over this big lunch box, so it still took me over an hour but others were in and out pretty quickly. About 8 or 10 others besides myself.
I love the Shiki lunches (haven't had that one, but you've sold me). I've tried the sets in the mid-teens $ range; they have progressively a bit less variety and a bit less quantity but still a lot of food--all fish and vegetables, so not coma-inducing. I can go the movies and stay awake. ;-)