Kyoto Review: Chihana
A meal at Chihana is an amazing experience. On entering the small restaurant, one could not help marvel at the stacks of colourful porcelain serving dishes, meticulously arranged (there are 6 on each stack), at the back of the counter. Chihana’s Kaiseki is anything but traditional.
1. The first course was hirame fritter with grapefruit jelly. The chef explained that it was from a particularly rare part of the hirame. Could one imagine more contrasting texture and flavor than fritter and jelly?
2. The second course was torigai in white miso sauce. I have never had sweeter and more succulent torigai.
3. Then came shirako with broad beans. The shirako had a milky texture and was piping hot.
4. Next was the cheek of ray fish in ginger and leek soup. I didn’t even know it is edible and its texture was nearly as milky as the shirako.
5. Grilled chu-toro with green onion followed. It was perfect.
6. The next course, vinegared ainame was the only weak link of the meal.
7. The soup course was seaweed and bamboo shoot. Elsewhere, kinome always dot bamboo shoots but much to my relief, the kinome leaf was not meant to be eaten. The soup was clear and the subtle taste offered a wonderful contrast with the ainame.
8. Sashima came next. The hirame and toro sashimi were of the highest quality. The hirame I had was always chewy (not in an enjoyable way), the hirame at Chihana had truly wonderful texture. Only now do I understand why the hirame is such an esteemed fish.
9. The hassun consisted of 5 small plates. A whole range of texture and flavor were on display. The crushed squid and the essence of soy beans were particularly refreshing.
10. Then came grilled mutsu in spring vegetable sauce.
11. Spring vegetables simmered with tofu.
12. Vinegared cabbage with red pepper, pine nut, shira-uno and grape jelly cleanse the palette for the final gohan.