Now the thing is that the two dear friends who accompanied me during the trip through Japan, organized everything perfectly and from A to Z. Thanks again to Chiaki and Henning! In general, it has to be said that without Chiaki we would have had great problems getting anything on our plates at all. Without her translations, we would not have been able to have many conversations. Not able to order or reserve. Quite deliberately, the two have left room for spontaneous discoveries and decisions for just this one evening. Could be, they thought, that we might just want to have a beer. Or maybe just a quick bite to eat. Or, to dispel the more far-fetched ideas right away, want to discover a traditional menu based around Kyoto’s specialties. A great stroke of luck, as was to be proven on this evening and in the form of Kaji Takashi. Multiple happiness even. Thanks to Tablelog, the indispensable online restaurant guide in Japan, we not only discovered Muromachi Kaji, not far from our wonderful, traditional accommodation in Kyoto, but also spontaneously got a table. Eight of the total of only twelve seats are positioned along a counter to the open kitchen. We were seated at a sort of chef’s table for the evening. A small table in the separé with a view of the kitchen. Great.
And no less great is what Kaji Takashi and his small team conjure up here. Izakaya is the principle in Muromachi Kaji. In other words, an extensive menu from which you choose in a constant flow many little things that gradually arrive at the table. Japanese tapas, so to speak. A perfect opportunity to get acquainted with many slightly more unusual products and preparations of Japanese cuisine. A collection of small amuse-gueule of the house makes the prelude. Skewers, omelets, pickled vegetables and tofu with caviar.
The mixed sashimi then already held a typical Kyoto variant: Saba-Sugata-Zushi. If you will, one of the archetypes of modern nigiri sushi. Originally intended primarily to preserve freshwater fish, this form of preparation was later adapted to fish from the sea. In Kyoto especially on Saba, that is, the mackerel. For this purpose, the fish is fermented overnight together with highly acidified rice. In the past, people removed the rice after this process and primarily enjoyed the fish, which can be stored for much longer. Today, the rice is considered an integral part of the dish. After all, the mackerel releases quite a bit of its flavor into the rice overnight. The fermentation also changes the texture noticeably.
And in addition to the raw fish, the large variety of sashimi included several other exciting products and dishes. Great culinary fun. And under each little lid new, indefinable products. Fish testicles, for example. Draped on seasonal vegetables.
But a potato salad also found its way to our table. In this case – and thus clearly different from the variant common in northern and central Europe – prepared with a large portion of fish eggs.
This was followed by a wonderful fish from the grill. Exceptionally intense aroma and very delicate. We could not help but order a second plate directly.
As an intermediate course followed some tender roasted liver of chicken. Very lightly spiced and best enjoyed with just a hefty dose of the Japanese pepper.
The next course was crab. We did not understand exactly which parts of the crab were processed here, in any case it was pureed in with soy and miso. Not my favorite.
Exciting then again a Japanese variant of a casserole dish. Of course with lots of fish. Very tasty and much easier than you think.
September is Ayu season. So we had several times in these days to do with this small, but very tasty fish in all its varieties. Mostly from the grill or deep fried. In Muromachi Kaji even in the “pregnant” variant.
The next course sounded very familiar at first: pork chop with mustard (seeds). Whereby it turned out that the pig was actually only minimally cooked. At the same time, however, of outstanding quality, quite unusual texture, which has nothing at all in common with the completely cooked pork we are used to. Instead of dessert, I got carried away with a small meat course. Wagyue with a sauce of soy, chopped wasabi and kiwi. Also sensational, perfectly cooked and wonderfully tender.
As a (not-so-sweet) finale, Kaji Takashi served matcha-coated ice cream.
A great discovery and an absolute recommendation for any trip to Kyoto. Only the luck to get a table without a long-term reservation should not be stretched too much. This was actually the big exception, as we learned during the course of the evening….
Nakanono Cho 185