I must add that this was our first kaiseki experience and we had not a slightest idea what to expect – actually, that’s not entirely true. I did expect that the food was going to highlight the flavours of the season (autumn) and look like art on a plate.
The space was small but exquisitely executed in blond wood and understated aesthetics that blended contemporary furniture lines and elements of traditional Japanese design.
The first dish of the night was a prawn, mushroom and vegetable appetizer in kudzu and taro root jelly. The flavours were blending together very well, and the dish set up the expectations quite high.
Next, the appetiser platter of a Hokkaido oyster, saba and marinated tuna sushi, renkon taco (lotus root doughnut), whole deep fried fish (again, from Hokkaido – but I did not get the species’ name) and a yuba and uni (sea urchin) custard.
Everything was exquisite. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my husband’s doubtful expression as he was faced with eating a whole fish, head and all, but I was getting very excited about what was to come.
The soup course – tofu, baby turnip and fish, flavoured with yuzu. That’s all detail I could get from the Japanese-only explanation. The menu was omakase (chef’s choice) and was not printed.
Sashimi course came with three sauce options. Lime salt, tamari and…. prawn brain sauce. The latter was, of course, for the prawn sashimi. Squid was recommended to be eaten with lime salt (and went very well together). The fish, I was told, was isagi – but Google search instead suggested isaki – which is a kind of sea bass. The fish sashimi was quite chewy, and my husband thought that it was, perhaps, red snapper – and as it turned out, the chewyness of sashimi was a prized quality in Kansai. A little not to our taste, though.
Prawn brain sauce was challenging, in theory, but its quite distinct taste was not any more peculiar than Thai fish sauce.
Sadly, we forgot to photograph one dish! It was a broth of duck meatballs (kamo dango), awabu and kabura (?). One day I might be able translate what awabu and kabura actually mean.
The soup was gorgeous and it’s a shame it is not on photos.
The next dish was more challenging. It was also not helping that we had had a very filling ramen lunch earlier that day. The kaiseki meal was proving to be very, very filling, which was against my expectation of tiny one-bite dishes!
Simply, this was a hotpot of fish intestines and greens. The fish guts, of course, had slippery texture while the vegetables were adding crunch. My husband, who is quite squeamish, was getting visibly pale:). The dipping sauce, however, was adding nice acidity and overall, it was a well balanced course. Had I not been so full, I would have finished it.
Next, came the standard end to any kaiseki course – at least, the savoury part of it. Rice, miso and pickles. We later figured that once upon a time, that was the part of the meal where people had a chance to fill their bellies with something more substantial after a series of tiny morsels. One might argue that with modern kaiseki featuring large portions, that became somewhat redundant! Being an upmarket place, the rice was flavoured with luxurious ingridients, crab in that instance. The rice was so fragrant and delicious and rich with tender crab meat, but I was so full and close to tears as eating anymore was just impossible. I did try as much as I could, and the rest of the rice in the pot was packed in a take away box for us.
Here, the preparation of a mercifully light dessert – pulverised pear servered on a bed of apple sorbet. Refreshing.
The parting shot with the Mr Shimizu and his lovely wife! In the style of true Japanese hospitality, they saw us off outside their restaurant.
(I am holding the take-away rice).
The verdict: that meal clearly did justice to the intellectual curiosity of the chef mentioned by the Michelin guide. We were taken on a journey of unexpected flavours and sometimes challenging combinations but it was unlike anything we had eaten before. Despite the kaiseki experience being the first for me, I was left feeling that Mr Shimizu had a capacity to surprise and delight even his Japanese clientele. I look forward to returning one day!
Opening Hours: Lunch 11:30-13:30, Dinner 17:00 – 21:00 (Last orders). Closed mid-Ausgust, late December-early January, Sunday and Bank Holidays.
Address: 2-13-31 Shimanouchi, Chuo-ku, Osaka.
Stay in the Southern part of Osaka (Minami) to be close to the restaurant. We recommend Swissotel Nankai.