Kichisen & The Kaiseki Standard

Kichisen is a very famous restaurant in Japan and my first Michelin 3 star restaurant in Japan. It appears Kichisen is very popular among the locals because Taian, Hatsune Sushi, Ryugin, and Narisawa were all impressed when they found out I dined at Kichisen.

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Kichisen Kyoto
Yoshimi Tanigawa is the head Chef.

They didn’t think a foreigner would know about Kichisen and my foodie card has the stamp of approval from the Japanese. However, I didn’t tell them Kichisen was chosen by flipping a coin.  Kichisen is the traditional Kyoto style Kaiseki restaurant with a lot of traditional dishes.  Yoshimi Tanigawa is the head Chef. He was on the 1999 Iron Chef and defeated Masaharu Morimoto, the former Executive Chef at Nobu. Now, I know a lot of my American readers know of Morimoto. He has multiple restaurants in the States. Kichisen Kyoto

Yoshimi Tanigawa is the head Chef. He was on the 1999 Iron Chef and defeated Masaharu Morimoto, the former Executive Chef at Nobu

Now, the food. The meal moved at a great pace. The Japanese have this mastered like how they make complex subways as simple as a train on a child’s wall.  From the first drink offering to dessert, the pace wasn’t over or underwhelming in any manner. Here are my favorite courses:

  1. Clear Soup w/ Peas – The dish followed the Plum Sake and doesn’t sound much. The peas were dense with a firm texture. The clear soup is where the dish shined. I came in still trying to cool down from the heat and walking around Kyoto. The clear soup made my body temperature go south faster than the real estate crash in the United States. It had a very similar taste to Chrysanthemum tea without the processed sweeteners and sugars. It was one of the most refreshing dishes I’ve ever had in life.

    Kichisen Kyoto
    The Simplicity of Tea & Peas
  2. Sashimi – The sashimi platter with fatty tuna, tuna belly and toro. The pressed Kyoto style of the fish tasted incredibly clean and fresh. It melted in my mouth without any rice to break down the fish like your typical nigiri. The simplicity of the ingredients was exquisite. It’s like the old cliché or saying “Keep It Simple, Stupid” that a lot of people don’t understand.

    Kichisen Kyoto
    Assorted Sashimi
  3. Kinako Dango – The little warm, sweet, and chewy substance was divine. The texture of the dessert was extremely soft and pulled off the stick without leaving any residual leftovers. It wasn’t overly chewy and texture melted away as you chew.  The greatest thing was the powder didn’t get everywhere like frosting from your local donut shop.

The thing about Kichisen was the seasonal ingredients and dishes were perfect. It was a hot day in Kyoto and the beginning of Spring. The dishes were extremely refreshing and not overwhelming at all. It tasted extremely clean and subtle flavors of the ingredients were showcase like Kichisen’s Michelin 3 star award.

Lastly, Japan is my favorite destination for food. The ingredients, subtle taste, ability, and preparations of the dishes were amazing. Kichisen and a few other Japanese restaurants made me fall in love with Japanese food and dining experiences. It’s pretty amazing how Japanese Chefs are able to capture the pure essence and flavors of the ingredients of a season.

Final word: This isn’t the place for you if you’re into flavors like a Big Mac or BBQ sauce.

Check out our other Kyoto articles here.

  • 9/10
    Service - 9/10
  • 9/10
    Presentation - 9/10
  • 9/10
    Flavors - 9/10
  • 9/10
    Ambiance - 9/10
  • 9/10
    Decor - 9/10
9/10

Summary

Kichisen is among the highly regarded for a traditional Kyoto cuisine meal aka Kaiseki. The only place to truly experience a Kaiseki meal is in Kyoto. Kaiseki derives a lot of their dishes from locally source ingredients in Kyoto. Kichisen service defines luxury and the simplicity of the dishes defines genius. Kichisen sits in my top 10 dining experiences as of this review.

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