Matsukawa 松川 (Winter II)
Matsukawa is my favorite Kaiseki restaurant in Japan, or on the planet. It is also ranked as the top Japanese restaurant on Tabelog in the long run. I have posted Matsukawa for several times so i believe there's no need to emphasize how much i love it. After 2015 Winter, 2016 Spring, 2016 Summer, and here comes 2016 winter. In the winter of 2016, was my one-year anniversary of 'step into' Matsukawa for the first time. (And i have actually had 2017 summer twice already)
The first dish was Taiza crab which was absolutely soulful as it looks. Inside the crab shell was the meat of the whole crab, alongside its roes and ovaries on the top. Each bite was remarkably juicy, umami, and delicious, with a hint of sweet aftertaste. After finished everything in the crab shell, crab legs from the entire crab were served. An awesome start as always.
Next was Tai sashimi (sea bream). Matsukawa's Tai is the top on my list alongside with Kyoaji and Ishikawa's. Very fresh flesh which tastes clean but umami and mild sweet. It comes with Konowato (sea cucumber ovaries) with yuzu skin.
Followed by 'iimushi', or steamed rice, with a seasonal topping. This dish is suppose to warm up the belly to get yourself ready for the 'big meal'. This time the warm rice was top with hotate scallops and scallions. The rice was perfectly steamed, smooth and fragrant. Hotate scallops were sweet and umami, and the scallions gives more aroma to the dish. And yes, I'm ready!
Matsukawa's Owan (soup), no need to elaborate more, still the best i have ever had. The dashi is always so clean and deep in taste. Inside the soup was incredibly delicious crab meat, so moist and juicy with a sweet hint. What else should i ask more in this chilly winter?
The next two dishes were also winter-essentials at Matsukawa. Fugu sashimi was paired with creamy fugu shirako sauce, daikon with a hint of spicy on the top, as well as fugu's best friend scallions. This combination is so next-level! Arguably my favorite fugu sashimi dish.
Grilled Karasumi (dried mullet roe) in a daikon soup was another old favortie here. Karasumi was perfectly grilled, its deep salted flavor was so well-balanced with the grilled mochi (glutinous rice ball) underneath. Daikon soup was usually bitter and mild sweet, but at the top Japanese restaurants, daikon is always sweet unless the chef made it bitter for a reason. Such a taste of blessing!
Almost all the foodies who always fly to Japan to eat like me coincided that Autumn and Winter are the our favorite seasons because of the abundance amazing ingredients, such as the Aobuki duck (green neck duck). I had Aokubi duck for the very first time last year, also at Matsukawa, it was so mind-blowing. The duck was so succulent and tasteful.
A taro sounds quite boring, but trust me, this taro dish was the best ever. Some of my friends claim that they prefer Kyoaji's deep-fried ebi-imo (shrimp shaped yam), i also love Kyoaji's but to me, Matsukawa's imo was truely a masterpiece. As we know, taro contains a lot of crabs thus if you try to cook it at home, you will find the soup was muddy, and the taro itself is hard to be cooked. While this taro looks so clean, and melt-in-mouth. I was in love even this was not my first time having it.
As a fixed routine, cold soba was served before the arrival of rice dish. Although Matsukswa is not a sobaya, my favorite soba dishes were probably from Matsukawa. The homemade soba itself was really textural, firm and chewy. The kinoko mushroom was very smooth and tastes sweet, while daikon brings a spicy conflict flavor, the entire bowl was really balanced.
The rice was served with four fixed toppings: Ikura, raw kawasumi, jyako and seaweed. The white rice was very soft and moist, each grain was like pearl, i can even eat the plain rice itself, let alone with those delicious toppings. Cannot stop to refill my bowl!
Red bean mitzu-yokan is a classical dessert at Matsukawa that i'm never tired of it. This time, Matsukawa-san served something different for us - blacn bean mitzuyokan that is only available in winter. It tastes less sweet than the red bean one, and still so smoothly silky. Indeed melt-on-tongue. More from the chef, i was so happy to try the seasonal strawberry jelly too. arigato gozaimasu!
Always happy to revisit Matsukawa for the best Kaiseki experience. My favorite season here are winter (or late Autumn) and summer. The only sad thing is that it is more difficult to get a reservation nowadays. From my May trip, i found that Matsukawa is kinda swing to a new reservation policy that seems tougher to get in.
And Chef Matsukawa told me that some people called the restaurant for a reservation mentioning my name - it sounds ridiculous to me because i never make reservations with my 'name' that everyone knows. Doing so will only being blocked by the restaurant, so i hope next time i won't heard similar stories from Matsukawa or any restaurants.