I am sure everytime someone mentiones Kobe, it reminds you of Kobe beef. But don't you know that there are a lot of nice restaurants to visit in Kobe apart from beef. Such as Kimoto, the best Japanese restaurant according to Tabelog, as well as the most famous Ca Sento, are the only two reasons i travel from Tokyo to Kobe for.
Kimoto housed in the corner of a quiet street in central Kobe. The restaurant featured 7 seats at the counter and a private room for four people, the interior decor is very zen and warm. Exposed to fresh fish from a young age by his fisherman father, the owner-chef Yasuya Kimoto is confident in his ability to know good quality. Kimoto-san was trained at Sakurada in Kyoto, and he opened his own restaurant in 2010.
The menu is quite flexible at Kimoto, there's even no fixed price for the menu. Usually it cost around 35,000 for dinner omakase.
The first dish was very refreshing de delicate, made of half of the large Ise lobster. I was kidding with Kimoto-san whether he ate the another half back in the kitchen, he laughed and said it was used during lunch time. Back to the food, the lobster was sourced from Awaji (淡路島). It was very juicy and has a hint of sweetness, which balanced well with the sourness of the sudachi jelly (made of bonito's stock and kombu).
My attention was then fully attracted by the incredible smell of the steamed abalone (Chiba 千葉) , which had been cooked for 8 hours to perfection. It was so tender and a bit chewy, just so delicious. The risotto on the back was cooked with the its liver and soup, those al dente grains wonderfully soaked all the umami flavors of the abalone.
Followed by a bowl of hearty soup to warm up. The crab dumpling made of crab from Toya (洞爺湖), Hokkaido was very moist and aromatic. The sweet aftertaste gave me a misconcepption that i was eating tamago (Japanese sweet omelette). On the top, the sliced Matsutake from Okayama (岡山県)was slightly burnt to add more aroma, and the yuzu flakes in between brought a touch of refreshness. And of course, the soup was simply oiishi.
Kawahagi, or thread-sail filefish in English, was served in a very pretty plate from Europe. The fish itself was fresh and clean, quite fair flavor while the ponzu sauce with Kawahagi's liver was so good and makes the Kawahagi itself very delicious. I won't tell you that i even drunk up all the ponzu sauce left after i finished the sashimi.
Origins from Chiba (千葉), the Kinmedai was grilled to rare. It seems a very simple dish but the fish was actually grilled with sake, soy, bonito soup, anchovy's miso and shrimp miso, imagine how flavorful it is? The flesh was very juicy, umami, and full of healthy fats.
Next dish was foie gras soup with mushroom and fresh peanuts, although there was actually no foie gras in the soup, the rich soup that was full of collagen was indeed fragrant and delicious. The fresh peanuts were quite smooth. The dish was very aromatic because of the truffle oil and Matsutake oil on the top.
Followed by the aged-dish, the Fugu (Awaji 淡路島) was pleasantly deep-fried, pretty crispy skin and a firm, chewy inside. The fine chopped scallions lifted the overall flavor of the dish, and the lime nicely brought some refreshness. A pinch of Sansho salt was served in case you prefer more savory tastes.
I seriously need this 24x7! I beleive this was my first time having uni in this large portion at a upscale kaiseki restaurant in Japan. The uni (Nagasak 长崎i) was creamy and left a lovely sweet aftertaste. The naturally sweet yuba (tofu skin) was quite harmony with the texture of the uni, and the edamame sauce gives a flavor from the land. Katsuo (bonito) jelly enhanced the umami flavor and the same time bings more refreshness.
The last dish before rice course is grilled Amadai on a bed of boiled turnip, topped with pealed yuzu and fresh Matsutake. The flesh was full of fragrance and very succulent. The soup base was quite clear when the dish came to the table, after i finish the fish, i notice that there was a layer of fish oil on the top.
When i was having the rice, Kimoto-san asked me whether i want to try some rice congee with the stock from seafood served today, why not? The stock was made of Amadai, Katsuo, Awabi, Fugu, cooked with Matsutake and topped with some young scallions. Very clean and umami flavors.
I was kind of over eating by far, but i was told there are still few more steps till the end. Next i was served some fruit juice made with 7 different kinds of fruits: orange, pineapple, apple, pear, Muscat (Japanese grape), Yonashi (Japanese pear) and persimmon. One of the best juices ever - very fruity and refreshing, perfectly cleanse my palates.
The last but not the least part, dessert. The blanc mange was silky and has a lovely milk flavor, the interesting part was the pairing of vanilla salt, the outcome was unexpectedly harmony. Kimito-san also recommended me to have a glass of sweet wine to pair with the blanc mange, lovely one.
The second dessert was another awesome combination of sweetness and saltiness. The texture of crispy deep-fried crepe pairs well with the smooth cheese and Azuki red bean paste. It was also my first time having Konpeito candy, again, very sync with the sweet crepe. A bowl of freshly-whisked matcha was then arrived, freshly whisked by Kimito-san.
It was a very enjoyable, and filling dinner at Kimoto. The ingredients were not doubt at their best, and with Kimoto-san's unique creations and understanding of cooking, the outcome was certainly great. Kimoto-san himself is very friendly and really patient and helpful. Kimoto lost its 2-Michelin-star in 2016, because chef Kimoto doesn't want to corporate with Michelin anymore. I think Michelin doesn't really matters as long as the food was delicious.