Ryoriya Stephan Pantel
Ryoriya Stephan Pantel housed in a Machiya near Kyoto Imperal Palace. Before entering the restaurant, you will come across a pretty Japanese garden. The restaurant featured 9 seats at the counter and 4-5 tables that can fit 14 people in total. The interior of the restaurant is very simple but well-designed, every detail gives me a very comfortable and elegant feeling. I really loved the full-sized windows on both sides of the restaurants with scenic views of private gardens. But as usual, to me, counter is always the best place to eat and see chef's work.
The chef-owner Stephan comes from Nice, France. His father owns a restaurant and he started learning cooking from him during school holidays at the age of 13. For his love of food and cooking, he went to culinary school when he was 17. Two years later, he jot his first job at the famous Hotel Negresco. He also gained experiences from serveral famous Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris such as 3*Le Grand Véfour. He came to Kyoto with his Japanese wife. He was astonished by the nourishing local produce in town and how the Japanese process food to remain the best taste of the ingredients. Accompanied by the tranditional culinary skills he learnt from his hometown, Stephan brings a different dining conception in heart of Kyoto.
During lunch time, only a 6-course Omakase menu (5000 yen) is served; dinner menu is priced at 10,000 JPY which is very reasonable-priced. For drinks, i always ask for chef's recommend that works for all the dishes in the menu (i cannot drink too much), ideally from local. Chef Stephan recommended this white wine produced in Napa by Japanese.
The texture of Ise lobster was perfect for my liking. It was boiled at a low temperature of 60 degree celeis for 2 mintues - creamy and sweet. Topped with prawn's miso and crashed pistachios to give the dish a crunchy texture, i especially love the deep-fried prawn's miso which was very umami. I love pistachio and tofu but i never thought of pistachio-flavored tofu before, it was made in house, silky and very delicious. On the bottom there were 5 different kinds of radish, crunchy and refreshing. Well-done.
Bread was made of black rice and nicely toasted, loved the crispy crust and the soft inside. My only complain was it was served cold.
The signature dish at RSP is no doubt the cold foie gras and Nara-zuke roll. Nara-zuke is a very famous pickles from Nara, it is usually fermented with sake, thus have a deeper and flavor with stronger alcohol taste compare to other young pickles. Chef Stephan told me that the pickled Daikon (Japanese radish) was fermented with sake for two years and 'awaken' again 16 days before it was served. The sake and sweet flavor of the pickles gives the creamy foie gras a very special and refreshing flavor. Very nice combination of French and Japanese ingredients, and the fruit sauce made of mango, passion fruit and lime brings a triopical twist. Lovely.
The soup changes depends on the season. The one i had was another interesting combination of the west and the east. On the bottom (which you cannot see) was Chawanmushi made with French onion soup, topped with pumpkin soup and sauteed Shiitake mushroom. The white foam was made of whipped fresh milk and truffle oil. The pumpkin soup was very creamy, sweet and delicious, which works very well with the flavorful onion soup Chawanmushi.
I have been watching the chef and his students preparing the fish course for a while, i noticed that the fish was pan-seared with a layer of white thing and then roasted for around 20s before serving. Very surprised to know that the Amadai was seared on a bed oftaro and white miso paste. The miso gives a chewy and sweet flavor which paired very well with the moist oceanic flesh. All the vegetables are ffrom Nothern part of Kyoto, and the sauce was made of fish stock and vanilla bean butter. Another interesting and delicious dish.
A bit duck-overload recently because Japanese served everything in season, well, i don't mind to have it again as long as it is delicious. Chef roasted the duck seperately with the skin - the skin part was diced and deep fried to bring a crispy texture, while the meat iself was actually a bit dry for my liking. The Juniper sauce was very delicious that gives a mild spicy aftertaste. Serisouly, i was very impressed all the sauces made by chef Stephan, really delicous and work well.
Dessert was mille feuille. On the bottom was Japanese pear jelly, the mousse part was chestnut-flavored. Loved the crispy mille feuille but the mousse seems too airy that the entire thing would fell off as you cut into it, while the flavor was good. On the side was whisky ice cream and crumbled hazelnut cookie, with a glaze of maple syrup.
On the other side, i think there were over too much helpers at the back in the counter (maybe 5-6) which gives me messy feeling. I even saw all of them gather together and plating the dish, and no one was watching out the diners at the counter. In short, the team need to be better managed.
It was a very interesting experience at Ryoriya Stephan Pantel. I loved Chef Stephan's unique creations of dishes, never thought of these kinds of combination before and the food was delicious. He is a pretty nice guy who can speaks very fluent Japanese as well as English and French, he introduces every dish to the guests detaily and patiently. Talked with him a lot about how did he come up the idea of this restaurant and all his creations, and i can see his passion with food. Don't miss out this place if you are looking for something different to eat in Kyoto.