Having Kyo-ryori (Kyoto style Kaiseki) is always a routine everytime i travel to Kyoto. While reservations are incredibly difficult especially in this season due to the autumn leaves.
Sangencha is one of the highest-ranked Kaiseki restaurants in Kyoto, i was quite lucky to get a reservation at the 8-seater counter. The chef-owner, Nobuhiko Masuda-san, was trained at Shofukuro (another famous Japanese restaurant in Kyoto) for 20 years before he opened his own place here in Gion in 2007. Masuda-san serves very traditional-style dishes that represents the season’s beauty.
The interior of the restaurant is very simply home style that shows the age of the restaurant. The tableware is also gives an unadorned feeling...while to be honest i was expecting something more exquisite, at least it could give the diners a better first impression. But maybe chef just want to keep it simple and homey.
There was only one Omakase menu available during dinner, priced at 13k for 13 dishes. As a tradition, the meal started with some sake as a welcome drink. The first dish was quite creative - Hirame wrapped with Kombu (seaweed). The umami seaweed added more savory and umami flavors to the clean fish, while i think the seaweed was a bit too salty.
The soup looks plain and clean but delicious. The crab dumpling was made of Hokkaido crab, the texture was really moist and has a sweet aftertast. The sweet flavor makes me forget i was eat crab meat, it just feel like a piece of quality tamago. The grilled mochi on the top gives achewy texture to the dish.
Sashimi was fresh and delicious, served with plum sauce and soy. Then chef Masuda-san freshly-made the marinated Maguro sushi for us. It was not bad, certainly cannot compare sushi at those upscale sushiya.
Steamed Mochi rice with Ikura was quite lovely, the rice was pillow-soft and a little bit chewy, its naturally sweet flavor matches well with the umami ikura sourced from Hokkaido. Next was grilled dish. Buri was marinated before being grilled, thus it has a deep flavor. While the texture was kinda dry for my liking.
Hassun, or assorted appetizers, consists of: grilled duck, grilled Tako (octopus) , Tamago (Japanese sweet omelette), mountain vegetables with walnut paste [left down]; Shirako [left up], Yuba (tofu skin) with shrimp and Dashi jelly [up middle], boiled salted-peanut [up right]. The interesting part was the pairing of toasted baguette [right down], i was told to enjoy the appetizers served on the toast. But how to eat all those appetizers with only one small slice of baguette? Anyway i only had the spreadable mountain vegetables with walnut paste with the toast, crispy and delicious. For the rest part of Hassun, my favorite was grilled Tako.
Fish cake with prawn was bouncy and flavorful, the Shiitake mushroom tempura has a thin and crispy battering. While the topped Bonito flakes looks quite cheap to me, as well as Shiitake (not Matsutake), the entire combination reminds me of the famous Japanese street food Takoyaki.
I was surprised that Sangencha is still serving plain rice because kaiseki restaurants in Tokyo already started serving rice with toppings nowadays. Well, i don't mind to have to as long as it is good. The rice was served in 6 different ways: eat the rice alone-->topped with salt-->with pickles--> with Shirasu fish-->with minced Tai fish--> with everything and seaweed. I loved it with Shirasu and everything, the rice itself was softer than most Japanese restaurant i have been to.
As mentioned, the atmosphere was pretty good - relax, warm and homey. The chef is a very nice and friendly person that makes me feel like eating at home. As one of the top-rated Kaiseki restaurants in Kyoto, the food unfortunately didn't impressed me a lot. It is rather a home-style that have nothing to shout about. While this is just my personal opinion and i am not a big fan of Kyoto style Kaiseki compare those in Tokyo.