Kagurazaka Ishikawa 神楽坂 石かわ (2015.10)
Foodies (Michelin-addicts) should be familiar with this place as it has been honored Michelin 3 star for consecutive 7 years. Located behind the Bishamon shrine (毘沙門天) in Kagurazaka (神楽坂), Ishikawa (石かわ) is one of the best Kaiseki restaurants in Japan.It is also awarded one of 50 Asia's Best Restaurants and World's Best Restaurants by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna.
Hideki Ishikawa's cuisine is described as ‘Ishikawa-style’, bound only by his imagination. Innovative touches are incorporated to highlight the unique characteristics of each ingredient. He is not only a successful chef, but also a great teacher in cooking. Two of his great students' restaurants in the neoghbourhood under Ishikawa's group are both aswarded 2-Michelin-stars, Kohaku(虎白) helmed by Chef Kizumi, and Ren(蓮) by Tatsuya ishiyama.
I can still remember the scenes from my last visit: Ishikawa-san was slicing fish and randomly sneak a taste, i also took a picture of him with the claypot rice in his hand with a cute smiling face... Stepped into the restaurant and saw the familiar friendly faces, accompany by the warm and homey ambiance, i just feel like returning back home. And surprisingly, Ishikawan-san can still remember me. I showed him the picture i took last spring, of him and the rice pot in hands, he laughs and said he is younger and more handsome now.
The horsehair crab was from Hokkaido, pretty succulent and has a sweet aftertaste. The crab miso and dashi jelly perfectly enhanced the harmony of the appetizer. Eggplant was nicely grilled, with a lovely smoky aroma and tastes very smooth and juicy. A wonderful start.
Usually the deep-fried dish is just assorted kinds of tempura, while Ishikawa-san's creation impressed me in all senses. This dish wonderfully showcases Ishikawan-san's deep-fried skills, as the lotus itself is not easy to cook, and you have to keep the oba leaf's green color, and make sure the fish won't be overcooked. The combination was simply awesome, the lotus was smooth and paired well with the tender ocean flavors in the center. The flavor of the herb was not very strong and balanced well. Lovely one.
I am always surprised by the Japanese clear soup which looks very clean and boring, but when you taste it, you will find that it is not that simple. The soup itself was clean but umami, left a sweet aftertaste. The Amadai (horse heas snapper) flesh was very delicious and sersioudly as smooth as the winter melon.
Sashimi consists of two parts, Tai (sea bream) and Ikura (salmon roe). Compare to the clean-flavor Tai, i much preferred the Ikura served with a zest of yuzu flakes.The tinny 'bombs' perfectly brusted in my mouth with incredibly umami juices.
As the Anago (sea eel) has passed, it comes to the season of Unagi (water eel). I loves both, maybe an addict (?), while not every restaurant makes impressive eel dishes. Chef Ishikawa's cooking again surprised me - the skin of the unagi was very crispy, it was slightly burnt to enhance its aroma. The rich oil contents underneath its skin was so declicous, full of collagen. The flesh was melt-in-mouth tenderness, although it was grilled with soy sauce only, it was actually very flavorful as the orginal flavors of the unagi was wonderfully brought out.
Now it is also the best time to eat turtle. Last week i was in 1*Kappo Kisaku and had a very delcious Chawanmushi with turtle. Before eating this dish, i found there was a subtle ginger smell as well, which used to balance the high flavor of turtle. It seems very easy to imagine the flavor and texture of this dish, as few seasonings were used in Kaiseki. But, I have say that, it was much much better than i expected. It was so delicious and flavorful, the most impressive part was the rich collagen contents - so delicous and nutrious. This dish was seriously...incredible.
I cannot remember how many duck dishes i have had in the past 30 days, mostly in French restaurants whereras the duck was roasted and served quite rare. This pot of duck was my favortie i had recently. The sliced Japanese duch was parboil in the hot duck soup, it was so tender and muffled with a layer of jelly from the duck itself. It was so succulent and delicious. It is a truth that when you have the best ingredients, you don't need to worry too much about other things.
Rice is another part i expected a lot, as different chefs love to use different seasonal toppings. I love to eat crispy rice and i told Ishikawa-san about that in advance. While he told me he was so sorry about that, because curretnly it is the harvest season, and he prepares plain rice for us, by using the newest rice from the farm.I am totally not a fan of plain rice, but even myself couldn't believe that i was so keen to try it.
See those pearls from the land...
Chef-Ishikawa recommended us to eat the first bowl plainly, with some pickles, so that we can enjoy the best taste of the freshly harvested rice. After that, topped with the Tai (sea bream) paste, seaweed, puffed rice, wasabi, finally add some tea and made it 'Cha-zuke' (茶漬け). I really enjoyed the plain white rice, every single grain was chewy and juicy. In comparison, i much preferred the cha-zuke for its higher, more umami but balanced flavors. The sea bream paste was seasoned with soy, very smooth and delcious.
I can still remember Ishikawa's rum jelly and mousse when i ate here last time, it impressed me a lot. Seems it is a classcial dessert ingredient, and i am so happy to have it again! The mousse was silky with a very lovely sherry flavor, paired very well with the refreshing rum jelly. The grapes and pear on the top were very juicy and sweet.
The quality of tea also showcases the quality of a restaurant. Ishikawan-san definitely won't miss out any detail of a meal.
It was actually my first time having Kaiseki last time at Ishikawa, and the first Michelin 3 star restaurant i visited in Japan, it really impressed me and my mom. I thought that virgin experience is a factor that i missed this place a lot, as i have been to more michelin restaurants in Tokyo after that, maybe my taste buds changed and became more picky, that's why i revisited Ishikawa. Ishikawa again surprised and impressed me a lot after years - the best ingredients, simple cooking, creative, unique....and delicious. Chef Ishikawa is very friendly and loves to talk to his guests, i always feet like eating at home when i was there. Cannot wait to come back soon in winter.