Tokyo | Kohaku 虎白
Kohaku is a two-Michelin-star Japanese Kaiseki restaurant in Kagurazaka (神楽坂). It is one of the three famous restaurants owned by Ishikawa (神楽坂 石かわ) , a three-starred Michelin restaurant in the same area, and the sister one-starred Kaiseki restaurant Ren (蓮). Kohaku is runs by chef Koizumi (小泉功二氏), who is a disciple of chef Ishikawa. Kohaku is one of the highest-rated Kaiseki restaurants on Tabelog.
Visited: May.20.2015 (Dinner)
Hours: 17:30-24:00, Close on Sundays and P.H.
The wooden-decored restaurant can fit 24 diners at a time, with 6 counter seats where the diners can see the chef processing food. I was quite lucky to get a counter seat :)
The first appetizer was 'Fresh Sea Urchin and White Sesame Tofu with Butterbur Sauce', it is one of the signature dishes at Kohaku. The sesame tofu was in a creamy texture, it has a very clean taste but high in tofu flavor. The water content of sea urchin was high, the combination of rich sesame tofu and sweet sea urchin was so good.
’Deep-fried Baby Ayu Sweet Fish and Broadbean with Home-blend Salt‘ was another dish i really enjoyed of the meal. This reminds me of my previous visit to Ishikawa, where i had the similar dish. The baby Ayu fish was perfectly fried, the skin was very crispy and the flour coating was rarely thin, the center was hot and tender. The shape of the fish was too perfectly kept.
Another classical dish at Kohaku is the sticky rice, chef Koizumi used the best seasonal fish or seafood as a topping of the sticky rice, the entire dish looks like a nigiri sushi. The one i had was 'Slightly Grilled Firefly Squid on a Sticky Rice'.
Westerns loves creamy soup, but Easterns especially Chinese and Japanese love clear soup. Although i am a pure Chinese, i much prefer Japanese clear soup which is low in oils and additions, but tastes very real and umami. I really enjoyed the 'Prawn Dumpling in Clear Soup' of the night. The in-house made prawn dumpling has a very deep prawn smell and taste, it was smooth and with some diced prawns to enhanced the texture.
'Sliced Kinme Snapper Covered with Chef's Secret Sauce' was very a very refreshing dish after the umami soup, the snapper was lightly seared. The outerlayer was well-cooked while the center part was still raw, it was very juicy and tender. The best part of the dish was the jelly secret sauce. I was served with a cute wooden spoon to finish all the 'secret treasure' in the dish.
Move on to the grilled dish, 'Charcoal-grilled Cutlass Fish, Garnished Eggplant with Japanese Pepper Miso Sauce'. The cutlass fish was very tender, it rarely has any tender.The skin was slight burnt. Even the eggplant in Japan is so smooth and naturally sweet, it paired well with the special pepper miso sauce.
If you love fish roes, you must love the next refreshing dish 'Hard Clam, Udo Vegetables and Fiddlehead Ostrich Fern with Eggyolk Vinegar and Herring Roe'. The clam itself was crunchy but tender, it has a clean flavor, and works well with the popping herring roe. The eggyolk sauce was creamy and tastes very good.
The last dish before serving the rice dish was 'Simmered Fat Greenling, with Turnip, Freshly Harvested Onion and Water Lily Stem'. The greenling was firstly fried to a crispy skin, the awesome smell went through the clear soup very well, and makes the simple soup much more umami. The baby onions were incredibly smooth and sweet.
Then chef Koimizu presented the steamed rice pot in front of me - Steamed Rice with Cherry Salmon and Spring Vegetables. It smells really good and makes me mouthwatering. Chef Koizumi shows his generous smile as chef Ishikawa did. The rice also comes with pickled vegetables and miso Soup
Each grain has a very delicious salmon flavor, the evenly-spread Sakura salmon was tender and high in flavor. A second bowl is a sure thing. Another detail i want to mention is the miso soup, the 'tofu' inside was made of gluten bread with tofu, which was very chewy like sesame tofu. I loved it very much, and chef Koizumi told me it is available at Tsukiji Market.
The last part of the meal was the dessert, 'Green Tea Mousse and Brandy Sorbet with Caramel Sauce'. The mousse was smooth and high in green tea flavor. I loved the Breandy sorbet which was a bit bitter but very refreshing.
It was a very impressive meal at Kohaku. The dishes were consistently good through the menu, i enjoyed every single dish very much, so its very hard to pick my favorite. But if you really want me to criticizing, i think the grilled at simmer dishes were less impressive (But they were really delicious!). There were not a lot servers in the restaurant, but the service was very efficient, the servers were very friendly. The price was similar to Ishikawa, very affordable for a michelin restaurant. Recommend.