Kimoto 紀茂登 (2016 Winter)
Kimoto is one of my favorite Kaiseki restaurants in Kansai area, arguably throughout the entire Japan. It was almost a year since my last amazing meal at Kimoto, i was so happy to back at this happy place.
The chef-owner, Kimoto-san, was trained at Michelin-starred kaiseki restaurant Sakurada in Kyoto (now closed). The legendary chef Matsukawa in Tokyo used to be his senior apprentice, thus Kimoto shares a similar philosophy with Matsukawa. But in someways i loved Kimoto's relax ambiance more because the easy-going chef communicates with the diners a lot, even he cooked every single dish by himself.
Kimoto has been ranked No.1 among all the restaurants in Kobe area for several years. It used to be Michelin-two starred while chef-owner Kimoto-san decided to stop corporate with Michelin guide since 2015.
Running a same omakase menu during lunch and dinner, a meal at Kimoto usually cost at least 30k depends on the daily ingredients used. Since Kimito is also well-known for his wine pairing, we had a wine pairing this time, and the bill arrived 60k per head.
Iimushi (steamed rice) always arrived first at a lot of kaiseki restaurant becuase in traditional kaiseki, warmed steamed rice aimed to warm diner's stomach to remind the body that the meal is about to start. This luxerious combination at Kimoto - smooth and warm rice, succulent fish and umami caviar is deinitely the best way to kick off a meal.
Followed by owan, or the soup - Echizengani (Japanese snow crab) with an whole crab leg on the top, alongside yodo-daikon (radish). The soup base was clean and light as you can see, with umami and juicy crab meat dominated the entire bowl. Honestly one of the best bowl of Owan ever. The quality of this dashi (clean broth) definitely illustrates a strong foundation to all the dishes thoughout the meal.
Sashimi was lightly-touched fugu, with its skin and liver underneath, and of course, with scallions and ponzu sauce to match. I was quite surprised that Kimoto serves fugu liver because it is widely considered poisonous, even most fugu-specialised restaurants are not dare to serve it. But obviously, it is safe here otherwise the chef won't serve it. Wrapped the fugu flesh with its skin, liver and scallions to dip into the sauces, what a bite!
Besides the previous Echizen-gani (crab) soup, we also had another three crab dishes of different parts of the same huge crab. Firstly arrived grilled crab leg with sudachi (lime) and ponzu sauce, the leg was so juicy and sweet on its own. Followed by crab meat and crab miso (ovaries) grilled in the crab shell, i was so impressed by how creamy and umami it is! Lastly, themarvellous broth of grilled crab. It was nothing but a bite of liquid gold.
I loved Japanese duck, especially the simple grilled ones like what i had at Kimoto. The grilled mallard duck from Shiga was so succulent and flavorful on its own, topped with deep-friend white scallions to give a crispy texture as well as balancing the taste. Even the duck broth on the bottom was so umami.
Next arrived a cute 'citrus', with ise-ebi (lobster) underneath a layer of citurs jelly and seaweed. The lobster was incredibly fresh and juicy indeeed. The mild sourness of the jelly nicely matches with the lobster meat.
Rich in fragrance, tender in texture, and perfect cooking, exactly what the braised abalone dish was like. Japan has been my favortie destination to eat abalone, i am always impressed by its high quality and how Japanese chefs prepare it.
Another highlight of the season/meal was the deep-fried ebi-imo, or literally shrimp-shaped Japanese taro. Creamy consistency and rich, sweet taste surrounded by a golden, crunchy batter. I don't mind to have a second piece if i can.
The dish i liked least throughout the meal was the cooked kabu (radish), largely because i am not a big fan the ingredient itself, clean flavors and a slight crunchy texture. On the other hand, a vegetable dish to reminds me of the beauty of simplicity.
Approaching to the last part of the meal, a beautifully roasted Gunma beef was served, alongside white rice, Jyako and Komto. The beef tastes exactly as extraordinary as it looks, so good on its own. I also enjoyed it with the rice bowl topped with jyako and kombu. A rice dish i don't mind to have everyday.
Chef Kimoto-san was so nice that he still remembers that i don't eat large portion of beef products, thus he served another deep-fried fugu dish for me at the same time, and the portion of my beef was actually half-sized. Although it was kind of a replacement dish, but i was really impressed by how drooling it smells, as well as its crispy battering and tender flesh inside. As you can see from the photo, it was not oily at all. Well-done!
I was actually quite packed at this point, but when Kimoto-san asked whether we'd love to have the bear congee, of course we sink down again :D The congee broth was so umami, and balanced with scallions. Exactly what i need for the freezing temperate in winter in Japan.
My first stomach was totally full, and second stomach for desserts :) The first dessert was a fixed routine at Kimoto - vanilla blanc mange. The pudding itself was silky and creamy, its rich textures and flavors was well-balanced with a pinch of sea salt on the top. The pairing of d'yquem was so elegantly amazing.
And a special pre-request dessert, Kuzukiri with kuro-mitzu syrup. It is always hard for me to resist these thin and chewy flat 'noodles' of Kuzu (arrowroot) powder, so good with the sweet kuromitsu (Japanese black sugar) syrup.
Kuri-kinton literally means 'chestnut gold mash” in Japanese, it is a New Year season sweet which symbolises fortune and wealth in Japan. It was made of two of my favorite ingredients, smashed sweet potatoes and candied chestnuts,each bite was a mouthful of bless.
Another classical sweet from Kimoto, a 'devil' seep-fried crepes rolled with Azuki red bean paste and cheese. It was quite hot but really delicious especially when it is still hot. This untraditional combination turns out unexpectly good.
Our meal was wrapped up a bowl of freshly-whisked matcha by Kimoto-san. Very dense and deep in matcha flavors enhanced a strong ending of a wonderful meal. And some cute salt-flavor Konpeito candies on the side.
Thanks Kimoto-san so much for the fabulous meal, i am always happy to come back this lovely place. This was actually the only reason i was off to Kobe from Kyoto on a chilly morning, i left Kobe for Tokyo right after the meal, it is definitely worth travelling even you are in Tokyo or anywhere else in Japan. My favorite restaurant in Kobe & Osaka area, and one of the best choices in Kansai area (include Kyoto), what else should i say?
Address: Hyogo Prefecture, Kobe, Chuo Ward, Nakayamatedori, 3 Chome−2−1, 山手ザコウベタワー114
Hours: 11:30-14:30, 17:30-22:00
Latest visit: Mid-Dec.2016