Experiencing Kyo-ryori in Kyoto has become a fixed point in a lot of tourists' trip to Kyoto, let alone foodies especially Japanese food lovers. For the same reasons as most people like to eat Kaiseki ryori in Kyoto, i love the food as well the garden or zen ambiance. While even for smaller restaurants without a breathe-taking views of a Japanese garden like Maeda, the food could be amazing likewise.
Maeda housed in the heritage Gion region where gathers a lot of top Japanese restaurants. Behind the 10-seat counter stands chef-owner Maeda-san who was in his early 40s. Maeda-san opened his restaurant in Sep.2012 and soon earned its first star, it is currently granted two stars by Michelin Guide. Maeda is also one of the hardest restaurants to get a reservation nowadays, we were quite lucky to secure a booking few months in advance. It opens for dinner everyday, providing a Omakase menu (around 20k JPY) changes regularly.
Cameras/photos are not allowed at the restaurant, but i got a special permission from the chef to shoot with my phone as we were the only guests late that evening.
Dinner started with a warm chawanmushi dish, which was a bit less impressive in my opinion. While the meal continues as good as i wish, followed by deep-friend persimmon which was crispy outside, very juice & sweet inside, the radish on the top balanced the sweetness well and added more crispy to the dish. Kegani (haiy crab) was another ingredient i really liked in this season, the pairing of green apple jelly was very unique and sync.
The first dish to WOW me was the Shirako spring roll. Even this was kinda homeflavors, but i never expected spring roll to be deep-fried with shirako - a perfect creation of Japanese ingredients and Chinese food. The outcome turns out as extraordinary as it sounds - perfectly crispy outside and creamily melting inside. I seriously need a second serving!
The owan (soup) continues to surprise me. It is not common for Japanese restaurants to use shark fin, especially in Owan. The quality of owan usually showcases the quality of dashi (broth), which is is the key factor for dishes at a restaurant. This was my first time having shark fin owan at a Japanese restaurant, while the wonderfull balance and flavors was unforgettable.
Maeda's shiro miso (white miso) was also one of the best i have had in Japan. It has a depth of sweet flavors alongside a savory hint from the salt, the ebi-imo (shrimp-shaped taro) was melt-in-mouth smooth! The last dish to arrived before the rice dishes was grilled Nodoguro - a grilled dish that is hard to go wrong. I really liked the way that Maeda-san matched it with Kyoto yuba (fresh tofu skin) and Bachiko (sea cucumber's ovaries). A wonderful combination of rich fish, sweet tofu skin and umami bachiko.
Rice dish of the day was steamed rice with Karasumi (dried mullet roe) and ginkgo nuts. The quality of the rice itself was one of the few tops i have had in this one-month foodie trip in Japan. A simple topping like this makes me craving for a second bowl. Well, it seems that everyone likes Maeda's rice, the rice pot has already empty when my partner and i requested for a second bowl. Maeda-san told us to wait for a while, and he started to steamed some fresh rice for us! I was so impressed by the impeccable service here. Even the second bowl of rice was topped with fresh uni and seaweed which were used in our previous dishes. I have no complain because the rice itself was persuasive.
Desserts were also worth-mentioning. I loved the homemade ice cream of grilled chestnut, the chestnut chips makes the entire bite more textural. The grilled mochi was one of the best sweets i have had in Japan - probably for my love of grilled desserts, especially those are not over-sweet like this one. I can eat this everyday.
My meal at Maeda was unforgettable. I love the way how Maeda-san combines modern ingredients to traditional Japanese cooking, all the dishes were outstanding - the seasonings were right to point, unique creations, and unexpectedly good tastes. The ambiance was warm and relax as being treated at chef's home. I would love to visit this place some time soon.
Address: 京都府京都市東山区祇園町南側570-118 1Ｆ
Hours: 18:00-23:00, closed on Sundays
Cost: JPY 20K~25K