Gion Suetomo 祇園 末友
I stopped by Kyoto for one night on my way back to Tokyo from Kobe. I decided to go Kyoto only few days before i go there, most of the restaurants were fully-booked but luckily someone cancelled the reservation at Suetomo, a 1-Michelin-starred Kaiseki restaruant in the historical Gion region.
Owner-chef Hisashi Suetomo designed the restaurant himself and has created a serene, reflective atmosphere. Like most of the upscale Japanese restaurants in Japan, Suetomo serves a seasonal omakase. We arrived few minutes before out reservation time, and chef Suetomo-san was already waiting for us outside.
Before entering the main room, we were seated on a bench in a traditional Japanese garden. We were treat a glass of sweet olive sake there to awaken our palates.
As a traditon in Kyoto, a appetizer always start with some wine.
On the left hand side was some freshly sliced mountain vegetables such as turnip, gobo, persimmon, as well as some picked radish, which were all very juicy and crispy. Loved the creamy and sweet walnut sauce that makes the simple veggies very delicate. On the right hand side was Kuruma prawn and fresh yam, topped with miso sauce. The prawn was fragrance and naturally sweet, its bouncy texture matches well with the crispy yam.
Followed by a nourishing kit of small appetizers. On top of the cover was freshly-grilled rice puffs with sea salt and dried fish. Inside the basket there were: deep-fried Ayu; taro with bonito powder, ginkgo; mountain vegetables; ikura and onion sauce; Saba with yuzu and soy; Salted Ika; Tai sushi and sudachi jelly; Kinmedai.
Tai sushi was a pressed-Kaisai style, the shari part was mixed with sesame, and chef Suetomo-san used ume (plum) to lift the flavor. All of them were very delicious, my favorite were Ayu, which was quite large in size and was chock full of fish roes. Saba was moist and quite flavorful.
Instead of the regular clear soup based, Suetomo-san added some lotus starch to make the soup richer. The minced lotus ball has a crispy outer-layer, while inside was very smooth and aromatic.
When we were having the first dish, Suetomo-san was grilling the Katsuo in the garden, quite smoky but coudn't wait to taste it! We were told to wrap the katsuo with some daikon sprouts and serve with soy sauce, it was really good! Very smoky flavor and succulent texture. Grilled Hirame's skin was aromatic and rich in oils. The white flesh was also very fresh and has a clean taste.
Nanba chestnut is famous for their huge sizes and high sugar contents. The chestnut has been boiled for 8 hours and steamed for an hour before serving. The leaf brings some fresh smell to the dish.
The chestnut was served with homemade rum syrup which was really good by itself, we were told to add 2-3 scopes on top of the chestnut. Its moderate sweetness with a hint of rum flavor was really lovely, it paired so well with the incredibley smooth and sweet chestnut. I wish i can take the syrup home!
My favorite dish of the night was duck sukiyaki, Chef Suetomo-san cooked it in front of us, it smells terrificly delicious. While eating Sukiyaki in Japan, it always come with a raw egg yolk which you suppose to dip the hot meat into it. I was kind of lazy thus i sauced it on top the duck dish.
The duck meat was very succulent and flavorful, the sweet soup based nicely balanced with its high flavor. Matsutake on the side was aromatic and juicy. I soaked up all the soup at last.
The rice dish was cooked with vegetables and Mukago - a kind of Japanese baby potatoes. Sered with pickles and soup. The soup was quite interesting, it was cooked with sweet potatoes and bings a sweet flavor.
Dessert was another enjoyable part. The 100% mature figs were really sweet and juicy, the yuzu sorbet matches very well with the figs. Inside the lovely 'persimmon' was a mochi ball made with freshly harvest mochi rice, it was firmer that i expected but very delicious.
The food was delicious and in a very homey style. Although Suetomo is also a Top100 restaurant in Japan, ranked no.6 (4.31/5.00) among all the Japanese restaurants in Kyoto according to Tabelog. Nice experience but i don't think i will come back shortly because lacking of 'wow' factors.