The two-Michelin-starred Shunseki Suzue, known as Suzue, is a renowned Kaiseki restaurant in Kyoto. It is also one of the highest-ranking restaurants in Kyoto.
Chef-owner Suzue Yoshihito (鈴江四史人) was raised in a family proficient in cooking, he was imperceptibly influenced by exquisite food at a young age, which consequently made his passionate about cooking.
Chef Suzue-san started his culinary journey at the young age of 15, he has dedicated more than 35 years to cooking. Unlike other highly ranked restaurants in Japan, there are hardly any reviews of Suzue on Tabelog. It's fame is simply built upon positive word of mouth.
Walking along the shiro-kuro river, Suzue located just few steps off the main street. There is a small Japanese yard leads to intimate dining place, which includes 10 seats at the counter and three private rooms. All of the private rooms were occupied on the day of our visit, but only three guests including us at the counter throughout the meal.
Suzue is famous for its top, exotic and rare ingredients used, all the river and seafood are sourced from a trusted supplier, which mostly sourced from Awaji-shama, Japan. Thus the dishes were no doubt ingredient-driven, processed with the simplest cooking and seasoning to bring the most natural flavors of the season.
The menu price changes on a daily basis, ranging from 30k to 100k JPY (average is 50k) depends on the ingredients. We visited in the early Mastsutake season, and the final bill was around 49k per person with one jar of sake.
The first dish to arrive was Cooked kuruma-ebi with summer vegetables in hamo dashi jelly. It was as incredible as it looks.Chef packs every ingredients alongside the broth of hamo (fresh water eel) in a plastic bag, then keep it in fridge for hours to form the jelly. The shrimp was extremely tender and bouncy which matches well with the umaminess of hamo jelly. A very refreshing dish to entice our palates.
Next dish was sashimi, including Aka-uni and Akou-dai (red sea urchin and red rockfish) from Awaji island. Very simple plating but packed of bursts of oceanic flavors. However the next dish, Owan (soup) was not lack of depth, a bit disappointing because the quality of dashi usually reflects the quality of the other dishes at that restaurant.
3. 焼きくじと京豆腐のお椀 / Owan (Soup): Grilled Ndoguro with Kyoto Tofu
I never expected to have Matsutake early during the peak season of Ayu, we were so lucky that Chef Suzue-san got the earliest Matsutake in Japan and we were the very first groups of guests to enjoy them at Suzue. Hamo as Matsutake's best friend was also served together.
Chef Suzue-san grilled some hamo for us to start, it was simply seasoned with a pinch of wasabi and soy sauce on the side. I loved its crispy skin and tender flesh underneath, very simple but allow us to taste the best of hamo. We were served grilled hamo twice before grilling the Matsutake, and lastly enjoy both together.
We noticed that there was only one discipline working in the hot kitchen, and Chef Suzue prepares every dish for us at the counter by himself.
4.1 & 4.2 鱧の焼き / Grilled Hamo
4.3 焼き松茸 (広島世羅産) / Grilled Matsutake
Matsutake was top-notch as well, it was grilled without any seasonings and served with some salt and soy sauce. So obessed with its fragrance and juicy, delicious flavors. It was nothing but impeccable to eat Matsutake and hamo together.
4.4 焼き鱧と広島世羅産の松茸 / Grilled hamo with Matsutake
5. 鮎の素揚げ 甘酢餡かけ
Ayu (sweet fish) is a fixed routine in summer in Japan. The deep-fried Ayu with Amazu sauce (sweet vinegar) was a more refreshing version under the help of vinegar jelly. The ayu was smaller in size but very bitter because of the organs weren't removed (for purpose). My partner offensively didn't finish it because it was that bitter. While the strong bitterness with a subtle sweet aftertaste is just like reflections on life.
At most kaiseki restaurants, claypot rice is then served. While at Suzue, chef usually serves nigiri sushi instead. Chef Suzue-san grilled the hamo and made hamo nigiri in front of us. Glazed with homemade tsume-sauce (sweet), he told us to enjoy the first piece by its own, followed by another one with a pinch of salt. The golden crust was aromatic and slight crispy, the delicious fats melt in my mouth with a bless. Pickles were served along side to cleanse our palates. Next we had Maguro nigiri of the rare kamashita (collar) part of tuna, served with salt followed by soy sauce to enjoy different flavors. Unfortunately, i didn't expected to have serval bones in the maguro nigiri which affects the textures a lot. Overall the sushi cannot compare to those served in sushiyas.
Chef Suzue loves daifuku, he believes daifuku can brings a wonderful ending to a meal. As a perfectionist, Suzue-san went to a wagashi (japanese dessert) shop in Kobe to pursue the tricks for making the best daifuku. Indeed, everyone who've been to Suzue-san coincide the perfection of his daifuku.
Here at Suzue, non-sugar daifuku with the best seasonal fruit is served almost all-year-around, such as Okayama peach in summer and Tokushima strawberries in winter. We had the peach daifuku what was out-of-world. The skin was very thin and pillow-soft, with incredibly sweet and juicy peach inside, it was such a perfection. I have never requested for a second serving of dessert but this impeccable daifuku push me to do so. Despite there was only one left in the kitchen, chef Suzue generously sliced it into two halves for us to share. I need 1000x of this.
Suzue is also very famous for their rare and noble dinnerwares which were made hundreds years ago. Some antiquers even eat at Suzue for appreciating their dinnerwares. Such as the plate of daifuku is Suzue-san's favorite Kenzan-yaki (乾山烧) from more than 350 years ago.
We were not surprised when the final bill shows nearly 50k per head, despite the top-notch ingredients, we still feel it was not that worth - we two ladies felt we can have a second dinner after all.
I really appreciate Chef Suzue's hard work, he alone, never stops cooking and serving dishes by himself. I also noticed that he was sweating and blinking eyes when he was grilling the hamo and matsutake because of the steam. He is very friendly and quite passionate in explaining the dishes to us even he knows we can only understand some Japanese.
The highlight of the meal was no doubt the exotic ingredients which contributes to the hefty price. The only dish that I really liked was the daifuku. As mentioned, i appreciate chef Suzue's passionate in cooking, while i personally don't think the meal was worth-of-value. Subjectively, i currently have no plans for revisiting.
Shunseki Suzue 旬席 鈴江
Address: Jingumichi Niomon Shirakawa Minami iru, Okazaki, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Japan
Hours: 17:00 - 21:00