Being in too much of a hurry, I completely miss the door to Kaiseki Yoshiyuki. It could be because it shares the same entrance as cocktail bar The Horse’s Mouth and displays no discernible sign. And when the door is closed, no light leaks into the corridor. It could also be – and I suspect this is the real reason – I’m not in the right mind space. To appreciate kaiseki, one must quieten the mind, contemplate the season the meal revolves around, and let the eyes feast on the culinary works of art that are served. One should never sit down for kaiseki if one is in a hurry.
Chef Yoshiyuki Kashiwabara presides over the contemporary 16-seater dining room and seven- seater private room with an understated design by Asylum which doesn’t take attention away from the food. Specialising in Kyoto-style kaiseki, chef Yoshiyuki’s dishes are beautiful in their stark simplicity, letting the best ingredients speak for themselves.
Three lunch sets and three dinner menus are available. Omakase is the highest-priced option for each dining period. The yuba with uni in dashi stock amuse-bouche sets the tone for the evening – the nuttiness of the silky and delicate fresh beancurd skin lifts the intense creaminess of the bright orange sea urchin roe.
The dish that follows has shrimp with yam, sweet beancurd with citron rice, and dried persimmon. On our third dish – seasonal fish on tofu in a clear broth – the chef sends a misted spray over the bowl (yes, to check for fingerprints) that harks back to Kyoto cuisine’s samurai roots, from a time when such a thing was needed to counter assassination attempts. The sashimi course with Aomori flounder and the chargrilled ohmi wagyu both make an impression, but it is the fragrant Shokuji course of claypot rice with seasonal ingredients – dried baby anchovies, in our case – that is the highlight. Any unfinished rice is shaped into onigiri and wrapped in bamboo leaves so that guests can take it home. Eaten cold or heated up for breakfast the next day, it lets you reminisce about the great meal the night before and, in a way, prolong the experience.