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Kiku No I Kiku No I
Kiku No I
Early Evening at Kikunoi

On our last night in Kyoto after three weeks of viewing and photographing cherry blossoms, Yoshie and I had a world-class dinner at the famous and fabulous restaurant named Kikunoi.

Technically, Kikunoi is not a restaurant, in the sense that you sit at a table in a room full of strangers and order from a menu. Kikunoi is a ryotei—a private house with rooms dedicated to food service and entertainment.

Kikunoi is located in the Maru Yama (円山) district of Kyoto. Kikunoi first opened for business in 1912. The chef today—Yoshihiro Murata (村田 吉弘)—is the third generation chef and owner of Kikunoi.

Kaiseki—The Book

Chef Murata produced this beautiful book entitled, Kaiseki: The Exquisite Cuisine of Kikunoi. His book takes you on a visual guided tour through the seasons of Japan and the foods that fit with those seasons. Being this is Japan, fish plays a major part of the fare. In spring, you feast on sea bream (鯛, pronounced tai); summertime, fresh sea urchin roe (雲丹, pronounced uni);

Reserving and Ordering

Instead of sitting at a table in a room full of people and ordering from a menu, in Kikunoi ryotei you decide what level of meal you wish to have at the time you make your reservation. We made our reservation two weeks in advance, and chose the smallest of the dinners.

The Experience

On arrival at Kikunoi we were shown to a private room with a low table, and “chairs” without legs.

We were presented with cups of Gen Mai Cha—green tea with toasted rice. This being cherry blossom season, the tea was followed by a small dish of cherry blossom flavoured sake. And then the parade of wonderful dishes started.

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April Hassun—a box containing eight tiny morsels of food. Briefly, here are the eight pieces. Sea Bream and Kinome Sushi; Petal shaped Udo stalks; Dumplings for cherry blossom viewing; Lily bulb petals; Tiny octopus; Broad beans; Broiled squid; Butterfly shaped Chinese yams.

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Sake Steamed Sea Cucumber Roe with Sea Bream Milt in Ponzu Sauce. Chef Murata has this to say about this dish: Sea cucumber and sea bream spawn only once a year, in spring, so their roe and milt are available only fleetingly. The ingredients are very delicate and must be eaten at the peak of freshness. Bringing together these exquisite rare ingredients, preparing them impeccably and arranging them on the plate that suits them best is my way of telling customers “thanks for coming”. This sort of attention to detail and the moment is expressed in the saying “ichigo ichie”, meaning, “treasure every meeting, for it will never happen again”.

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Sashimi of Large Shrimp and Seasonal Sea Bream.

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Toro Sashimi with Mustard egg yolk sauce.


Sweet Sea Bream Steamed with Cherry Taste and Mochi.

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Tofu Grilled with Miso Sauce and Tree Bud Sauce.

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Cherry Wood Smoked Salmon, bamboo steamed with Sansho leaves.


Kuruma Shrimp Clear Soup.

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Baby Sea Eel (Anago), Seaweed, and Noodles in Vinegar.

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Sea Bream Roe, Bamboo Roots, Rapini, Wakame.

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Bamboo Shoot Sushi with Tiny Iwashi in Rice.

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Green Pea Soup with Shrimp Ball.

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Green Tea Mochi Jelly With Soy Powder.

This intermediate dessert was accompanied by Matcha (tea ceremony green tea).

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Pistachio Ice Cream In a Soup of Pureed Mango.

This final dessert was accompanied by Hojicha (toasted green tea).

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Page Updated 2011 December 10