Our landlord highly recommended that we eat a kaiseki dinner during our stay in Japan. Kaiseki, or Kaiseki-ryori is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner that’s usually quite expensive. However, Mariko-san knew of a place that serves good and affordable kaiseki for ¥5000. Of course, we set out to find this restaurant called “Otaya” but following her hand-drawn map proved to be harder than we thought when it’s dark outside. Luckily for us, we ran into a nice Japanese couple and asked them for help. They didn’t just point us in the right direction but actually took their time to walk us to the restaurant! And when we reached our destination they even bowed and thanked us. I wish people at home would be this kind and caring.
The funny thing is, as we were walking towards the restaurant, my husband said to me, “It would be pretty funny if we end up at the same restaurant we tried our first day in Kyoto”. And yes, this was the exact same restaurant. On our first visit we weren’t sure on how to operate the restaurant’s sliding doors so when we finally stepped into the restaurant, all the guests, waitress and chef looked at us curiously. That day they were fully booked and the same thing happened now but this time we made sure to make a reservation for another night. When we were back out on the street, we heard someone calling “Martin, Nicole!” and it was Mariko-san! She kindly offered to take us to another great restaurant nearby and hungry as we were, we accepted. The place she took us to was amazing! We got a table on the second floor with a view over the small river right outside the house. The service was excellent and the food very good.
Two days later, we returned to Otaya for the kaiseki dinner. We ordered nihonshu to drink and of course the kaiseki. We had prepared ourselves by just eating a light lunch but I still had trouble eating everything. My favourite courses were the pumpkin (I love pumpkin) and the vegetables (never have I tasted so perfectly cooked vegetables).
1) Fig and cheese with miso dressing
2) Soup with fish and lime
3) Sashimi (tuna and some white fish I don’t remember). The purple flower petals were supposed to be put in the soy sauce together with the wasabi
4) Grilled mackerel with chestnuts, ginkgo seeds and lime
5) 20 different vegetable with dipping sauce
6) Mashed pumpkin “dumpling” in a thick sauce
7) Sushi and miso soup
8) Crème brûlée
When we were about to leave the restaurant, the waitress congratulated us on getting married and gave us two beautiful coasters she’d made. I think it’s wonderful how a complete stranger goes out of her way to make you happy. A little kindness really goes a long way :)