Apparently there are people who judge the quality of a Japanese restaurant by the Wasabi served with their sushi. It is not hard to believe that since grated Wasabi has a subtle sweetish aftertaste which no horseradish can duplicate.
What is fascinating to me is that once these people get served the real Wasabi, they immediately destroy all the subtle flavors by dissolving it in a pool of soy sauce.
One of the pleasures of traveling in Japan is experiencing the terroir that each prefecture brings to the table. Of course, such travel can be exhausting which is why Ikyu is introducing the Gourmet Traveller Kaiseki dinner which brings the best ingredients from 15 prefectures that is a tour de force.
So which prefectures are they? Well, I’ve made a handy list of what came from where for you at the end of this.
I will spare you the pain of a blow-by-blow menu description because I’m sure others would have done that already and skip right to the highlights.
The Kaiseki menu opens your palate gently with a set of delicate (Chinmi) dishes of which the Ankimo from Ibaraki was the highlight. What sets Chef Seki’s Ankimo apart from others is that it is not drowning in Ponzu sauce which really distracts your palate with acidic saltiness. This allows you to taste the full flavors of the buttery Ankimo.
The steamed Echizen Snow Crab was a definite highlight for me. My disdain for crab is second only to my dislike of prawns; I am very picky about crabs. Nevertheless, the serving was generous and the flesh, heightened by the Yuzu-Vinegar dip, was gloriously sweet.
Chef Seki was pretty proud of the Miyazaki beef. Rightfully so since the Miyazaki cow has won Zenkoku Wagyu Noryoku Kyoshinkai (Wagyu Olympics) twice (2007 and 2012). But to call the Miyazaki wagyu the best beef from Japan just means you’ve never had Matsuzaka wagyu.
Nevertheless, despite all the cries against grain-fed beef, sometimes you just want a buttery sweet piece of beef grilled to perfection. The Miyazaki Champion Beef course delivers that perfect sweet spot.
The Hokkaido oysters were delicious and perfectly fried, especially when served with a very interesting Dijon Mustard and (2 kinds of) Mayo sauce packed with minced egg white and shallots that is Chef Seki’s creation.
However, for me, the highlight of the meal would have to be the Kaisen Chirashi Don. It presented a palette of flavors that were both distinctive and harmonious at the same time. I requested the Toyami Shiro Ebi to be omitted but rest assured, my palate did not miss it amid the kaleidoscope of tastes.
The Nara Miwa Somen was a brilliant end to the meal. I agree with Chef Seki that the super thin Somen makes a better mouthfeel with the hot soup. It was both satisfying and refreshing.
The star ingredients of the Kaiseki would have to be the Koshihikari Rice and the Miyazaki beef. When I first tasted Koshihikari rice I was amazed at the sweet, pleasantly nutty flavors, so even though I don’t eat a lot of rice, I bought a bag of it. Chef Seki, being from Niigata is very proud of the rice and it shows through the Chirashi and the Rice Pudding ice cream (I’d recommend more restraint on the use of the Rasberry Balsamic vinegar though).
The menu comes with a separate beverage pairing. I would encourage taking that up as each beverage was well-paired with each course, starting with the pleasantly nutty and hoppy Niigata beer made from Koshihikari Rice. A particularly excellent pairing was the Daiginjo sake with the Miyazaki beef. The strong fresh sake was the perfect platform to carry the sweet beef flavors.
For a culinary journey to taste the best of what Japan has to offer, there is no better way than via a Kaiseki dinner. The Gourmet Traveller Kaiseki menu not only features the best ingredients, it also showcases the different techniques of cooking to bring out the best of the best.
And the infectiously cheerful Chef Takuma Seki of Ikyu, with his love and respect of seasonal ingredients, is the best person to guide you through. At the end of the meal, I felt relaxed, refreshed and satisfied.
Ikyu is at 5 Yong Siak street, Tiong Bahru, Singapore 168643, Tel: 6223 9003, Open: 11.30am till 10.30pm (Closed on Mondays)
It is a pretty long list but the text has been slowed down for your viewing benefit.
That Chirashi Don looks insanely good and has all my favorite things in one bowl!
At the end of the post, I could only think to eat the somen and the rice. My favorite things. I can skip the rest of the menu. Heh.
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