Saturday, November 13, 2010

Back in Japan (Kyoto - November 2010)...Original Kyoto-style dinner at Nakajin

After "Kamo Tofu" lunch, we spent afternoon at Kenninji Temple.

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The visit was very nice. Trees were just starting to change colors.

For dinner, we went to Nakajin, which is a very exclusive restaurant with only 8 counter seats. Luckily we could book 3 seats when my friend called the place a few weeks ago.

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This is a place where the owner (Mr. Nakamura - aka Nakajin-san) serves his own style of Kyoto dishes. His focus on the quality of each ingredients and methods of making is really amazing. He's a quiet person, but once he is asked a question, he can tell you all the details of each dish with passion, from where they are from, who grow them, why they are good, to how he does to best serve them. He also loves Champagne and Bourgogne wines like me! So, his wine list is filled with gems he personally like to drink.

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Appetizer...rice crust with light-seasoned broth.

Zao free-range pork..."white" braise. The meat was so tender (I could even cut it by chopsticks) and so flavorful.

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Seasonal Kyoto vegetables and onsen tamago (very soft egg) with saba (mackerel) bagna cauda. I broke the egg yolk to coat the vegetables with the bagna cauda sauce...unbelievable flavor combination. It was followed by light kabu (turnip) stew.

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"Mugi kiri" noodles. He formed the dough and pressed through the manual noodle machine right before boiling them. The noodle was made from whole wheat flour, medium-strong flour, and durum semolina. He suggested that for the first taste, just dip the noodle in the sea salt. Then, we also enjoyed them with the dipping sauce. The texture of the noodles was soft and bouncy. This was a true treat.

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His binchotan-charcoal-grilled chicken was among the best grilled chicken I'd ever tasted. He cooked different parts of chicken and served one after another from ones which just got ready. Chicken tender was perfectly medium-rare. Thigh was super juicy and had the authentic "bite". The aroma of binchotan came along with the meat and together exploded in the mouth. This chicken was so serious and only someone who has the skill like him can do it. His charcoal is 100% binchotan to the core. The chicken he gets are true free-range kind which was served only natural grains. So, the "fat" of the chicken is made only by the fat from the grains, unlike other kinds which is also fed oil.

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Tempura was also top-notch. He uses the best kind of oil, which is made of only the first gravity drip of the cold-press. Wow.

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Deep-brew coffee from Africa (I forgot the name of the kind). Just to make one cup of coffee, he took special process of make it best.

I admire Nakajin-san! He does what he does because he likes it. I honestly don't think he even cares about making money. He treats only 8 customers with the special dishes every night for the ridiculously cheap price. I feel I must come back here every time I visit Kyoto from now on!