Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Kyoto in the heart of Sharon Park - Kaygetsu

Kaygetsu means beautiful moon in Japanese. The restaurant means authentic Kyoto cuisine in Menlo Park, CA. I went there with the hopes of finding a good Kaiseki dinner in California. It was a successful trip.

Note: Kaiseki is an artful preparation of seasonal, elegant Japanese food. The dishware is as beautiful and meaningful as the food itself. Often done as part dining experience, part tea service, it is always multi-course, and the process is art. They change their menu every 6 weeks, to incorporate the best ingredients for their dishes the season has to offer.

A Kaiseki experience can range significantly in price. I've seen them go for as low as $65, and as high as $10,000, with the desert wrapped in gold leaf, and range from 5-15 courses. That being said, the Kaygetsu Kaiseki, is a moderately priced menu, with 9 courses at $85-90, depending on the season. This happens to be their late Winter menu.

Saki-zuke (starter)
sushi rice in bean curd
anago (sea eel)with boiled quail egg with aspic
sweet shrimp and pear in japanese vinaigrette, with caviar topping
herring roe with kelp
plum jelly, wrapped with sake lee, and fried

This course is a perfect example of intricate Japanese cuisine. Each line had was a unique piece. When eaten in sequence, it went openned up the palate with each flavor, sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami. The texture of the anago suspended in the aspic gelatin was rather amazing.

Tsukuri (sashimi)
daily assortment
Choosing a slightly unconventional set of sashimi, it really showed the delicate flow of the palate. This particular sampler contained a mackerel, suzuki (striped bass), and tai, of which the last 2 have very subtle flavors.

Takiawase (slow cooked dish)
Yama kurage (mountain jellyfish) wrapped with inari (flavored bean curd), kabura turnip, carrots, shiitake mushroom, string beans, fu(wheat gluten), and kabocha squash cooked in clear fish broth

This dish is so flavorful, it's almost criminal. Each item was a different texture, and the sweetness of the kabocha and carrots were almost dessert like in nature. The broth was very light, and mildly enhanced the flavors of the items that were cooked in it.

Agemono (fried dish)
Deep fried kinki fish with eggplant, enoki mushroom, and ume fu in soy broth

I had never had the kinki before, but it managed to stay crisp and light despite it being served in broth. The texture of the eggplant and enoki were both excellent, and that's really what it's about with fried foods.

Yaki mono (grilled dish)
Minced kurobuta pork and kobe beef, mixed with natto (fermented beans), and grilled
served with yuzu flavored ponzu sauce, garnished with kinome (sansho pepper leaf)

I am a vocal non-fan of natto. This small ball of amazing ground meats changed my mind. The natto was an excellent binding agent, allowing the meats to hold together, and providing a richer flavor to the dish. Highly recommended.

Gohan mono (rice dish)
Rice cooked with bamboo shoot, chicken and lotus root
dark red miso soup and house pickled vegetables

It's so simple, but so good.

Peach yeast sake flan made with "tokagen" nama sake
fresh fruits

This may sound strange, and honestly, when written down in English, much of the Asian world's food sounds strange, this was light, sweet, fruity, and delicate. Very tasty indeed.

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