#3. Contemporary Kaiseki at Ultra-chic Hana Kitcho
When Destinasian catches up with Kunio Tokuoka, the Michelin 3-starred celebrity is suffering from the surfeit of the previous night’s carousing. The charismatic chef bears an uncanny resemblance to former sumo wrestler bad-boy, Asashoryu, though an altogether more urbane, articulate and slimmed down version.
A charming and entertaining host, Tokuoka is clearly comfortable in the media eye, yet once he exchanges his Armani suit for his chef’s whites, the hangover is forgotten and he’s all business. He runs his kitchen with precision, issuing a multitude of orders, and testing the dashi stock with a clearly practiced eye and palate.
Tokuoka rose to fame as he took over the legendary, stratospherically expensive, rigidly classical Kitcho restaurant in Kyoto’s Arashiyama district. This sister shop Hana Kitcho is his chic, modernist, pared down expression of Kyo-ryori, where unconventional elements are allowed to enter the menu, and the prices are kept to mere mortal levels.
Don’t miss the unique shioya a dish in which succulent, partially-grilled prawns and seasonal fish are served in a dome of salt, or the seasonal luxurious hassun.
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A version of this article originally appeared in the award-winning luxury travel and lifestyle magazine DestinAsian, the prime publication for those who love to travel, and travel in style in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. Sincerest thanks for their permission to reprint it here. Photos © John F. Ashburne.