#1. High-class Traditional Cuisine at Kikunoi Honten
Run by Michelin 3-starred chef Yoshihiro Murata, this delightful high-end restaurant or ryotei is arguably Japan’s most famous restaurant, and a must-visit for any serious Kyoto-bound gourmet.
Autumn Cuisine (Kamasu No Sugita Yaki)
Its tatami rooms are beautifully designed, and many look out onto Kikunoi Honten’s magnificent gardens. Try to reserve lovely Fuyou if your party is large, or, for a more intimate experience, the Yakata-bune room, designed by Murata himself to mimic the experience of dining on a boat atop the nearby Lake Biwa.
Kikunoi Honten’s buildings offer the epitome of refined luxury and sophisticated elegance, but it is Murata’s beautifully-crafted kaiseki-ryori that brought him much-deserved acclaim.
Every element in the nine or ten-course banquet is perfectly matched to the seasons. Particularly look out for the hassun dish, literally the ‘appetiser’, but in fact the section of a formal kaiseki meal where the chef expresses his full creative flair.
Don’t miss too the amazing autumn speciality, Kamasu no Sugiita Yaki, a dish of barracuda that dates back to the Edo period (1603-1867) that Murata himself rediscovered. The aroma of smouldering wood and the visual mimicry of fallen leaves recreate the sense of dining out in the Kyoto forests of yore. Enchanting.
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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.