When we stayed at the ryokan in Kyoto on the night of January 1st, we laid out for the full kaiseki dinner experience. A kaiseki dinner is a formal, traditional, multi-course Japanese meal. (That link goes to the Wikipedia entry, in case you want to read more.)
On to the food!
You’re going to have to bear with Toby and I having forgotten details about the meal, since I took so long to process the photos and write this up. 🙂
First course! The yellow stuff on the bottom is roe of some ilk. The white sheet is vegetal, perhaps a lightly pickled daikon? The dark stuff is probably wakame (a seaweed), and neither of us can remember what the flower is made of, although we’re pretty sure it was vegetal in origin and not fish.
The dark thing in the middle is a large bean, azuki I think, with a bit of gold leaf on it, impaled on a pine needle. (Yes, gold leaf is edible!) The bean was sweet. I wish I could remember what’s under the holly leaves (we didn’t eat the holly leaves!). The green cylinders might be burdock root, but then again the thing making the stem of the fake pear there might be burdock root. The ‘pear’ body was made of something potatolike. There’s a whole shrimp there, and a piece of sushi made of tuna tied onto the rice with a wee strand of chive or green onion. The small bowl contains some form of cephalopod, either squid or octopus, marinated with a bit of citrus, perhaps yuzu.
Lightly pickled daikon and carrot shreds, with curls of daikon, carrot, and something green, probably either leek or spring onion. Can’t remember what the dipping sauce tasted like, but I think there was a dab of roe in the middle of it. The whitish horizontal thing was something from a fish, and the cube was a gelatin (yes, gelatinous cube, let’s get the D&D joke out there) flavored with something vegetal and very, very subtle.
Underneath the carrot and daikon is a shiso leaf. Shiso is very, very menthol. And underneath all of that, there is a surprise hidden in the paper: thin fillets of sashimi enclosed in edible rice paper.
Tempura course. Shrimp, a shishito or similar mild pepper, and a couple of other vegetables were served with a dipping sauce. Off to the side there was tamago, a folded Japanese omelet with a few things in it, a piece of smoked fish, and a daikon fan made by slicing a cube of daikon very, very thin, but not all the way through, and fanning it out. It was lightly pickled.
Also, they brought the warmed sake out with this course.
Soup. The soup comes out with that smaller bowl on top of it, upside down, to keep the heat in. The broth had gelatin or agar in it, so it wasn’t fully liquid, but wasn’t set either, like a very thin custard. It contained that pale vegetable, which I’ve had several times this trip but can,t identify, seaweed, and hidden underneath the seaweed, a tasty piece of fish. Off to the side we have seared, thinly sliced duck breast, topped with daikon, a shishito or similar pepper, and a tomato, and served with a dab of mustard.
The final course! Citrus sherbet, possibly yuzu, served with a light crunchy wafer thingy.