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Nakamura Kyoto

Bu Pun Su

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I’ve been a big fan of Japanese (traditional) kaiseki for sometimes. Any visit to Japan, my choice of restaurants will be skewed towards this style of cuisine. Some readers should’ve noticed it by now and I ‘apologize’ if this would bore some of you. The last restaurant review from our Kyoto visit in Oct ‘15 will be Nakamura, another “old” restaurant with rich history that has been around for nearly 200 years. The current chef-patron, Motokazu Nakamura is the 6th generation in the family running this legendary restaurant.   


We opted for lunch since later in the evening we had to take train to the Kansai airport. As we were walking to find the restaurant, the location looked a bit familiar. Apparently, Nakamura is situated one block from the Kyoto’s most famous ryokans (Hiiragiya and Tawaraya). It was a cool sunny day. Following the standard omotenashi, staffs wearing kimono would greet and bow to us as we entered the restaurant. Before taking off our shoes, the walkway leading to the entrance had been splashed with water – meant we’re expected and welcomed. Like many other high end kaiseki in this city, Nakamura serves all of its guests in the private tatami rooms. It was a spacious ryotei with a view of small garden and several paintings + calligraphy hanging on the wall.


Our meal at Nakamura consisted of 9 courses and there were 2 dishes that I believe is always available regardless the time you dine here.

-I was impressed with the first one named Shiromiso Zoni. The soup was prepared without any stock; this way the chef could highlight the intense and creamy white miso that's mixed with a little wagarashi. I loved the well-made and chewy plain mochi that balanced the soup's robust flavor

-The second one had an interesting concept but not particularly stunning; referring to Guji no Sakayaki. The thick and rich flesh of Amadai had some distinct smell. We were advised to leave the skin and its bone in the bowl. Then, the staff would pour clear dashi and it turned into fish sake soup with some umami flavor. The soup was better than the fish’s meat


In addition to the above dishes, I liked the appetizer – A mixture of sea urchin, yellow flower, bean curd, vegetable and crab in jelly sake 'sauce' - The flavors of the sea from uni and kani were tasty; the tofu was smooth to tone down any strong taste; the kiku gave some zestful taste

The rice dish was simple – Gohan with ikura and tsukemono. The rice was very good but the ikura was rather sticky and less superior the one I usually ate at other (high-end) restaurants .The portion of the ikura was not that much and we’re not allowed to have a 2nd helping – well, only for the plain rice was Ok

I would let you follow the link below for the pictures of the other dishes.


The service was wonderful and amiable but not personalized perhaps due to the fact that they hardly spoke any English. The private room was comfortable because underneath our lacquered table, there was extra space to ‘rest’ our feet. I don’t mind with the more traditional seating since it would “force” us to sit in proper posture. In general, I found my lunch experience to be delightful: high quality cooking with seasonal & fresh ingredients accompanied by pretty space and pleasant service. I gave 93 pts (2 ½* equivalent of Michelin standard).


The ‘downside’ of having been fortunate to dine at several top notch restaurants was that you cannot help but compare. When doing that, regrettably I could not say this meal was at the same level as my experience at Arashiyama Kitcho or Mizai. If Nakamura will be your first fine dining (traditional kaiseki) experience at Kyoto, I’m sure you’re more likely to be “blown away” by it. It reminded me a long time ago when I was ‘amazed’ by Genyana Hamadaya’s hospitality. This may sound ‘crazy’ by food wise, I still think my lunch at Hamadaya was as good as the dishes I ate at Nakamura


Pictures: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/albums/72157664112353572/with/24787951196/


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