Kyoto Kitchen – Speciality Japanese Dining

If you think of Asian food, I would imagine most people in the UK would suggest Chinese, Indian, Thai and possibly even Vietnamese. However, there are a number of Japanese restaurants around and I’m not thinking of Yo Sushi.

 Japanese food is mostly known for being light and delicate, plus their abundance of noodle and rice dishes, but it is much more varied than that and it is worth finding a good quality Japanese restaurant close to you to sample the different types of cuisine.

Kyoto Kitchen – Speciality Japanese Dining

Recently we visited Kyoto Kitchen in Winchester. Located down Parchment Street, it is subtly
decorated in a Japanese style. Colours are light and the restaurant is small and intimate. To
start with we chose from a selection of their Specialist Drinks list, which include a range of
Japanese spirits.

Japanese Gins

I tried the Ki No Bi Gin, the first release from the Kyoto Distillery. This rice based gin was unveiled in 2016 and includes botanicals such as yuzu, bamboo leaves, hinoki wood chips, green sansho and gyokuro tea.  It was mixed with a Yuzu Tonic. The flavours were definitely different to the botanicals we may be used to in the UK and slightly more perfumed.
Another gin Kyoto Kitchen offer is Korkoro by Nagano Prefecture. The botanicals in this gin
were more traditional including juniper, angelica, coriander, orange peel and liquorish.
However, it also included sansho berries which gave it a warming feel on the palate, a good one for winter!

Chef Shunji Irokawa at work

Our first dish that we were presented with was Lobster Hari Hari. This was poached lobster that had been delicately wrapped in lightly pickled daikon sheets. It was beautifully indulgent.  The perfectly cooked lobster was tender and the pickle from the daikon cut through the richness.
Kyoto Kitchen
Lobster Hari Hari
 The next dish was scallop based. The freshest of scallops were carefully seasoned with lobster
caviar, black pepper and yuzu zest, served on shiso leaves. The caviar popped in the mouth, whereas the yuzu zest was aromatic, a bit of a mix between grapefruit and lime. It complemented the scallop perfectly and did not distract from its subtle taste that can so easily be lost in overpowering flavours.
Kyoto Kitchen
Scallops with Lobster Caviar, Black Pepper & Yuzu Zest
We moved onto a Sakura Salmon. The salmon had been smoked in house with cherry blossom
tea, but not a full smoke, so again the flavor of the fish was evident as the smoking acted as
more of a seasoning.
Kyoto Kitchen
Sakura Salmon

Tempura

Next up was a Japanese tempura dish called Sea Bass Isobe Age, which had roasted seaweed added to the tempura batter.  The sea bass was cooked to perfection, it was delicate and the seaweed tempura batter seasoned the fish naturally.  The isobe age was served with a traditional tensuya dipping sauce with a macha infused sea salt for additional seasoning.  The tensuya sauce was eye-opening; it wasn’t a sauce, it was like a consomme.  It had beefy umami flavours, that I could quite easily drink a mug of on a cold winter day.
Kyoto Kitchen
Sea Bass Isobe Age

Speciality Rolls

In California you get a California Roll… in Winchester you get a Winchester Roll, one of Kyoto Kitchen’s speciality rolls.  The biggest difference is that instead of being rolled in seaweed, they were rolled in wasabi, from Europe’s only wasabi farm near Winchester.  It was accompanied by freshly grated wasabi root, and this also added something extra special, as in other restaurants they quite often use horseradish that has been dyed green.  Fresh wasabi is much hotter than horseradish.
Kyoto Kitchen
Winchester Roll
Kyoto Kitchen
Fresh Wasabi & Shark Skin Grater

Nigiri

Up next was Chef’s Fish Nigiri Selection, an array of thinly sliced tuna, salmon, prawn, sea bass, mackerel and what I believe was yellow fin, all delicately placed on gently shaped mounds of rice.
Kyoto Kitchen
Chef’s Fish Nigiri Selection

 A Hot Dish

This was followed by Gin Dara.  Black Cod which is not actually cod, but related to the Sablefish.  It was grilled and came with a spicy miso glaze, plum dust and a lightly pickled lotus root.  It could not have been cooked any better, the large flakes of almost translucent cod (or should I say sablefish) had been treated with the utmost respect.
Kyoto Kitchen
Grilled Black Cod

Dessert

Desserts were a Yuzu Ice Cream Mochi and a Banana Tempura with Coconut Ice Cream.   Both beautifully light and not laying heavy on a full stomach.
Kyoto Kitchen
Yuzu Ice Cream Mochi
Kyoto Kitchen
Banana Tempura with Coconut Ice Cream
This was all washed down with Okumidori Kabusecha (Shaded Sencha) Tea.  It had a light but subtle savoury flavour, made up of kombu, kale and spring greens.  Not anyone can sell this tea, you have to get through an interview, and only if they are happy with what you do, will they supply it to you.
The Shaded Sencha refers to the fact that the tea is only grown in the spring season and under shade.  I do agree it is the ultimate green tea, and carries the flavours of Japan wonderfully.
Kyoto Kitchen
Okumidori Kabusecha (Shaded Sencha) Tea

Summary

I was extremely impressed with the high quality and freshness of the food served at Kyoto Kitchen.  The Japanese head chef Shunji Irokawa is a true artist having over 40 years experience.  You can tell from the execution of each dish, how much he respects each ingredient and adding only flavours that compliment it.  You are not presented with anything random that will challenge your palate, just extremely enjoyable food.  I could have kept on eating all evening.

 Kyoto Kitchen, 70 Parchment Street, Winchester, SO23 8AT
We dined as guests of Kyoto Kitchen, but all editorial content is my own.

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