Grrrrr… ummm… yum! Kyo-ryori!

Posted at October 27th, 2005 by cosmo


Originally uploaded by Monatopia.

OK, I had SUCH a hard time figuring out which image to use for this post. I really suggest you surf over to
flickr to look at the rest

This was our first kyo-ryori experience, graciously set up by our ryokan hosts at a restaurant called Manshige. Our hosts drove us to the restaurant and stopped the car at the end of a long dramatically lit and beautfuilly landscaped walkway. At the end of the walkway, a beautiful, traditionally dressed Japanese women waited for us; she was to be our host for the evening.

Our ryokan hostess ran, in the way a Japanese women dressed in traditional dress and shoes can run – more of an adorable shuffle really – to the end of the hall ahead of us to be there to introduce us to her.

We removed our shoes and were led to a HUGE Japanese style dining room, about 12-14 tatami mats in size. In the very center of the room there was a table for two set and waiting for us. Our dinner hostess seated us and took our coats, leaving us alone, saucer eyed at our luck.

May-haps we misunderstood the price.

Another beautifully dressed Japanese women, slides open our door, and kneeling, she places a tray on the floor just inside the door. Once inside the room, she slides the door shut behind her, stands, picks up the tray only to kneel again at our table, placing the green tea and hot towels on our table before letting herself out again in the same way, only kneeling and backing out of our room before sliding the door shut.

May-haps we don’t care if we misunderstood the price.

The food starts coming. It’s jaw-droppingly beautiful in addition to being amazingly tasty. The pictures are all rather blurry as I had to take them with the small older camera on the sly.

The first set of tastes, Kyo-ryori being a celebration of the current season, were tastes of Fall. In case you can’t make it out in the photo, snails are Fall treats. I’d not had snails before, surprisingly enough, and was feeling quite proud of myself for using the toothpick to careful pull it from it’s shell before slurping it down.

That first plate had four tastes on it and each was new and exciting and beautiful and set the tone for the evening to come.

While we are enjoying our first dish, the chef comes into introduce himself. Kneeling several feet away from the table holding several pieces of paper he asks if he may approach. We say of COURSE! He gives us each a copy of the menu in English, as well as a business card and a brochure for the restaurant. His name is Keigo and he is the third generation of his family to be a chef in this restaurant.

We are in awe. And suddently we feel even more welcome.

The menu is a page long, with very brief descriptions. Are we to pick one thing? No no no!! You are to receive all of them.

I’ve died and gone to Iron Chef.

Eleven tiny works of art come across the table, everything from sashimi and tempura, to a giant fish head. Each.

I could see the special smile on our hostess face as she gracefully removed the tops of our pottery bowls to reveal the large fish heads, complete with some mean looking teeth and an equally large eyeball.

My first thought was, damn, not even any rice to hide that under. I wonder if it will fit in my purse.

Scott and I smile and try to be as graceful as possible as we poke at our respective fish heads trying to figure out which part was edible. Suddenly one of the most graceful Japanese women I’ve ever seen appears in the room. She could be 40. She could be 70. Her skin is like porcelain. Every move is done with grace, style and intent. She doesn’t speak a word of English, yet makes it very clear that we are not being aggressive enough in eating our fish-heads. She dashes from the room to return with two more sets of chopsticks and she and our hostess gracefully de-bone the fish heads in nothing flat. It would have taken me an hour to do half of what they did in two minutes.

Then, we find that our new beautiful friend does know ONE word of English.

“Charrenge”, she says as she begins to pluck the eye from the skull. Good for the skin, the other women says and she helps Scott with his. There is really no getting out of this. We are shown the two non-edible parts. The casing, and the strange bead in the center/ We are given the rest to eat. It was strangely non-fishy. It was slightly jelly like, but didn’t seem to have it’s own flavor other then a slightly more intense flavor then the rest of the fish, as well as a hint of the sauce that was with the fish.

I’m not sure I would order it again, but I certainly have no fear of it, and actually feel rather proud. And I am no longer in awe of the snail I just ate.

Scott got an extra bonus charrenge, as the next course was… mushrooms. His archenemy in food form. A personal grill, with not little tiny mushroom bits in something else, but big huge mouthfuls of mushroom that were to be warmed on the grill and dipped into a lime sauce before chomped down like a piece of an apple.

About the time Scott was to start scooting his onto my grill, Keigo-San came in again to see how we were enjoying the meal, and to tell us how proud he was to have procured such a large selection of this particular treasured mushroom.

And to watch Scott enjoy the mushrooms.

I think I enjoyed this portion of the meal much more then Scott for more reasons then one.

After dinner, Keigo-San was kind enough give us a tour of not only his restaurant but also the lovely gardens. He also presented us with two gifts. A traditional Japanese fan with a poem his grandfather wrote about the restaurant on it, and a beautiful sake cup which will forever after have a special place in the Blue Room.

I can think of no better way to be welcomed to Kyoto.

The restaurant site (in Japanese, but has great pictures):

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