Visited as a couple in April 2013 for dinner
This was my first time to visit a Kikunoi restaurant. We went for one 21K yen and one 17K omakase course. Difference between the various courses basically came down to two courses which was actually highlighted to us when we arrived at the restaurant--i.e. you do not have to pre-book a menu before arrival unlike some other Kaiseki restaurants. My partner is allergic to shellfish, hence she opted for a more basic course. Unless you speak fluent Japanese, most likely you will need to book this restaurant from your hotel.
We actually stayed in the ANA Intercontinental, which was within a somewhat long but walkable distance. The restaurant is quite recognizable once you are in the vicinity, but the immediate area can be a bit confusing, as it is in a semi-residential looking district where the various backstreets can look virtually identical. There are a number of other restaurants and small bars/shops in the area. We asked the shopkeepers for advice to help us find the exact address. While I would say technically the restaurant is quite near the Akasaka station, it will be a bit of a walk--I recommend a cab if possible. It is not on a main street.
Kikunoi Akasaka is a part of the Kikunoi group, originating from Kyoto and famed for Kaiseki. Kikunoi is actually not known just for kaiseki, but actually very modern interpretations of the traditional art--not to say 'fusion', but they employ more modern cooking tools and foreign ingredients in combination with tradition to experiment with new flavors to lift their traditional preparations.
We found Kikunoi Akasaka to be an extremely foreigner/tourist friendly restaurant, providing us with an English menu of our set upon our entry, and with assistant chefs eager to try to explain everything to us in English. The restaurant actually has a fair bit of promotional material, such as a Kikunoi book on Kaiseki cuisine which actually introduced a number of the dishes we were having that day. The restaurant is also photo friendly. The chefs help pose dishes etc if you request.
Food quality was excellent - all round every course was appetizing and beautiful. Worthy of special note was the sashimi--exceptionally fresh and a rainbow of textures. The kinmedai (snapper) and tai sashimis were especially brilliant. The koshibi came with a really interestingly rich egg based dip.
As we arrived in the sakura season, two particular ingredients were prominent--sakura petals/branches and bamboo. As is in the nature of kaiseki, these seasonal ingredients were specially highlighted. The grilled bamboo shoot with miso was excellent, the bamboo giving texture and the miso flavor. A salmon smoked with sakura which followed was also excellent, the contribution of the sakura subtle but apparent.
The visual star of the show was definitely the bamboo rice - a massive and unique cooker prepared bamboo steamed rice, and it was delicious. The rice was of excellent quality and sweetness, combining with the bamboo for a great texure.
The desserts were both excellent, an almond jerry and a sweet bean paste soup, both presented balanced sweetness with tartness.
Overall, an excellent restaurant and a great introduction to Kikunoi... and it also goes to show that you can great a phenomenal Kaiseki outside of Kyoto. Highly recommended.
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