Well I’ve been trying to keep this place a little under wraps for the last couple of years but discerning culinary travellers around the globe are discovering just how special this restaurant is – so sadly I can no longer keep this greedy secret just for my Zenbu Tour Clients and friends who bribe me !!
Despite the name it is not a tempura restaurant -although it once was and does serve great tempura as the agemono course! As younger generations of the creative Matsuno restaurant family have stepped up onto the kitchen front line and the floor both the food and service has evolved in a rather unique way. Particularly for Kyoto.
|shiso ice in bamboo – a summer speciality|
Dining here offers a somewhat rustic but wonderful Kaiseki experience with a mix of contemporary and traditional dishes on centuries old ceramics and lacquer ware. Young Matsuno san (who has done a stage at Alinea in Chicago) and his father who trained him in the traditional Japanese art of cuisine are front and centre surrounded by a couple of other great, humble chefs while lady Matsuno and her daughter run the floor with a few super sweet helpers. All of them have a wonderful sense of humour and are most hospitable.
I’ve taken a few small groups of people here , including Chef Peter Gilmore and John Fink of Quay restaurant and they were blown away – they felt it was one of the best meals they’d had in Japan and there is no doubt they will be back. The experience just cannot be replicated. It is strangely raw and real in a town that can be almost too elegant and refined to be believed at times. And too formal to be relaxed and fully enjoyed at others.
|Chef Matsuno san describing his oyster dish to Chef Peter Gilmore|
Tempura Matsu is not necessarily the place to go if you haven’t experienced traditional Kaiseki and want to -but this is a place for people who love to engage with every aspect of true, down home hospitality, appreciate culinary flair and lap up quirky service. It is like eating in a friend’s home and discovering their family are so cool that you want them to adopt you.
A warning to those with less adventurous palates or people who cannot bear the thought of knowing that a creature featured in their dinner may need to be quickly dispatched in front of them… To say the seafood here is fresh would be an understatement if you know what I mean…. If that sounds at all unappealing you may wish to skip a visit here – leaving the seats open to those who want to lap up every part of the Japanese culinary culture.
Chefs and respectful food tourists – go here. And please make sure you pass on my kindest regards to the Matsuno clan.
Here’s some pics from a few visits.
October dishes – summer going into autumn
January dishes – still in the Oshogatsu (New Year’s) style
February 2014 dishes – moving from winter towards spring
Stone fish… ‘if you touch the spikes you die…. ‘
If you are interested in seeing more of Kyoto with me – then take a peek at my Zenbu Tours Page.