Tankuma Kitamise – Kaiseki Cuisine

Tankuma Kitamise Honten is a rather unassuming Kaiseki restaurant. It isn’t the fanciest looking Ryotei in Kyoto but their cuisine is pretty damn fine. I’ve eaten a lot of repetitive, lacklustre Kaiseki and to be honest I was expecting the same as I sat down to begin my meal here so was really happy to receive something a little more special. Technically these guys really know their stuff – so although you might see similar dishes elsewhere  – theirs’ really has a very appealing edge.

In homage to Autumn in Australia right now please allow me to present an example of the type of dishes and seasonal ingredients you might enjoy during an Autumnal Kaiseki meal at Tankuma Kitamise. This lunch cost around 10,000 yen with some sake (just over $100 AUD circa November 2013)

The image above is the Zensai – or substantial appetiser plate consisting of items such as salmon roe and pickled flower petals, rolled duck breast and wasabi,  fish rolled around beans and simmered in a sweet soy mixture, ohitashi of mushrooms, greens and chrysanthemum petals, fresh soybeans cooked in smoky dashi, mini sabazushi like sushi  – using Kamasu – a type of Baracuda instead of saba (mackeral) – detail below. And a small sweet made of sweet potatoes and red beans.

The chef entertains a group of Japanese women who were fascinated by the Gaijin chick who was asking him for details about the food… although they knew I could speak some Japanese they spoke about me as if I wasn’t sitting directly next to them. A surreal experience.  Lucky for me they were being polite.

Sashimi of Tai (red snapper), Maguro ( tuna) and ika (squid)

A young chef  focussed on preparing a broth for my next dish (below)  containing a fish paste dumpling wrapped around prawns, matsutake mushrooms, sandomame ( green beans), konnyaku and scented with green yuzu zest

Chef prepares a takeaway wooden bento for one of the customers. It was stunning.

Gindara (black cod) marinated in saikyo miso before grilling and Tai grilled with salt. Turnip greens in sesame dressing.

Working on a small radish flower for the above-mentioned bento.

Takiawase – simmered dish – seasonal vegetable, fish and tofu dish  containing a maple leaf of nama fu (wheat gluten), turnip with yuzu miso, pumpking, ko-imo (a type of taro/potato), thin pieces of sweet/smoked fish and yuba (soy milk skin)

concentration for the perfect duck slice to pop into the takeaway bento

Indulging the ladies once again… this time with a photo

Agemono – the fried course – of tempura including hamo ( conger eel) , manganji peppers, prawns, their heads, shiso, pumpkin, sweet potato and lotus. Exceptional tempura.

The gohan or rice course was quite fancy here and contained seasonal matsutake, shiitake, shimeji, jako (tiny dried sardines) and manganji peppers. The pickles were  made from eggplant (which tasted remarkably like black olives), daikon and cucumber (detail below)

Bye bye ladies…

A refreshing dessert of Black sesame kuzu mochi, nashi, wine jelly, muscat grapes and crisp persimmon

For location purposes here is the exterior of the restaurant (round light and lantern underneath)

Here’s the link to the restaurant site – you will see there are a few in the family….


If you don’t speak Japanese – I recommend trying the branch at the Kyoto Tokyu Hotel. Or check it out when you are in Tokyo – however I have eaten only at this venue in downtown Kyoto so can only vouch for it.


  1. Sibylle and Rex says:

    thanks for the information Jane. Sorry we cant’ join you in January but we will be in Kyoto for 2 weeks coming October 2015 so we will just have to use your lovely book as a guide. I have worked my way through it many times as do all the guests at our Sea Zen holiday rental studio, Wye River, Great Ocean Road. Warm regards, Sibylle

    • Dear Sibylle, thank you so much for your message. I love that you have my Zenbu Zen book at your holiday rental studio!! And that your guests are reading it. And lucky you spending 2 weeks in Kyoto next month. Is it your first time? Thanks for touching base and please stay in touch. Jane x

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