Kezako, one of my favourite high-end restaurants in Kyoto, closed down a couple of years ago but lucky for the diners of Kyoto he opened his own place. While I was super excited about this fact I couldn’t help but wonder whether they would be able to retain the Kezako charm. It was obvious from the first visit they’d achieved that and more. Ryoria de Stephan Pantel is in a larger but very stylish space just south of the Gosho (Imperial Palace) .
The new space, in a refurbished traditional building opposite the law courts on Yanagibaba street, is gorgeous – a delightful improvement of the former restaurant space as there was much more light and dining was all on one level. If you sat upstairs at Kezako you were separated from the action. My favourite spot was, and still is, the counter.
The food was happily still in keeping with the Kezako style a creative menu with both Japanese and French influences and ingredients hand selected from local farmers. They’ve thankfully retained their signature dish of foie gras wrapped in nara zuke (daikon pickled in sake kasu for 2 years – it has a deep umami richness and mellow sweetness – perfection with foie gras) served with a tropical fruit sauce – which sounds very 80’s to those of us who live in Australia but the flavours just sing together, the sweet fruit acid and perfume from the likes of pineapple and passionfruit makes for a curious but successful marriage.
Sweet but refreshing was this non alcoholic juice made from semillon grapes. The wine selection is small but interesting and I also enjoyed a glass of fine Chardonnay.
The first course in our ode to spring lunch was a type of raw trout from Lake Biwa marinated in Bergamot, earl grey tea jelly, almond crumble, topped with snap pea mousse, garnished with a wild mountain sprig that tastes of green peas and grated dekopon citrus.
The famous Foie gras in Narazuke ( as mentioned above) – the foie gras is wrapped in the pickle and aged for 10 days before serving – sensational. I just can’t get enough of this dish.
White bean soup with balsamic jelly and tiny seasonal, whole squid underneath.
Stephan explaining each dish to diners. And a side view of the soup/jelly layers.
Tai (snapper) fillet with nanohana (canola greens) and fresh shiitake stuffed with slow cooked pork leg and ika shiokara (salt fermented squid guts… sounds challenging to the uninitiated but truly this was delicious!)
Hard to resist nicking this great knife – luckily this restaurant is based in Japan where theft is unusual. Stephan – watch out for gaijins with large handbags!
Succulent pork from Kameoka, just west of Kyoto city with Jerusalem artichoke puree, roasted vegetables from Ohara – in the mountains north of Kyoto and a sauce including miso and fuki no tou – the buds of the slightly bitter fuki plant – the stems are also commonly used in season.
Precision and dedication.
Airy Coconut lime mousse on a sable topped with pistachio paste, yuzu miso ice cream and strawberries. Such a wonderful way to end the meal – I was pleased to meet this dish again – it’s another favourite of mine and Stephan’s ice cream was the inspiration for one of the recipes in my book Zenbu Zen – finding food, culture and balance in Kyoto. Thank you Stephan!
But wait! there’s more. Great coffee and perfect, chocolatey, coconutty, very cherry petits fours.
The lunch course, including coffee, was just under 6000 yen that’s just over $60 Australian. Dinner is also amazing but with a different price point and a more romantic atmosphere.
Congratulations Stephan and team. What a great move!
Find the link below: