We’d popped in at a whim after an inspiring meeting with esteemed chef Murata san – soon after which we arranged my time in the kitchens of his Ryotei (high end restaurant serving Kaiseki cuisine) – Kikunoi Honten (main store).
The restaurant was dark and soaked in old school ambiance
The restaurant is particularly well regarded for its sabazushi (lightly vinegared mackeral sushi wrapped in konbu, for flavour, which is removed before eating – see top LHS at the back of the plate below) and inari zushi (sushi rice in sweetened fried tofu pockets – see the brown wrinkled triangles on the RHS )- so we ordered a mixed plate including both of them plus sushi of gujou (Kyoto ben or dialect for Amadai/tile fish) – Kyoto’s favourite fish apparently, topped with finely shaved kombu resembling pale green fairyfloss ( front and centre), a makizushi of fried nama fu (rolled sushi of fresh wheatgluten – RHS above the inari triangles), and little packets of rice tied in bamboo leaves containing sea bream and kinome (aromatic leaf of the sansho plant- far LHS).
Both the rustic appearance and hearty portion size of the sushi initially struck me as a little unusual, this being elegant Kyoto, but when it came to flavour, texture and mouthfeel it was nothing but refined. The sushi at Izuju is so perfectly seasoned it does not require the usual soy or wasabi.
The Inari zushi was excellent – containing a lot less vinegar and sugar than most versions available. I loved the chew of the deep fried fu. The sabazushi had none of that fishy hint that can sometimes creep in from incorrect preparation – it was simply delish.
This restaurant has been around for about 100 years – so you’d hazard a guess that they were doing something right. Go, try it.
You’ll find the restaurant located across the road from the west gate of Yasaka Jinja (shrine) near the north west corner (Higashioji/Shijo Dori). It is popular so arrive early.
They also have some take away items.