JR Kyoto ISETAN 11th floor, Higashi-shiokoji-cho, Karasuma-dori and shijo-sagaru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto
For our last night’s dinner In japan I decided that we should do something special. I heard that upstairs from the Kyoto train station there is a restaurant that serves amazing kaseiki with a gorgeous view named Wakuden. So Wakuden it is.
Wakuden offered two sittings: 5-7pm and 7pm till late. Since our family sleeps quite early we have decided to take the 5-7pm sitting. Our party of five excitedly walked into the restaurant, expecting to watch the sun slowly lower down the horizon as we enjoyed our cuisine. But alas, Wakuden had different ideas and put us into a more intimate area by ourselves, sans view. Note to self, make sure to book the counter where you can see the view as well as the chef preparing your food.
We were offered hot water with some sort of fragrant Japanese citrus peel. I am not really sure what type of citrus it is as I asked whether its yuzu and the waitress shook her head and said it was buntan. I googled it later and found out buntan actually meant pomelo- cool!
We were then offered some Wakuden brewed sake, but to be honest, I am not a Sake connoisseur so they all tasted the same to me!
We decided on the 6 course Benhana menu for AUD$90. The more we ate these kaseiki cuisines, the more I understand the way they serve their food. Normally they will start off with something small and delicate flavour, as you go along the flavours will get more pronounced, and ultimately climaxed to something fairly filling like tempura. After that there would be some rice or rice in soup to cleanse the oiliness, and something sweet for a perfect finish.
True to my theory, the first course was bonito sashimi served with grated radish, sashimi and spring onion. As expected, this dish was extremely fresh.
Next up was a soup and in the menu it was described as “tofu (kneading soft roe of red sea bream), prawn”. What the?! So is this tofu or roe?! Well, it looked like a burrata, softer than mozzarella and it tasted creamy and a little bit salty. The soup has a hint of smokey flavour which enhances the “tofu”. I really didn’t like the little pieces of yuzu flowers. As much as I love yuzu their damn flowers tasted awful, like eating a mouthful of perfume. Yuck.
Next up was a grilled dish of bamboo shoot. The grilled bamboo was delicately placed on slices of bamboo husks. Two textures of bamboo were featured: the young crunchy tender bit up the tippy end and also a slightly more firm and fibrous section from the base which made an interesting contrast. Sancho leaves were used to add flavour although I can’t say it was my favorite herb.
There was a little refreshment before the next dish which is a kind of tiny fish with wild Japanese vegetable and vinegar jelly. I am normally quite adventurous but I thought this dish was weird. The fish were bitter, possibly because they didn’t gut the fish and the wild Japanese vegetable has this metallic taste to it. The word “refreshment” would be the last thing word I’d use to describe this.
Our simmered dish of grilled pork, tomato, onion and a dollop of mustard was a reminiscence of the French Pot-au-Feu. I hated it. Sorry but to us Asians, paying so much for essentially some soup scraps is just not in our DNA. At least this dish, compared to the one we paid AUD$50 for in Paris, has some flavour to it. The meat was subtly smoky and the tomato was firm but cooked thoroughly.
Rice dish was our last savoury dish, we chose red sea bream sushi. A small thin box of raw red sea bream on top of vinegared rice, with sprinkles of yuzu rind underneath made a refreshing dish.
Our dessert consists of fresh buntan (pomelo) with jelly, malted rice with sancho pepper icecream. The fruit was refreshing, but the malted rice with icecream is just like wafer icecream sandwich, which was nothing special.
All in all, I thought Wakuden underwhelms. I would go back to Uwosue anytime 6.5/10.
For a round up of where I went and what I ate in Japan, please click here