Teisui — New York City (5/2016)

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I heard about Teisui through a digital newsletter that listed new restaurants for the season to try.  Teisui is a tasting-menu only Japanese restaurant serving food ryokan-style – in the manner of meals served at a traditional Japanese inn.  The kaiseki menu attempts to be seasonal with its presentations.  It was easy for me to secure a mid-week reservation using Opentable.com. There are both counter and table seating options.

There weren’t any wines that I really wanted to have (and it was the middle of the work week and I had to each the next day), so I just went with hot tea as my beverage with the meal.

The starter snack was off-menu.  It was a cold chawanmushi (Japanese egg custard) with edamame espuma, foie gras and uni. It was an unexpected way to start, as the custard or egg course usually appears later in these types of menus.

For the full write-up, click here.

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Otoko — Austin (5/2016)

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Otoko is the recently-opened latest restaurant from Paul Qui.  The prior tasting menu counter at his original restaurant no longer offers service, so this is the only tasting menu that is offered now.  The restaurant is located in the South Congress Hotel up some stairs from a courtyard (it’s a little hard to find).  Reservations are prepaid through Tock.com, where you have the option of pre-purchasing a wine or non-alcoholic beverage pairing (you can also decide at the restaurant).  I opted beforehand for the non-alcoholic pairings.

Upon arrival at the restaurant, which up some stairs in the courtyard of the South Congress Hotel, you are brought to the Waterside Bar, which open exclusively to the diners at the time before dinner.  Drinks at the bar are not included in the price paid. I was escorted to my spot at the dining counter about 15 minutes after my scheduled reservation time.

The menu is set in typical kaiseki style with no a la carte options. Seating times are on a staggered basis, with their goal of turning a seat over just once during the evening.

The experience started with jellyfish, served with pickled plum (umeboshi) sauce, cucumber, and fried baby shiitake mushrooms.  It was an interesting combination of textures and flavors to start, with the crunchiness of the mushrooms and the soft-resistance crunch of the jellyfish, along with tartness.

First beverage pairing was a guava and ginger drink.

For the full write-up, click here.

Umu — London (11/2013)

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I have had virtually no experience with the traditional Japanese Kaiseki dinner.  In many ways, it is conceptually similar to the modern cuisine that I have been seeking out.  It is as much an art form as a type of meal, where special attention is given to balancing taste, textures, appearance and colors. Some friends had told me about a chef who had been in New York who had relocated to London.  So, while planning my food itinerary for a trip to London, I used OpenTable.com to book a slot at Umu.  Two days prior to my visit, I received an email asking to confirm my reservation and to notify them of any allergy or dietary restrictions, to which I did respond.  The day before my reservation, I received a phone call again asking me to confirm my dinner reservation at the sushi counter.  I had not specifically asked for a seat at the counter, but as long as I could order from the full menu, I would be fine.

Upon arrival, they seated me in a very nice spot at the sushi counter with a full view of the food preparation.  Almost immediately, a cart approached and I was asked if I wanted a cocktail or some champagne.  I was then presented with the menu options.  These included the Kyoto-style kaiseki menu, a sushi kaiseki menu, and a full a la carte menu.  The kaiseki menu is a tasting menu with defined types of dishes at each course. The basic kaiseki set menu has five courses, with additional types of courses added at the chef’s discretion.

For the full write-up, click here.