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Sojiki Nakahigashi Reviews

This restaurant is located a little way from central Kyoto in a quiet residential area. The unassuming building houses a red lacquered wood counter around which a dozen seats are arrayed, with a separate private dining room to one side. Four chefs were working in view of the diners at this meal, and in total the restaurant can seat 28 customers.

The head chef here is Mr Hisao Nakahigashi, who opened the restaurant in 1997. He specialises in using mountain herbs and vegetables and focuses on local ingredients, though on occasion he has been known to use the high grade Matsusaka beef. The chef picks plants and flowers from the mountain every day, and aims to use ingredients almost entirely from within 15 miles of the restaurant. Even by the demanding standards of Kyoto, this two star Michelin restaurant is renowned for being amongst the hardest to book in the city.

The first course was a beautifully presented selection of appetisers. There was tamagoyaki (rolled omelette grilled over charcoal), smoked hotaruika (a sort of baby squid), bamboo shoot, egoma (perilla) seed, taranome (angelica buds), grilled bonito, sweet rice wrapped in cherry leaf, deer jerky, dandelion and udo (mountain asparagus) shaped as cherry blossom, and a little bowl of salad that included a superb tiny wild strawberry. This was an impressive The bonito was superb, and the taranome had a distinctive flavor, while the tamagoyyaki benefited from a subtle sense of smoke from the charcoal (18/20).

After that, we had broccoli with tofu puree and horsetail (the plant rather than the end of a horse – anything is possible on a Japanese plate), which was delicious, but it wasn’t exactly up to our expectations (16/20). White miso soup with mugwort mochi (rice cake made from a short grain sticky rice), snow peas, and yellow mustard was served after that. In addition to the excellent snow peas, the miso had a wonderful depth of flavor, with the degree of mustard being well assessed (18 out of 20).
The miso-marinated grilled Japanese cherry salmon (sakuramasu) was served with cabbage, small peas in their pods, and broccoli puree as a side dish. This was again another outstanding meal, with the salmon tasting particularly good thanks to the hint of charcoal from the grill. Incredibly high-quality veggies were served, demonstrating that Japanese vegetables are unquestionably the greatest in the world (19/20).

Carp sashimi was chopped ultra-thin and served with carp skin, carp jelly, soy sauce, wasabi, radish, chickweed, wild onion, pea shoots, shiso sprouts, shoya (a vegetable related to eggplant) in both a mousse and a powder, and crispy fish scales that had been deep-fried to a crispy crisp. This was without a doubt the greatest carp I’ve ever eaten, and the ingenious use of textures (the jelly, the skin, the sharp scales) really helped to showcase the potential of the main component. As is often the case, the quality of the spring veggies available here was excellent (18/20).

In a vegetable soup, the bamboo shoots were paired with bracken, sansho (Japanese pepper) blossoms (nappa flower), royal fern, and a little fish that looked like anchovies but didn’t appear to have an English equivalent (but tasted like anchovy). The veggies were delicious, and I like how the spice came from the ingredients themselves: the bite of the sansho and the salinity of the fish (17/20).

Served with sweet onion, spring onion head and leaves, the last savoury entrée was grilled local Kyoto beef. The meat had good flavor, but the onions, which had a delightful sweetness to them and were a world away in flavor from those found in the United Kingdom (18/20), left me nearly as pleased as the steak. Traditionally, rice and pickles, which were created from scratch in the kitchen using onion, scallion, carrot, and deer miso, signified the shift from savoury to sweet dishes in kaiseki cuisine, as is traditional.

Strawberry sorbet with wild carrot, royal fern, plum seed, and soy sorbet was served as a last course. They had an exceptional flavor and were a fantastic illustration of how Japanese fruit at its finest is simply the greatest on the planet; it’s difficult to get a high grade for something so basic, but I have never eaten finer strawberries than those gathered that morning in Kyoto.

The service was excellent, with both the waitresses and the cooks eager to explain the intricate components and methods. One very crucial point to keep in mind is that this establishment only accepts cash; credit cards are not accepted. The whole cost for the two of us, including lots of beer, amounted to 20,320, which works out to £63 per person. This seems to be a perfect bargain for what was an exceptionally intricate meal made with exquisite components, in my opinion. I appreciated this lunch more than some of the three-star Michelin restaurants in this city, yet it was a fraction of the cost of those establishments.

Cuisine Type: Japanese

Specialties:

Address: 32-3 Jodojiishibashicho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, 606-8406, Japan

Phone: +81 75-752-3500

Website: Sojiki Nakahigashi Official Site

Hours: Closed: Monday

Michelin Stars: 2