Kagurazaka Ishikawa

Dinner – Saturday, November 25, 2017

Ishikawa has been on my list for many years, but always managed to slip off – finally, we made it. Secluded behind a temple, the restaurant is a world apart from the busy street just a few hundred feet away. With a boisterous birthday party occupying the kitchen counter, we were cloistered in a private room, with a constant stream of friendly servers attending to us. Here is what we ate.

Zuwaigani, chrysanthemum greens
Snow crab and its tomalley, served with jellied crab broth – cool, intense, acidic, bursting of the sea. An excellent (and very traditional) start.

Suppon, ginnan
Deep-fried soft shell turtle with gingko nuts were a strong contrast to the first course. This was crunchy, hot and salty – I wanted many more pieces.

Shiro-miso, ebi-imo, whale skin
A classic pairing at many kaiseki establishments – white miso soup with ebi-imo (literally, “shrimp potato”, a type of taro with a cloud-like texture). Whale skin is also traditionally used. This was a warm and comforting winter dish.

Sashimi of tai and Hokkaido uni

Pressed sushi of barracuda

Shirako, grated daikon
Surprisingly, the one and only bite of shirako on this trip – rich and creamy, excellent quality. The daikon was a nice, sharp counterpoint to modulate it.

Binchotan-grilled amadai and shitake

Grilled unagi and taro

Wagyu shabu-shabu, seasonal vegetables

Freshly-harvested rice, minced tai, pickles
Chef Ishikawa came to present the rice himself – a point of pride for him. He serves it nude, with but a few accompaniments – all the better to appreciate its quality. The nori and minced fish added another dimension for me – very delicious.

Persimmon, molasses, coconut soup
A surprising dessert – slices of persimmon in a coconut soup, with a molasses agar and rum jelly. This was paired with matcha to end the meal. Wow – even after everything we’d eaten, this renewed our vigour and woke us up. Refreshing and energizing.

If simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, then Hideki Ishikawa and his eponymous restaurant are the embodiment of refinement. Each item was served at its peak, and everything was laid bare – no contrived techniques or piles of ingredients. I long for this type of cuisine to make a home in San Francisco.

 

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