If you are looking for somewhere to impress visitors or treat yourself to beautifully presented, traditional style Japanese food- you will not be disappointed with Tosho, located at the base of Hijiyama in Hiroshima city.
The restaurant looks like it should be a traditional Ryokan inn, it is a large, charming Japanese style house. Upon entering, you will be greeted at the genkan entrance and asked to leave your shoes in one of the lockers. Then you are guided up to the dining room through small hallways, past bustling waiters and small kitchens bursting with activity before you are shown to your table in the dining area. There were some groups chatting loudly while they enjoyed their meal, but the feel of the place is very calming, especially if you are seated next to the window with a view of the garden and koi pond.
Many of the dishes are quite unusual and there are some in the set course that we wouldn't necessarily choose off of a menu again, but they were all part of the experience. And every single one was presented with such flair, it was impossible not to at least appreciate its aesthetic appeal.
There are a range of "kaiseki ryori" [懐石料理] set dishes available for lunch and dinner from just under ¥3,000 to special celebration courses from ¥10,000 per person. The dishes are brought out slowly, the timing of which allows you to savor all the flavors and have enough time to catch up with the others at your table in between bites.
We got two different sets so we were able to try a wide range of dishes. Our favorites were the fresh tofu served chilled with a spoon - every bite just melts in your mouth. The tofu and kombu seaweed hot-pot, the raw sashimi served with fresh mint and salad, the tofu salad, the soya gyoza dumplings and the chawanmushi savory egg custard dish which were all stand-outs. Ending with soy ice-cream and assorted fruit and jelly left us feeling happily contented.
Of the dishes that didn't make our top choices, it all comes down to our own humble opinions- so please try it for yourself if you are interested in a culinary adventure. The grilled fish with a tofu sludge was bizarre and we could probably go without eating the yuba pizza again, but I wouldn't trade the experience of having tried them. The sea urchin on top of the tofu paste was completely strange and intriguing, but I'm not sure in a good way. Don't misunderstand, everything was cooked and presented to perfection but there is no accounting for personal likes and dislikes at the end of the day.
If you are feeling less than adventurous, it is possible to order items ala-carte from the menu, but you will be missing out on the decadent feel that being presented with dish after amazing dish brings as a diner at Tosho. So, take the amazing with the not-so- and enjoy the full experience. If you have time before or after your meal, don't miss a chance to walk around Hijiyama park and the MOCA museum on the mountain next to Tosho.
Reservations are accepted and encouraged for larger groups, private rooms are available for large groups upon request. There are no English speaking staff, but there is a wonderful English menu with great pictures. The staff are very accommodating for vegetarian diners or special dietary requests. All major credit cards are accepted.
Unfortunately, there are no designated non-smoking sections, it is a smokers paradise- only privately booked rooms can be completely smoke free. If you are looking for a similar type of dining, check out Ume no Hana- the (smoke-free) traditional, tofu centered restaurant in Fukuya opposite Hiroshima station.