Kyoto is one of my favorite places to visit in Japan. I love the people, the culture, and the food.... It's also a special place for my family. It's a family tradition to go visit Kyoto and eat kaiseki (Japanese course meal). It's not like we set a specific time to go there, but it's always once in summer, and once in winter. During the summertime, we enjoy Kawadoko Ryori (川床料理), where people enjoy a meal on the tatami floor set up on the river. In the winter we enjoy Osechi Ryori (お節料理). All dishes made with engimono （縁起物), things that bring you fortune/good, can make you feel that it's going be a great year!
This time, we picked 嵐山 (Arashiyama), well known as a cherry blossom viewing spot in spring. There is a famous bridge called 渡月橋 (Togetsukyo), meaning "moon crossing bridge", and the restaurant we went to is located on the middle of the Katsura River (桂川）. There are a handful of fine restaurants there, and 錦 (Nishiki) is one of them. They had several courses available for a reasonable price. What we had was Saganishiki (嵯峨錦), a 9-course meal. The majority of their Japanese course meals come in a specific order more or less the same as this, but this is what came with mine:
1. 先付: like a little appetizer. I had a mustard tofu.
2. お造り: a sashimi platter
3. お椀: miso soup - white miso, which is sweet, is popular in Kyoto. Can you recognize the ingredients like shaped plum, bamboo, and pine in the soup? Those are engimono.
4 & 5. 桜宿膳: lots of seasonal goodies! Because it was January, there were lots of typical osechi (New Year's) dishes.
6. 温物: kabu daikon and crab in soy-base soup
7. 鍋: suppon turtle nabe. This was a specialty on that day.
8. ご飯: rice and pickles
9. 水物: sweet black bean jelly
I truly adore Japanese course meals for their use of seasonal ingredients, subtle yet beautiful presentation, and thoughtful service by the staff. I hope every visitor will have a chance to enjoy this at least once!
Nishiki recently opened a new branch in Ogikubo (荻窪) in Tokyo. Of course, you can't really have the same experience as the one in Kyoto, but I'm sure you will enjoy the same quality food!