Mizuki Sushi, Kyoto
January 13, 2015
On October 28, 2014, Linda and I had dinner at the sushi counter of Mizuki, the large Japanese restaurant of the new Kyoto Ritz Carlton Hotel, where we were staying. The hotel seems to have high ambitions for Mizuki. Our dinner at the tempura counter a few evenings before was excellent.
We were seated at the left end of the Wajima lacquer counter. The sushi chef on the left spoke some English. The other served the Japanese diners. Behind are white porcelain modern sculptures. The windows look out onto the hotel’s sunken Japanese garden.
The sashimi was horse mackerel, bonito and a scallop wrapped around sudachi slices. This was the only dish served with do it yourself wasabi and soy sauce for dipping. The right amount of each, if any, was added by the chef to all the sushi pieces.
This was simply described as flatfish, which could be flounder, turbot etc. Soy sauce had been added to the rice.
Two types of house-made gari were served: the normal pickled, thinly sliced young ginger and thin slices of lotus root. (I suspect that calling the latter gari is a misnomer, but the chef had to communicate with us.) Anyway, the lotus root was a nice variation and I nibbled on it throughout the sushi courses.
This was described as egg custard with shrimp paste. One description of the normal omelette or tamagoyaki, usually served after the sushi with fish, says: “An alternative version includes a mix of shrimp puree, grated mountain yam, sake and egg, turned into a custard-like cake.” Serving it in the middle worked well as a break.
One blogger wrote: “Shime Saba is vinegar-pickled mackerel, a classic dish. It is first cured in salt then washed with rice vinegar. Mackerel does not keep well. If it’s not consumed within the first several hours after being caught, it will deteriorate quickly. Therefore, the Japanese pickle it before serving as sushi. Popular cooking method for Saba is to grill or simmer. Normally we don’t eat it as Sashimi (raw fish) because it is perishable. “Shime Saba” is marinated with salt and rice vinegar. With this cooking method, Saba (Mackerel) can be kept a little longer and also we can enjoy Sashimi like taste.”
This trademarked tuna is from Oma, a traditional fishing town at the northern tip of Honshu which still catches Bluefin tuna with a hook and line. October is its high season. Its quality is highly regarded. There was wasabi under the tuna and soy sauce on top.
To the right of the chef you can see a box of sea urchin from the cold waters of Hokkaido, Japan’s northern island. In my opinion Hokkaido uni is the world’s best. He served us a generous portion on the sushi rice with a dab of something on top. Superb.
Seabass touched with charcoal.
I am not sure what fish is referred to by seabass, but it was good. There was a small charcoal burner in the middle of the counter, which could be fanned to red hot as needed. You can see it in the center right of the top photo above. Here the fish was topped with mascarpone, which adds sweetness, and then touched with a hot coal. The smokiness was evident and very nice.
Sea eel, or anago.
It was not evident to me why we received another piece of sushi after the rice course. Maybe the chef thought we deserved a bonus. We had already had our tamagoyaki omelette. Anago is supposed to be milder than unagi, but this was jazzed up and very good.
Black sesame and green tea ice creams from Pierre Hermé with a green tea wafer.
Very good. Pierre Hermé, a well-known Parisian patissier, has a pastry shop in the lobby of the hotel. His team makes the croissants etc for the breakfast buffet at the hotel and desserts for all the restaurants. (He actually started his brand in Japan in 1998, as he had a French non-compete clause with former employer Ladurée then.)
We thoroughly enjoyed our meal. The ingredients were top quality and fresh. They were presented with interesting variety, avoiding a frequent downfall of sushi meals. We would have enjoyed having a chef with more English conversational ability, but we cannot complain about his talents or performance.