May 24, 2016
Teisui opened in March 18, 2016. Its parent is a ryokan with the same name on a mountain in Akita, an isolated region of northwest Japan. There are decorative touches meant to evoke the ryokan, but the décor is mostly industrial modern. When Linda and I went for dinner on April 6, 2016, we were seated at the long counter enclosing the grilling and assembly area.
In front of us were the yakitori grills with their hot charcoal. They did not seem to be as hot as at pure yakitori restaurants and there was less char on the meats, which were the feature of many courses.
There are no food choices, just a ten-course tasting menu. Linda drank cold draft Sapporo beer with it and I had the sake pairings.
There was a luxurious amuse-gueule before the regular menu started.
Foie Gras Chawanmushi, Edamame Purée, Hokkaido Sea Urchin
The foie gras flavored custard base was topped with an edamame purée and a glob of Hokkaido sea urchin, which dominated this rich starter.
The first menu course was
King crab, Kiritanpo, Chicken Burdock, Watercress goma-ae
This multi-snack format is the traditional second course in a kaiseki meal. We were told to start with the watercress in a sesame sauce in the upper left and to progress clockwise. A chicken nugget was served with a burdock cylinder. There was a tasty piece of king crab with a decorative piece of shell. Finally the kiritanpo is an Akita specialty; freshly cooked pounded rice is wrapped around a skewer and toasted over an open fire.
Chicken tender, Mushrooms
They must have been short of mushrooms that evening; there were only a few slivers with no aroma. The base of this dish cooked “en papillote” tasted like traditional French onion soup. The “salty fingers,” an aquatic plant added after we opened our balloons, added nothing. This was a silly dish good only for show.
Rabbit Miso Cappuccino
Rabbit meat, Kyoto Miso
The chunks of rabbit meat had been nicely charred and served to us plain in a pretty bowl. We poured around the foamy white miso, which had a pleasant flavor and was a good textural match with the meat.
Meatball, Egg Yolk
This is a classic yakitori serving and was unusual for this meal in not having additional enhancements. Very nice.
A little glass with Akita salmon roe and watershield in sour plum juice arrived to serve as a palate cleanser.
Chicken breast, Red Beet, Arugula
The arugula is on top of the braised beets. The green dots are a wasabe mousse. In front is sakura salt from Akita for dipping. A nice dish.
Duck breast, Red wine sauce, Seasonal vegetable
The little bit of duck breast in a rich red wine reduction was very far from any style of Japanese cuisine. The vegetable garnishes were lovely.
Tori-Momo with Couscous
Chicken Thigh, Mashed potato, Eggplant, Couscous
A momo is a chicken thigh; this skewer was like a traditional yakitori piece, with some char. The garniture, however, was quite different and not at all Japanese. The base seemed to be soft polenta mixed with Israeli Couscous. On the left were dabs of mashed potato and small deep fried eggplant cylinders.
Chef’s Special Selection
These were probably the most complicated pieces of sushi that I have ever had. But they were fresh and the ingredients good so we enjoyed them a lot. The ginger was also fresh.
lshiyaki -TEISUI –
Miso soup, Red Snapper, King crab, Tokyo scallion, Mt.Fuji Rock
An Ishiyaki is a grilling stone, but in this case it was three volcanic rocks from Mount Fuji which had been heated in the yakitori charcoal. They were dropped from tongs to heat the miso soup in the big wooden pot. The soup had pieces of red snapper, king crab and scallions and was delicious.
Yuzu, Redbean, Milk Honey Ice cream, Sugar Cookie
Underneath was a yuzu jelly topped with sweet red beans. The ice cream was good. Brown tea was alongside.
For each course I had a full cup of a special sake. Most of them were Junmai Daiginjo from Akita. The first was a Nigorizake, unfiltered and cloudy with a mild, slightly sweet taste. “Diamond Dust” from Akita was clear, but completely unadulterated, as was another Akita sake, giving a crisp pure taste (and higher alcohol.) “Ice Dome” sake was from Hokkaido, where the rice has a special quality due to the one-crop short growing season. The last was a Honjōzō-shu in which a slight amount of brewer’s alcohol is added to the mash before pressing in order to extract extra flavors and aromas. I really enjoyed these, but I had to concentrate to appreciate the differences.
We had an enjoyable evening. The cuisine is not at all what I expected. It is billed as coming from a traditional ryokan and so I would have expected elegance, simplicity and especially authenticity. Well, most of our meal was just the opposite with complications, decorative flourishes and anomalies prevailing. Once we were able to accept it for what it is, we could enjoy it. The service was very good and the pace was good after a slow start. We enjoyed watching the assembly of the dishes and had some interaction across the counter with the sous-chefs. It was not too noisy, but the music was also out of character. The restaurant, only open for three weeks, was half-full. It will be interesting to see how it develops.