When I visited: May 2016 and February 2018
Location: Kyoto (within the Ritz-Carlton hotel)
Team: Kenji Fujimoto (Head Chef)
Rating in the Michelin Guide: Not rated in the Guide
What to wear: Men – jeans or nice trousers and a shirt; women – jeans and a smart top or a smart dress
Ambience: Fun, friendly
Course of the meal: Tempura bowl
If I could change one thing: Keep the sake off the bar (to free up room for the many dishes)
Tempura is a wondrous type of Japanese dining; it combines deep-frying with vegetables and light portions so that you feel full but not heavy afterwards. The tempura bar at Mizuki within the Ritz-Carlton hotel is a great place to try it out: you sit at a black granite bar with inlaid mother-of-pearl wave patterns, eat with beautiful and artistic crockery, chat to the other guests and watch your food being prepared and explained by the chef, Kenji Fujimoto (who talked to us afterwards and also makes kaiseki food). Mizuki also has a sushi bar and a kaiseki section if you fancy trying out the other strings to its bow.
There are only 8 seats in the tempura bar so you should book your place in advance. The mural is moon-themed (reminiscent of the wonderful restaurant in Tokyo, The Moon) and you get to choose your sake glass from a wonderful selection – my partner Owl and I went for a heavy pewter glass and an artfully dented cup to house our 180ml bottle of floral, delicious sake from Kyoto, which was kept in a crystal decanter in an ice bucket throughout the meal.
Throughout the meal, the chef advised us on how to optimise each piece of food with the sauces and seasoning in front of us (which involved 4 different types of salt, soy sauce, lemon juice and tempura sauce with a radish ball dissolved into it). We also got chatting to a businesswoman from France who sat next to us about wine, life and what we should grow in our garden (apparently, we should go for maple and Japanese magnolia trees).
Our appetiser was Kyoto duck, followed by sashimi – sea bream and bonito served within a beautiful ginger flower. The actual tempura included prawn head, scallops, courgette, white asparagus, a mini salad, prawns wrapped in a herb (shiso) leaf, sweetcorn, shittake mushroom, sea urchins, and lotus root (a favourite ingredient in many Japanese restaurants we encountered on our trip).
The ‘pre-dessert’ was the standout – the chef-recommended ‘tempura bowl’ of rice with mini fish (as at Kappa Sakamoto), miso soup and roasted green tea. We then enjoyed a Pierre Hermé dessert (see also La Locanda) with another cup of green tea – mini rose macarons with lemon and rose jelly.
After enjoying the sake last time, we went for a small bottle from Kyoto again, which had a very clean and fresh taste; we also got roasted green tea later in the meal and green teas at the end.
This time the appetiser was sesame tofu with radishes and trout roe, followed by tempura with 4 types of salt – normal, seaweed, Kyoto pepper and green tea. Other accompaniments included lemon juice and a dipping sauce with radish-in-rice consistency. We also had a choice of whether or not to have wasabi on the dishes, which I appreciated as a wasabi-hater.
The types of tempura we sampled included lotus root, prawn head, prawn, another type of prawn wrapped in mint, sweet potato, shiitake mushroom, broad bean, Wagyu beef with black truffle salt, flat fish with fish skin, and sea urchin with soy sauce. My favourite was the beef as the black truffle salt was a great highlight.
We also got a very fresh salad, miso soup and rice on a bed with egg yolk tempura and caviar topping with pickled vegetables on the side.
As well as a dessert from Pierre Hermé (strawberry pieces around mascarpone and strawberry sorbet) rose petals were thrown over us to celebrate a birthday and a birthday card was sweetly prepared and presented, as well as bonus birthday white chocolate writing.
Tempura Mizuki was one of our most fun dining experiences in Japan and definitely something I would recommend if you are in the mood for fried vegetables of the highest quality and the chance to choose your own sake cup(!).