When I visited: February 2018
Location: Kyoto (Gion)
Rating in the Michelin Guide: 1 star
Team: Masayasu Yonemura (Head Chef)
What to wear: Men – jeans or nice trousers and a shirt; women – jeans and a smart top or a smart dress
Course of the meal: Turtle soup with mushroom croquette and beef stew on top
If I could change one thing: More vegetarian options
Gion is one of the most beautiful and traditional districts of Kyoto, and is awash with great family-run restaurants featuring traditional Japanese dishes. At Restaurant Yonemura, you sit at the counter and watch the chefs and meet both the Head Chef and dessert chefs, and also get to enjoy an amazing array of crockery including dishes with paintings of Mount Fuji and Venetian mini-saucers and hammered metal spoons.
There was a choice of set menus and we chose the ‘medium’ one which was pretty substantial. We went for a Makamoto sake which went nicely with everything. The dishes were heavily influenced by Italian as well as Japanese ingredients.
The first course was an edible flower on top of a stuffed half tomato, followed by chopped apple and parsnip and lobster and a mushroom and mini brioche. All these appetisers were really delicious and not too heavy. Next came a gorgeous turtle soup with a mushroom croquette and beef stew on top, followed by a big oyster in its shell with consommé and risotto.
There was also a black truffle course, served inside a sphere with ham, potato and consommé, and spaghetti with sake and fish and sauce, which was a good dish but difficult to eat. We also got a very thinly sliced and cured Wagyu fillet steak with dips of sauces (garlic, shiso, salt and Japanese radish). On the side, we got plenty of pickled cucumber and vegetables as well as rice with mini sardines in it (a traditional and amazing dish from Kyoto, which I have subsequently found out is called ‘shirasu-don’).
Before dessert, we got a palate cleanser of champagne sorbet, then between us enjoyed the fruit parfait with matcha and ice cream as well as cheesecake with a real slice of cheese (Brie) and vanilla ice cream. With our green teas we got some quality petits fours – bean on biscuit and a rich chocolate square truffle.