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Thursday, April 17, 2014

MUFA Day #11: Kyoto and Il Ghiottone

Human settlements have been found in the Kyoto area going back as far as 35,000 BC, but very little is known before the 6th century AD.  At one time this city was known as Miyako, the name of my hotel, or Meaco.  This was the Imperial capital for more than a millennium, until Tokyo took over in 1869.  Kyoto at one time was on the final list for one of the atomic bombs, but an adjustment was made to Nagasaki, my next stop on this Shinkansen journey.  In general, the city was largely spared from World War II bombings because it was considered to be the intellectual center of Japan.  This was where the protocol on global warming was drawn up in 1997.

While once the largest city in Japan, with slightly less than 1.5 million, it is now #8.  There are 37 institutions of higher education, with Kyoto University #2 to Tokyo University in Japan, and a world ranking of #25.  There are 2,000 temples and 17 locations are on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.  Kyoto has sister city relationships with Boston, Paris, Florence, Kiev and Xian.

One of the problems I have in Japan is  that some of the better restaurants do not allow ONE PERSON to dine.  I tried to reserve Kitcho Arashiyama, for example, but was rebuffed.  After a series of declines, my concierge, Chieko, finally suggested the best Italian-Japanese fusion establishment in Kyoto for lunch,  Il Ghiottone.  To quote:

Chef Yasuhiro Sasajima virtually invented the category Japanese-Italian. It’s not just that he incorporates traditional Kyoto vegetables in his antipasti, pasta and secundi. More than that, he imbues his cucina with that ineffable kaiseki aesthetic. It’s won him plaudits and Michelin stars.

I walked from the Westin Miyako and took some photos of temples and flowers:


It was a challenge, but I finally found Il Ghiottone, the best Italian restaurant in Kyoto.  I started with a higher form of Prosecco, then, with the meal, had three glasses:  a Japanese Red from Nagano, a Brunello and a Barolo:


The meal started with a sea urchin dish:


Then a caprese of ocellated octopus, with mozzarella cheese and tomato:


A Red Snapper Carpaccio:


Smoked abalone:


Then a sautéed foie gras:


The final entre was an excellent grilled duck from Burgaud:


I'm eating too much, but that protuberance is more the contour of the shirts and shadowing:


The dessert was a melange of berries, cream, cheeses and ice cream:


This will probably be the best lunch I'll have on this trip and might well be my second best Italian meal ever, second to the white truffles risotto I had in Rome.  The Barolo was the best wine, with the Japanese red edging out the Brunello.  The total cost was higher than my hospital bill, explained in the previous posting when you scroll down.

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