Beautifully crafted Japanese cuisine & a genuine love for local produce. This is what we discovered when we visited Kyoto Kitchen in Winchester.
Winchester’s Parchment St — you’d be hard-pressed to find an area with more Muddy Award winners in this ‘ere British Isles. Today we’re visiting our best restaurant, Kyoto Kitchen.
Owner, Miff, is a stalwart of the city’s foodie scene and his homage to all things Japanese has a burgeoning reputation… why hello there Michelin inspectors.
Expectations are running high then, shall we?
Antique wedding kimonos hang on the wall and the precise table-setting is all very zen. The space is definitely intimate, as I said, Parchment St is an incubator for brilliant small businesses. Don’t quote me, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Kyoto moves onwards, upwards — and possibly outwards — sometime soon.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Forget YoSushi gimmickry, here it’s all about the food, the whole food and nothing but the food. Chef Shinju Irokawa is at the top of his game (so much so, that the Honda family are ‘borrowing’ him for 9-months to cook at the F1).
Expect deep Japanese tradition & technical wizardry combined with local produce, much of it from Hampshire.
Take, for example, the Winchester rolls: discs of sticky rice and chalk-stream trout served with wasabi grown only miles down the road; grating the fiery root on shark-skin creates a smooth, sweet, gutsy paste.
Yes, shark skin moonlighting as cheese grater — no need to adjust your screen.
Japanese food is all about small, light plates, think tasting menu as opposed three large courses. If you like your food slow and considered then you’ve found your spiritual home.
Fish in all its manifest glories — oak-smoked, salamander grilled, tempura-battered — also features high on the menu: creamy Lobster Harihari wrapped in crisp, pickled daikon; mellow scallops Ume Shiso Ae laced with a rich reduction of Japanese plum sauce; Sakura Salmon, tea-smoked with a goji-berry on top, and mouth-melting Sea Bass Isobe Age coated in the lightest tempura.
And finally, the fabled snow fish.
Over-fished thanks to Nobu placing it front and centre of its menu, black cod, as it’s also known, is now farmed in Canada. As the nickname suggests, the Gin Dara Black Cod’s flesh was pillow soft and white as a snow drift.
Miff has a strong relationship with Devon’s Brixham market, so expect lots of local fish: Cornish stone bass, John Dory and gilt-head seabream, plus more exotic fare. Recent offerings include barracuda caught off the coast of Senegal and Japanese bonito migrating through Spain.
Rounding-off my whirlwind tour of Japan via Hampshire, we sipped smokey organic oolong tea and chatted about the future. Off the record of course; as I said, watch this space.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Those who want something different, crafted with genuine passion. Lovers of sushi and those curious to find out more about specialist Japanese food.
Not for: If you don’t like seafood, there are other options but it seems like a terrible shame. If you’re after big, hearty plates, again, look elsewhere.
£££: Very good value for such a high standard of food, especially with local fish on the menu. A 5-course tasting menu is £35 per person. Small plates are around £8 each and the Chef’s fish nigiri selection is £14.95.
Kyoto Kitchen, 70 Parchment St, Winchester, Hants, SO23 8AT. Tel: 01962 890 895. kyotokitchen.co.uk
Words & images: Mary Malyon, Editor: Muddy Hants