A Kaiseki Lunch in Kyoto
The nested jubacko boxes were unfolded and opened like Russian matryoska dolls on the granite countertop: sushi grade sashimi and tamago, steamed vegetables in all shades of nature’s color-wheel, crispy ethereal tempura vegetables, miso soup: this was the exact moment we became more confident we had found the kaiseki lunch at Ishin-an Restaurant in the Ikumatsu Ryokan. Up to that point, we weren’t entirely certain.

While “Ikumatsu” is carved into a archway of a narrow faux-brick building, you’re likely to miss the restaurant the first few times you walk by it. (We did at least.) There are no sidewalk displays announcing its offerings, just a small set menu posted by the door. Through a single black door you find in the small annex of the Ikumatsu Ryokan a small restaurant with white walls, yellowing tile floors, a long granite countertop with barstools, and three or four small tables.

There is one set kaiseki lunch at Ishin-an. Kaiseki is a multi-course meal known for its presentation and for being healthy. Each of the jubacko boxes are elegantly arranged like colorful flowers; the food is paired for taste and texture and served in a traditional, proscribed order.

My favorite dish was a basic yet beautiful combination of pickled beets, mushrooms and cucumbers served with a soft, sticky rice. I am predominately a meat and potatoes kind of guy and I didn't expect that this austere vegetarian dish would be a serious contender for my favorite dish of all time.
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