Sunday, April 02, 2006

Miracle at Soujiki Nakahigashi

Our friend Harris Salat has visited Kyoto several times, so we asked him to recommend where we should eat there. Without hesitation, he immediately responded with "Soujiki Nakahigashi." He urged us to make a reservation quickly since the restaurant is very popular. So, Hiroko picked up the telephone (one day in early January) and called the restaurant from our home in Brooklyn.

A woman answered, and Hiroko requested a table for two on Feb 2 at 6:30PM. "See you then," she said, and hung up. Great! We had a reservation. Easily done!

On Feb 2, we went to the restaurant. It was a cozy place with a counter that seated 12, and two additional tatami rooms. There were already 7 customers sitting, waiting to be served, and two more arrived shortly after. After greeting us and chatting briefly (we learned that Masa, yes "that Masa", had made the trip to Kyoto to his restaurant), Chef Nakahigashi-san presented each dish to each member of what quickly had become a friendly group, explaining what it was that we were to be tasting and how it had been prepared.

Every bite either elicited the ultimate compliment of "oishii" (delicious) from everyone or rendered them speechless as they reveled in the flavors and textures of this masterfully conceived and prepared kaiseki meal. Despite the chef's descriptions, the food was so incredible that we don't remember sorry but notetaking just didn't seem right! Chef Nakahigashi-san uses nothing but organic and seasonally available ingredients. It was an experience that was pure and sensitive, and simple and straightforward. His deft use of seasoning ensured that it never interfered with the natural flavor of the ingredients. Sugoi!

A woman from Osaka seated next to Hiroko asked us if we had been to the restaurant before and when we had made our reservation. The gentleman next to Rick inquired if we knew the chef and if we had arranged our trip intinerary around the date of the reservation. At first we were amused by their questions, thinking that they were very friendly people who love to talk to foreigners. However, what we then realized was that they were curious because the restaurant is known to be extremely hard to get a to impossible according to them. In fact, they were wondering how WE living in NY managed to get a reservation at all on such "short notice!"

They described to us how many of the restaurant's customers, while there, make their NEXT reservation 2 or 3 months ahead. The woman next Hiroko told us that she made a reservation for July, 5 months ahead; the man next to Rick told us that he comes to the restaurant every 3 to 4 months. That's how they make reservation, not calling them, but eating at the restaurant! As a result, it has become increasingly difficult for anyone other than regular customers to get reservation...even among people living in Kyoto.

And yet somehow, even though we called from NY, actually had someone pick up the phone, and easily made a reservation only one month advance for the week that we were already scheduled to be in Kyoto, and for the day we wanted???!!! How? Mystery or Miracle?

Soujiki Nakahigashi
Phone: 011-81-75-752-3500
Information on the restaurant in Japanese
(they do not have their own website.)

More photos of dining in Kyoto? Click here!


Anonymous said...

hi, just wondering how do you get to the restaurant ? is it near train station?

Hiroko and Rick said...

Thank you for the question! We actually took a taxi to go to the restaurant. The restaurant is so famous that a taxi driver knew where it is located.

There is a bus stop nearby the restaurant. The restaurant is vicinity of Ginkakuji, Silver Pavilion.