Our initial reservation time was at 1 PM, but Makiko Nishi, the restaurant's okami, suggested us coming earlier at around noon time so that we would not be rush and the kitchen would be able to prepare more dishes for us - what a kind gesture! From the original booking, my concierge at hotel Okura informed me that we would be seated at the private room. I was really glad when we arrived at Kyo Aji and knowing that the counter seating was still available. Of course, I decided to seat there instead of the private room. It was always fun to see the live action of Master Chef Kenichiro Nishi and his kitchen staffs. It seems that I have a good luck in terms of eating Matsutake, Japan's highly sought-after mushroom. 2 years ago, the Matsutake harvest was late so we still could eat this Pine mushroom in the middle of November. On the contrary, this year, the harvest was a bit early (coming out in September) hence our lunch at Kyo Aji in early Oct coincidentally was the 'peak' period for Matsutake season. Consequently, our meal was quite similar to what we had a couple of years ago except this time we still had a chance to eat Kamo nasu often known as Kyoto's queen of eggplants. However, I love that this happened since I just cannot have enough of Matsutake - officially, my favorite mushroom in the world.
What was as memorable as the food at Kyo Aji was its hospitality. Once again, the chef-owner Kenichiro Nishi led the way. When we arrived at the restaurant, there were 4 other guests already seated inside. Yet, upon knowing other guests arrived, Chef Nishi, wearing his Geta, came out and greeted us. Then, the "Kaiseki God" himself escorted us to the dining room. Not only that, he even voluntarily pulled and pushed our chairs! Ladies and gentlemen, he's nearly 80 years old and given his stature, we were truly humbled and became a bit 'uncomfortable' receiving his sincere kindness ... after all, we're not the restaurant's VIPs but very grateful to be treated as such. As soon as we're seated, the sous chef told the waitress to inform Makiko Nishi that we had arrived. In less than 5 minutes, the okami welcomed us and this time she's not wearing the kimono. It's likely that day or during our lunch was her off-day but we indirectly "made" her return to the restaurant. As expected, she declined our conjecture and told us not to worry about it. The service went smoothly. Ms. Makiko clearly explained the dish especially the one we didn't have before. He also acted as a translator and mediator between us and her father. This time she also shared that Nishi-san was actually a very approachable person. Her father like many different kind of cuisine and even simpler food - he would be satisfied even with rice, egg & pickles. At around 2 PM during our lunch, her dad already asked her what he would have for lunch that day - he could choose only when Makiko was the one preparing the food, but not when here mother was around. Moreover, according to Makiko-san, her dad never complained & criticized his wife cooking at home even though when even she thought it had not been good. An interesting short story and perspective about the life of probably the most respectable chef in Japan.
Food: 99 pts
Service: 97 pts