Kien 帰燕: Feast in the East

Seared Chutoro with Spring Onion at Kien in Tokyo, JapanHi Everyone! It's been a while since I've written a post so forgive any signs of my illiteracy in this review. This is going to be a pretty long review so I hope you aren't hungry. Today, we'll be talking about Kien, a one Michelin-starred restaurant in Akasaka, Tokyo. It's known for its elaborate Kaiseki, or traditional multi-course meals.  These types of meals allow a chef to showcase his or her ability to prepare a variety of dishes, each of which utilize a different cooking technique. To me, Kaiseki meals are like tiny food adventures. Some have a slow start then end with a strong finish. Other meals might start off like a sprint then end with a casual walk. Looking back, our meal at Kien was intense and exciting... like a Christopher Nolan movie.

I went to Kien with my parents, my uncle and cousin, and Steph. We waited outside until our reservation time. PRO TIP: Make a reservation because this place is quite small. You can check out their reservation policy here. Anyway, while waiting, we noticed that some of the guests before us were escorted out of the restaurant by someone that looked like the chef! It seemed like they were all frequent customers. That was a good sign. 

Eventually, we were seated and offered some celebratory (and complimentary!) New Year's champagne. We ordered some sake and started the night out strong with some Green Crab (see below). The chilled Green Crab meat and roe was buried under some refreshing Vinegar Jelly. The taste was surprisingly light and delicate. The roe was firm and somewhat sweet. 



Green Crab with Vinegar Jelly and Sudashi Citrus at Kien in Tokyo, Japan






















Next, we had a small noodle dish (see below). On any other day, it was easily two bites worth. But, for this meal, I knew I had to savor my food. The next dish was Soba with Dried Mullet Roe, or Karasumi. This type of roe is salted then air-dried to condense all its savory and fishy flavors. As if it couldn't get any better, Kien also drizzled it with Truffle Oil


























Finally, the third dish was like the last note of a crescendo. It was jarringly rich, even more than the Green Crab Roe and the Truffle Karasumi Soba. It was a Steamed Egg Custard with Shirako, or Milt (see below). It's the male version of roe and it's typically harvested from Cod. It sounds strange but it's surprisingly good. It's creamy and buttery, kind of like liquefied monk liver. The milt, enclosed in a thin casing, was lightly torched until brown. It looked like the burnt cheese part of the pizza. Actually, it also tasted like burnt cheese. Sounds good, right? It was also topped with some Shaved Truffles. *mic drop*


Steamed Egg Custard with Shirako and Truffle at Kien in Tokyo, Japan






















At this point, Kien had my full attention... sort of. I drank a lot of sake by this point. The fourth dish was tempura made with Grouper, Fuki, and Bamboo Shoot (see below). Overall, the crunchy exterior was light and thin. The Grouper was soft and mild in flavor. To me, the Fuki was very interesting. It's known to be a bitter vegetable and it has to be prepared very carefully because parts of the plant can be toxic when ingested. Kien's Fuki tempura was not at all bitter and similar in flavor to fennel or celery. 



Grouper, Fuki, and Bamboo Shoot Tempura at Kien in Tokyo, Japan

To wash down the tempura oils, we were served a Crab Meat Ball with Nori, Rice Cake, Lemon Rind, Carrot, and Gold Flake (see below). Carefully, I devoured it whole to enjoy all the flavors of the different ingredients. It tastes the way you would imagine: hearty and refreshing. The Lemon Rind was great because it brought in some zesty, bitter flavor. It sat in a little bath of broth.


Crab Meat Ball with Nori, Rice Cake, Lemon Rind, Carrot, and Gold Flake at Kien in Tokyo, Japan























The next dish was quite a delicacy. It came in two parts. First, the Fugu fish. You can read all about the Fugu fish here. Also known as the pufferfish, this fish contains a deadly amount of tetrodotoxin in its liver, eyes, skin, and other internal organs. There is no known antidote for its poison. 



Fugu Skin and Meat at Kien in Tokyo, Japan

FUN FACTFugu chefs have to train for two to three years to gain certification. The exam includes a real fugu preparation test where candidates must eat the fish they prepared themselves. Only about two-thirds of the candidates pass. I'm afraid to ask what happened to the other one-third of the candidates. Sounds like a promising career path.

Anyway, our Fugu came with both the meat and the skin (see above). They were both fairly similar in taste but the skin was a bit bouncier. It tastes like chicken but with a jelly-like texture. Additionally, Kien provided us with a tiny bowl of Shirako in Ponzu Sauce (see below). This time, the Shirako seemed to be without its outer casing. Same flavor as before but less viscous and more salty (because of the Ponzu). 



Shirako in Ponzu Sauce at Kien in Tokyo, Japan


Next, we had some Chutoro over Rice (see below). It was topped with finely julienned Spring Onion. Chutoro is a specific cut of Tuna that is along the belly but located towards the tail. It is a crowd favorite because it is less fatty than Otoro but fattier than Akami. Kien lightly seared the Chutoro so the exterior had a smoky aroma and a firm, meaty texture. We ate this in one bite and it was glorious. 


Seared Chutoro with Spring Onion at Kien in Tokyo, Japan

The next dish was, to me, the star of the show. It was like a really fancy surf-and-turf and it actually tasted really good. On one plate, there were two slices of meat and two slices of fish. First, we'll check out the meat, which was a Wagyu Filet
 (see below). These bite-sized flavor bombs were cooked medium rare to contain all the heavenly juices. It was accompanied by a scoop of wasabi. Yes, the Japanese enjoy wasabi with their beef too!


Wagyu Filet at Kien in Tokyo, Japan
























The fish of the dish was a Grilled Nodoguro (Blackthroat Seaperch)
 (see below). This fish was transcendental. It's definitely up there at the top of my list of best fish experiences. I didn't know a fish could be so juicy and flavorful. The thing that boggled me was how balanced all the flavors were. That charred, smoky flavor from the skin was perfectly aligned with the rich, buttery flavor of the meat. If you've ever tried Otoro (the fattiest part of the tuna), it's probably a bit less buttery than that but that's still amazing for a white-fleshed fish. This fish is rarely seen in restaurants because the fish itself is quite rare. In addition, the yield per fish is so low that you don't get a lot of meat per fish. 


Grilled Nodoguro (Blackthroat Seaperch) at Kien in Tokyo, Japan






















Next, we had a warm, simple dish to wash down all the extravagant flavors of the previous dish. It was a Turnip and Gingko Ball with Shrimp and Wasabi
 (see below). Ginkgo nuts are soft and chewy, like a jelly bean. It tastes nutty and a little bitter. FUN FACT: Eating 10+ ginkgo nuts can cause stomach aches or nausea.

Shrimp, Turnip, Wasabi, and Ginkgo in Warm Dashi Jelly at Kien in Tokyo, Japan























Next, we had some pickled vegetables and miso soup to accompany our... 


Miso Soup at Kien in Tokyo, JapanPickled Vegetables at Kien in Tokyo, Japan





















MASSIVE RICE DISH!
 (see below)After 9 whole dishes, they hit us with a huge pot full of Red Snapper and Salmon Roe over rice. It was beautiful. All the sweet juice of the fish had seeped into the rice. Honestly, if I weren't hungry, I could probably eat the whole thing. But, I was so full. Most kaiseki meals end with a rice dish so they make sure you don't leave hungry. 


Red Snapper with Salmon Roe over Rice at Kien in Tokyo, Japan

Finally, we are at the dessert. We got one of each dessert to share. The first was a Warabi-mochi, which is a Bracken Starch Jelly
 (see below). It was covered in Kinako (Toasted Soybean Flour). It's different than regular mochi because regular mochi is made with glutinous rice. To me, it's a bit softer than regular mochi. The Kinako gives it a sweet, nutty, and maple-like taste. 

Warabi-mochi Bracken Starch Jelly covered in Kinako Toasted Soybean Flour at Kien in Tokyo, Japan





















Next, we tried the Brown Sugar Blancmange
 (see below). It's very similar to a panna cotta. It's a sweet dessert that's made with milk or cream. The flavor is mild but it goes well with sweeter toppings like fruit. 

Brown Sugar Blancmange at Kien in Tokyo, Japan
The third dessert was a Pistachio and Coconut Bavarian Cream (see below). This one was much more rich and creamy. It was a sinful dessert compared to the Blancmange. 


Pistachio and Coconut Bavarian Cream at Kien in Tokyo, Japan



















Lastly, we had the Shiratama Zenzai (see below). It was made of Azuki Beans, Mochi and Vanilla Ice Cream. This is a very traditional dessert but usually there is no ice cream. I liked it! 

Cream Shiratama Zenzai Azuki Beans with Mochi Ball and Vanilla Ice Cream at Kien in Tokyo, Japan

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Information:
赤坂2-18-8
Minato, 東京都 〒107-0052
Japan
+81 3 3505 0728
Recommendations:
Green Crab with Vinegar Jelly and Sudashi Citrus
Soba with Dried Mullet Roe Powder and Truffle Oil
Steamed Egg Custard with Shirako and Truffle
Grouper, Fuki, and Bamboo Shoot Tempura
Crab Meat Ball with Nori, Rice Cake, Lemon Rind, Carrot, and Gold Flake
Fugu Skin and MeatShirako in Ponzu SauceSeared Chutoro with Spring OnionWagyu FiletGrilled Nodoguro (Blackthroat Seaperch)Shrimp, Turnip, Wasabi, and Gingko in Warm Dashi JellyRed Snapper with Salmon Roe over RicePickled VegetablesMiso SoupWarabi-mochi Bracken Starch Jelly covered in Kinako Toasted Soybean FlourBrown Sugar BlancmangePistachio and Coconut Bavarian CreamCream Shiratama Zenzai Azuki Beans with Mochi Ball and Vanilla Ice Cream

Miscellaneous Pictures of Attractive People:

Grouper, Fuki, and Bamboo Shoot Tempura at Kien in Tokyo, Japan

Red Snapper with Salmon Roe over Rice at Kien in Tokyo, Japan


Shrimp, Turnip, Wasabi, and Gingko in Warm Dashi Jelly at Kien in Tokyo, JapanSoba with Dried Mullet Roe Powder and Truffle Oil at Kien in Tokyo, Japan


Brown Sugar Blancmange and Pistachio and Coconut Bavarian Cream at Kien in Tokyo, JapanBrown Sugar Blancmange at Kien in Tokyo, Japan

Champagne at Kien in Tokyo, Japan

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