Kion: Exquisite sake/cuisine pairings in Ginza

To enjoy fine food accented by good drink is the height of epicureanism. Kion, a small restaurant opening today in Ginza is dedicated to such pleasure.

The name “Kion“ means “seasonal garden“ and the restaurant has taken as its mission serving set menu meals made with seasonal ingredients, each course set off by a carefully selected sake or wine.

I was fortunate to enjoy a “sneak preview“ dinner not long ago as a result of which I can wholeheartedly endorse the Kion dining experience. Since the focus is on providing meals that use ingredients in season, the menu will be ever-changing, inviting repeat visits, too.

My meal began with an apertif of sparkling sake produced in Saga Prefecture. The sake was, of course, chosen for its taste and suitability, but also as an homage to the dishes used at Kion that are produced in Saga’s famous porcelain kilns.

My glass of bubbly was soon followed by a delightful stacked layer appetizer: a foundation of oatmeal and black rice topped with layers of tuna, avocado and mango. The scrumptious flavors complimented each other perfectly.

The main courses of the meal were served in a modern ceramic version of the Japanese Jubako, tiered boxes traditionally, and still, used to hold and serve special occasion food. The Kion version looks like a round ball but is actually three layered receptacles topped with a convex lid.

The top container held the first course, a Californian olive oil-infused Pannacotta, its creaminess offset by a crispy layer of Parmesan and Katsuobushi (bonito flakes) topped with thin slices of vegetable garnish. A small side dish of strawberry and beet salad with a pleasant soft cheese was the perfect counterbalance (who knew strawberries and beets went together so well?).

Also perfect was the choice of sake for this course, a “Yamamoto Pure Black” made in Akita Prefecture. The sake cup itself was a fun addition, a quirky shape that somehow fit perfectly in the hand.

When this course was finished, the dish was swept away to reveal the next layer, a local soy bean hummus and farm salad made with vegetables grown in Yamanashi Prefecture and served with a delicious sake from Tottori Prefecture. This was accompanied by delightful little crispy cheese pastries perfect for scooping up the hummus.

Waiting in the bottom layer was the so-called “main course” of the evening, a cauliflower ravioli topped with salmon. After the dish was revealed, a hot broth of braised pork and cabbage was added. It was a symphony of flavor and texture in perfect harmony. The dish was exquisitely paired with 2018 California Pinot noir.

To finish our meal we had a special aged sake, a 1998 vintage from Nipponmatsu in Fukushima Prefecture. Deep, sweet, and smooth, this sake could compete with any fine dessert wine. As a special treat (apparently not usually available) we were also served a delectable sweet. Once again, the food and the wine were flawlessly paired.

As with any Japanese dining experience, the atmosphere is as important as the cuisine. Kion has friendly, knowledgeable staff, ready to provide details about both the cuisine and the drinks.

Kion is not difficult to find. It is located in the FORGED Bldg. (8-7-10 Ginza) at the south end of the Ginza district on Konparu-Dori, just around the corner from Hakuhin Toy Park. The restaurant itself is on the B2 level (stair access only) and included in its recent renovation is an air ionization system to ensure appropriate health and safety in this time of contagion.

Kion is open from 17:30, Monday through Saturday. The set course dinner, including the paired drinks, is only JPY7,000 (plus table charge), a very reasonable price for such a convivial evening. Reservations are required. (Phone 03-6253-8180)

© 2021 and Vicki L. Beyer
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