Went to Esaki Saturday night. Solid kaiseki, top quality ingredients as you would expect from a reputable kaiseki restaurant. Decent enough service, and very competitive prices (with some bizarre twists, such s the fact that they only accept one credit card per table, which is not convenient if there is three of you who pay separately and have little cash..).
However, decent as the experience was, it was also pretty unmemorable. The one thing that will remain in my mind is the ebi-imo, which was definitely the best ebi-imo I have ever had. Truly unbelievable. But the rest? All perfectly competently executed, but nothing particularly imaginative that stuck out. Also a pretty poor sake list.
I have absolutely no idea how that place got 3 Michelin stars. It is good - unlike Hamadaya, which is not and also somehow scored 3*** - but it is not even in the top ten kaiseki places I have been to. Another indicator, if we needed any, that many Michelin Japan ratings are to be taken with a pinch of salt. This has nothing to do with the often-quoted reason that Michelin is foreign and does not understand Japanese food - all Michelin inspectors in Japan (at least since the 2010 edition) have been Japanese. No idea how ratings are arrived at but it seems that they take a list of kaiseki restaurants with good reputations, throw dice and award the top prize to some.
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