We went last week to Matsumoto - I didn't immeditaely post on it because I've ben letting the experience "percolate." In the end, I don't think we'll go back (although maybe we'd try their other ordering options - I don't know).
We ordered the $100 per person "Very traditional" menu. It started off well. They had a very nice nigori - not as sweet as most nigoris are - and my husband had a premium dry sake (both served chilled). The original course was a knockout - monkfish liver in a ponzu sauce with fish roe on top - absolutely delicious. Then came a trio of appetizers: baby eggplant with a foam of yama imo (a type of tuber that gets slimy when grated), something in the middle that I forget (sorry - though I do remember liking it), and baby squid in a salty sauce. Since I had specifically asked NOT to be served this dish (based on other's reports of it), I was dismayed to see it, to say the least. They whisked it away and gave me in its place a small stack of diakon slices in a vinegar dressing - not a comparable substitution at all. My husband confirmed that though the sauced tasted great, the slimy and resilient texture of the baby squid (which he described as like vinyl coated with vaseline) would definately have made me gag.
Next came a soup served in a small teapot - very good: whitefish, ginko nuts and matsutake mushrooms in a clear broth which you poured into a small sake cup to drink. It was excellent. Then came a plate of sushi. Since I wasn't able to convince them that I really like squid (just not chewy baby squid in salty pureed squid sauce), they substituted salmon for squid on my plate. It was all excellent - very tender and flavorful. This was followed by a dish of oysters in a miso broth with chives - very rich, the most substantial of the dishes. Next came the most disappointing dish - a stew of tuna chunks with mushrooms in some kind of broth - very bland and uninteresting - it was so boring we didn't even finish it. Next was a trio of small bites: three tiny river fish, grilled whole and glazed with a teriyake-like sauce (crunchy and slightly bitter), something else which I forget (sorry again), and some tasty, tender slices of duck breast. This was followed by three sushi - toro, salmon and kani - pretty prosaic (the kani was watery). Last was a traditional dessert of squares of red bean paste with chunks of potato, topped with something else (sorry again - cn recall what it was). It was similar to yokan, although most yokan I've had is sweeter. This was pretty bland.
Afterward we felt that the food was mostly good, but the presentation had been backwards - they went from the marvellous to the great, to the good, to the okay, and ended with the boring. Added to the fact that the decor is nothing to rave about (we had to ask that the enormous TV sitting on the bar facing me be turned off because it was so distracting), and, as someone mentioned in a previous post, the napkins are paper and the chopsticks are the cheap pull-apart kind (why not the more expensive pull-apart kind?), the total effect (for a bill of nearly $300 including sake, tax and tip) was, in the end, underwhelming.
I don't think the problem was that the food was too traditional for us - we ate nothing but traditional food in Japan. Oden is traditional and we love it. We ate at a three-hundred year old tofu restaurant on the grounds of a temple in Kyoto - can't get more traditional than that! We've eaten the traditional stew that's used to fatten sumo wrestlers. We've eaten codfish testicles. We've eaten grilled squid balls at a temple matsuri. I think I know what good, traditional Japanese food is - but everyone's vision is different. Food is a romance, and different things resonate with different people. C'est la vie.