NYC chowhound in SF:
Went out with friends for a dinner at Kyo-Ya. I had enquired ahead and was informed of a holiday kaiseiki dinner special that had to be ordered ahead of time. 7 course meal including champagne. Four of us arrived at the really nicely decorated place. The light wood on the walls (and matching tables) has a very clean and contemporary feel. The place was full of Japanese people in formal attire. A good sign, I thought. We were seated in one of th esmaller rooms with two other tables. The service was warm and gracious. There were printed menus on our table waiting for us. All first rate. The champagne arrived and was very good.
First course - A Japanese cucumber salad with pieces of white raddish like root and a good amount of Salmon roe with a dab of wasabi on top. It was a refreshing array of textures albeit a little short on flavor. The roe was not exceptional but held its own. Good overall.
Second - A basket of 5-6 little items. Pieces of salmon minced with some mustard like sauce that was really good. A couple of root vegetables that were interesting - one was a miniature raddish purple and white in color. Another innocuous looking vegetable that was almost black and sort of hard turned out to be the best of the lot - succulent crunchy. Steamed tuna was a little hard but short on flavor.
Third - Miso soup. The soup was not the best (Nobu's four dollar cup of Miso is profound) but the tofu was fresh and velvety. Good but not eye opening.
Fourth - Sashimi course. three pieces of tuna and two of Japanese red snapper. This course epitomizes what was right and wrong about the entire meal. The fish seemed very fresh with the right texture. No trace of any fishy smell and the presentation was clean with the service was exactly right. Some one forgot to bring along the flavor. And I mean no taste.
Fifth - Tuna marinated in red wine and baked. Hmm! Three of us nibbled on it and just left it on the plate. The red wine was heavy and overpowered the tuna which was then made worse due to overcooking. Maybe we are not used to tuna cooked like red meat that made the fish more like dense meat with a heavy flavor.
Sixth - Butter fish with soba noodles in broth. The fish was a little over cooked and the soba noodles were like the sashimi - uh! whatever.
Seventh - rice cake in sweet gooey liquid dessert with green tea on the side. The Japanese dessert did not really evoke any feelings of amazement at this point.
We have not had very many bad Japanese meals in the last six months. One of us four had never had Japanese food before (only tempura). She ate everything (I mean cleaned her plates). That means the food was not bad, had no unpleasant smell or texture and was very well presented. OK what is the problem here. My hypothesis -The Kyo Ya meal seemed to have been conceived in Tokyo, executed to perfection and then frozen. It was then flown over to SF and was unfrozen right before our dinner. That some how robbed the food of its flovor (almost entirely). Have you had sashimi with perfect appearance with no soul - I did last night.