Tempura Matsu Karasumi

Japanese Food Kyoto

Chef Toshio Matsuno's stupendous kaiseki meal included binchotan grilled, house-cured mullet roe (karasumi).

Repeated efforts, which ultimately included pleading, resulted in a prized table at Kyoto’s Tempura Matsu, a kaiseki-style restaurant in Kyoto near Arashiyama that trusted advisors highly recommended. Chef Toshio Matsuno took over Tempura Matsu from his father after training in New York City with Alain Ducasse in Tokyo, and for Grant Achatz and Charlie Trotter in Chicago. His mother ran front of house during my visit, and his sister was also working the floor. You won’t find a printed menu. Tempura Matsu offers just two options that channel the seasons: Omakase (10,000 yen) or Syun (15,000 yen). I opted for the latter, a multi-course extravaganza that included just four pieces of tempura, which was just fine.

My wife and I started in a booth made semi-private with wood slats, and eventually progressed to the chef’s counter, which provides a view of mountains past kitchen windows, which must be good for morale. I was mightily impressed with a parade of seafood and vegetable preparations, but will remember the first course most fondly.

Sizzling binchotan charcoal arrived on bed of salt, topped with orange, house-cured mullet roe (karasumi). Matsuno seared and plated supple slices on ginkgo rice atop a fall leaf, served with persimmon in tofu sauce with decorative flower. The come hither aroma and display both impressed me, but paled in comparison to the balanced flavor from seasonal ingredients.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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Chef Toshio Matsuno also did a stage with Chef David Bouley in New York at his former Duane Street location. His family closed their Kyoto restaurant to join Bouley at Home (now located near the Flatiron District) for a series of pop up dinners at the end of September 2019.

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