Spring is a special time in Japan, especially April. New university graduates make their entrance into working life with “shin-seikatsu” season. Fresh-faced high-school graduates go their separate ways to enter university, trade schools or even start a job. Thankfully it’s also a popular time for new restaurants and other businesses to make their debut.
This April is no exception with the arrival of Kion. Among the hundreds of restaurants in the Ginza district, tucked away in the basement of a nondescript building, on a similarly non-descript side street is a cozy spot designed to showcase Japanese sake, shochu (Japanese vodka), and craft gin, all the while celebrating the four seasons of Japan. Upon arriving at the narrow entrance on the street level, you’ll wind your way down the steps to the second basement. At the entrance, live bamboo hints of the traditional atmosphere. Once inside, you are greeted by a beautiful Japanese floral arrangement and the long, dark wood counter and minimalist surroundings. With just nine seats Kion Ginza is an intimate choice where you’ll be able to relax and joy the theater of expertly prepared Japanese cuisine.
The seasonal Japanese cuisine has just a whisper of western influence sprinkled in, thanks to world-renowned chef and friend of Arigato Japan, Marybeth Boller. Chef Boller has worked with the likes of Jean Georges Vongeritchen and has also served as Executive Chef of the U.S. Embassy, Tokyo under Ambassador Caroline Kennedy.
Once the final menu is set, the fun really starts. The in-house sake master, Takafumi Doi, prepares a series of five artisan Japanese sakes, perfectly paired to complement the progression of dishes. During the heart of spring, the menu features regionally sourced ingredients like nori from Saga Prefecture, miso and aged soy sauce from Kagoshima, all complemented by select western ingredients like handmade cheese from Europe along with olive oil and nuts from California. The journey begins with a welcome drink of sparkling sake from Nagano, paired with a small appetizer, which on this visit was tiny homemade potato chips served with a refreshing nori sour cream dip.
Each pairing features an introduction to the sake followed immediately by the dish and pairing notes. On this occasion, the early spring menu opened with a California olive oil and katsuobushi (dried/smoked bonito) panna cotta, topped with a Parmesan cracker. This was paired with a tokubetsu junmai sake from Souhoumare brewery in Tochigi Prefecture. This handcrafted sake is blended with brews from the three to four years prior to maintain its consistent flavor. Sake and menu presentations are also available in English.
During your culinary journey of three gourmet courses, bookended by a small appetizer and dessert, your senses will be awakened and surprised at the colors, aromas and flavor profiles which spring to life through five expert pairings. The prix-fixe menu is ¥8,800, with tax and inclusive of a ¥1,000 table charge. A non-alcoholic option is available for ¥7,700 (tax and table charge included). Reservations are required and available by phone (03) 6263-8180, via the website or Table Check app. Dinner only, closed Sundays. Five minutes walk from Ginza or Shinbashi stations. Access map available on their website.