Featured restaurant: Isechō

Isechō 伊勢長

Isechō in the 1920s

Isechō in the 1920s

Established almost 300 years ago, with its distinctive character and deep awareness of the seasons, Isecho has a long and prestigious tradition of Kyoto cuisine. In 1715, Isechō, named after the founder Matsuzaka Ise, started out as a small catering shop in front of the main entrance to the Imperial Palace. Long admired by local Kyotoites as the traditional keepers of Kyoto’s culinary arts, Isecho is now located in the former residence of statesman and industrialist, “father of the trolley trains”, Gentaro Tanaka, which is built in the refined sukiya-zukuri style. It is located on Shinmachi-dori, and each year the spectacular floats of the Gion Matsuri pass by the front of the restaurant.

Summer hamo dishes

Summer hamo dishes

From the Isechō website:
“Kyoto: the imperial capital for a thousand years. Kyoto cuisine has been gradually refined from this beautiful and culturally rich environment. Compensating for the lack of availability of seafood, Kyoto cuisine turned its focus to developing superior grade vegetables, and elevating its culinary technique to the point of fine art. As season follows season, one by one the fresh ingredients are carefully scrutinised: contemplating the various colours, arranging the various shapes, drawing out each individual taste. Taking the time and effort to diligently prepare the ingredients in this way, breathes life into the meal so that the truly delicious taste of the seasons comes alive.”

One of Isechō’s signature meals, which you can see in the video below, is focussed on celebrating the Gion Matsuri, which happens throughout July with the grand parade on July 17th, including summertime favourite hamo (dagger-tooth pike conger eel) served as sashimi in a dish poetically called yakishimo “grilled frost”. Hamo comes into peak season in the few days before the parade and, in fact, the Gion Matsuri is also known as the Hamo Matsuri.

Kaiseki cuisine: ¥12,600 – ¥31,500 (plus tax & service)

Take-out bento also available ¥3,675 – ¥8,400 (please order the day before)
Open: 11:30 – 21:30 (last order 19:30)
Address: 京都市中京区新町通錦小路上ル
Telephone: 075-221-0300
Fax: 075-251-0622

4 Comments on “Featured restaurant: Isechō”

  1. Sissi says:

    Dear Cate, first of all thank you so much for your incredibly kind and warm comment on my blog (and all the compliments which made me blush!). I must say I am hypnotised by your blog! It’s one of the most original, fascinating websites I have ever seen. Having access to the food-related information available only in Japanese is what every fan of Japanese cuisine dreams of, so the aim of your blog is definitely laudable and I love the way you don’t omit the slightest details, going to the depth of information.
    Thank you so much again for visiting my blog and introducing me to the wonderful world of Japanese chefs you unveil. See you very soon!

    • Cate Pearce says:

      Well, thank you right back Sissi for your enthusiastic words of encouragement. One of the reasons I went back to university to study Japanese, even though I’m in my 50s, was to be able to read these wonderful Japanese cuisine websites and books and the words of the great Kyoto chefs for myself. So being able to share their words with others who are just as passionate as me about Japanese food culture is a real privilege. Thank you for sharing the journey.

      • Sissi says:

        Cate, thank you very luch for the kind answer. You have sown a seed of hope for me! I thought that since I passed well the age when I was a university student, I had no possibility to learn kanji well enough to read anything… I must work harder and who knows… You have no idea how you have encouraged me to work harder my kanji! (I’d better work harder on kana first 😉 ). Have you ever heard of Shinya Shokudo? It’s a manga series, but I have watched only the film series (discovered thanks to Hiroyuki) and I fell in love. Not only because it’s about food (it’s not only about food) but because of the particular climate, athmosphere… I was wondering if one day I’d be able to read the manga, of course with a dictionary’s help.

      • Cate Pearce says:

        Yes, Shinya Shokudo is a great series – as is Kodoku no Gurume. As for learning kanji, it is quite difficult for my old brain to keep remembering – in fact, it is said that you have to actually develop new neural pathways in order to remember kanji because it uses a different part of your brain! But I feel that the effort is worth it to gain a deeper insight into the profound culture of Japanese arts, including food arts, where the preparation of a meal is like creating a gastronomic poem, which of course can be appreciated with the senses, but I want to understand more deeply about the aesthetics behind it as well. That is part of what I want to share with this blog.

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