Kyoto’s temples of haute cuisine can be intimidating. The tradition, etiquette and price tag don’t make them the most accessible of restaurants. One place that strives for perfection with its food, but is not quite as formal as Kitcho, Kikunoi or Mizai is Ogata.
Located not far from Kyoto’s Nishiki market, the restaurant stands out for the minimalist, but warm and beautiful dining room. Despite the fact that you’re in the centre of the city, your view is that of a tranquil little garden, which together with the wood-dominated dining room has a soothing effect on anyone stepping in here. The warmth and friendliness of Mr Ogata and his team help to further break the ice, and immediately create a feeling of having stepped into a world of its own.
Ogata’s food and its presentation are as simple and beautiful as the dining room. He is a master of creating a menu with an effortless flow of dishes; one harmoniously leading up to the next. On top of that, his food is minimalist to the extreme. Don’t expect big flavours, and complex combinations. This is about as pure and unadulterated as food gets. The best example is tori gai (surf clam or heart clam), which is served on its own, to showcase the stunning texture and flavour of the clam. The sweetness and meaty, crunchy meat make this a remarkable shellfish. Even better is abalone, served chilled in its jellified cooking juices. Again, this is food that is arresting, captivating and oh-so pure.
If you appreciate fine nuances, and look for pristine produce, Ogata is a restaurant that you will love for its unassuming cooking and warm atmosphere. Whilst it certainly isn’t cheap, it gives you an impression of what kaiseki is all about, and what hospitality in Japan means.