Tominokoji, Oike, Kyoto, Japan

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Yoshikawa is a ryokan in central Kyoto that has been operating since 1952. It serves tempura, with its restaurant open to outsiders as well as residents. The dining room has eleven seats arranged in a semi-circle around a central station. There is a view from the room on to a pretty garden, and private dining rooms look out onto a more extensive garden.

The meal began with some little appetisers: squid, shrimp with bamboo and a sushi of unidentified white fish wrapped in a leaf. These were pleasant rather than particularly exciting, though the squid was tender (14/20). There was then some chu-toro tuna and sashimi of a fish with the rather wonderful name "splendid Alfonsino" (kinmedai in Japanese), a deep-sea fish reminiscent of sea bream that had quite good flavour (14/20).

The sequence of tempura then followed, starting with prawn. The best tempura restaurants prepare the prawns from live just moments before frying but this prawn was pre-prepared, good but not the very best. This was followed by some vegetables, scallop (the best of the lot, quite sweet), button mushroom, bamboo shoot, kiss fish, lotus root, sweet potato and sable fish, finishing with another prawn and then a clump of kakkiage (vegetable fritter) on rice with pickles. The tempura batter was quite light, though not the gossamer quality that you find in the top tempura restaurants of Tokyo. Ingredient quality was reasonable but the vegetables were pleasant rather than top notch as they can be in Japan (the tempura was between 13/20 and 14/20 standard).

Dessert was offered in the lounge, an unusual thing in normally cramped dining rooms in Japan but then as a ryokan they have more space than most. From here you can see a much larger and very attractive garden. The dessert comprised some kiwi fruit, a single cherry and a yoghurt sorbet. Kiwi fruit is a peculiar fruit to choose, and the cherry had little flavour, which was jarring given that the top quality fruit in Japan is the best in the world. Moreover the sorbet was served too cold and was rock hard when it appeared (9/20). This was quite a let down as it is the last taste of the meal, and is especially unforgiveable given how easy it is to get lovely fruit here.

Service was excellent, our very friendly waitress in traditional Japanese dress speaking good English. The bill came to ¥28,814 for two, which works out at £80 per head. Overall Yoshikawa is a pleasant enough experience, but it is not exactly cheap given the fairly ordinary quality of food being served. 

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