In this food journey of mine, I’ve come across different kinds of refined food, understanding concepts and techniques behind the dishes, while being exposed to the various cultures around the world. But at the very same time, I’m also drawn back to the basics – comfort food.
It took an hour’s train ride to travel to this rural part of northern Kyoto. Stepping out of the train, a black raven was heard cawing. Traditional Japanese houses and farmyards line the route I took to Seto.
At the door, a young lady greeted me followed by an old Japanese lady, whom is the owner of the restaurant. Dressed to be at home and wearing a big smile, it felt more like visiting a friend’s home than going to a restaurant.
This place also happens to be the old lady’s house. She’s been at this for over ten years and managed to impress taste buds sufficiently to make it to the Michelin list. This would challenge your preconceptions of what a Michelin restaurant would look like, as it feels more like a minshuku or budget ryokan at first sight. But what it lacks in the refinement found in your typical Michelin guide restaurant, it makes up for in its simplicity.
They serve simple homegrown food. The chicken and vegetables are grown in their backyard and the whole process is biodynamic. The vegetables and grains are used as chickenfeed, and the leftover fur is used as fertilizer.
There is emotion whole process. And that comes from the interconnectedness from the ingredients, all the way to the moment the dish is served. You can tell she’s been working in the garden, attending to the vegetables and chicken before the restaurant is open, and then you see her grilling the chicken in front of you. She might not be the top rated chef who works towards some form of culinary perfection or aiming for worldwide recognition, but with the heart she puts into her cooking and serving it the way she serves guests at home.
The chicken, unlike the usual frozen ones, the meat is firmer and slightly pinkish. I’ve had great tasting farm-raised chickens in China before, but Seto’s is comparatively sweeter and jucier.
No parts of the chicken go to waste – the skin, eggs, heart, liver, intestines – all with a sweet chicken taste to it. The skin is something I would usually avoid because of the fat content, but this is firm and chewy. The grilled liver was another highlight of the meal, very creamy and juicy. You can see the same kind of care goes to preparing their vegetables too. The ginger is young, not too spicy and sweet, while the onions are sweet and firm.
Seto (とり料理 瀬戸)
Address: 336 Ichiharacho, Shizuichi, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto
Tel: +81 75-741-2667
Visited on: 14 June, 2014
Price: 8000 yen per head
Hours: 12:00 – 7:00pm