Inheriting the flavors of the impossible-to-book Kyotenjin Noguchi, the Gion restaurant Noguchi Tsunagu’s popularity is found in the warmth of its head chef and the unique course combining classical Japanese cuisine with more casual creations. Add to that its location on Kiritoshi Street in Kyoto’s highly atmospheric Higashiyama neighborhood, and it is no surprise this place is charming local and overseas guests every day.
Kyoto has incredible sights at every turn, and one especially popular area sits between the cobblestone street of Shirakawa-minami-dori and Tatsumibashi Bridge in Gion’s north. Called Kiritoshi by locals and frequented by tourists year-round, the road is Kyoto’s premier photo spot. The elegant exterior is that of a renovated traditional Kyoto home. This is the location of Noguchi Tsunagu, which opened in November 2019 as the sister restaurant of the immensely popular Kyotenjin Noguchi. Slide open the latticework door to reveal a minimalist interior featuring a stunning unvarnished timber counter commanded by Daisuke Yoshida, a chef personally chosen by the owner of the original restaurant, Daisuke Noguchi. The restaurant was immediately welcomed in the pleasure quarter by seasoned gourmands for its soft style and generous cuisine. And it took very little time to earn one star in the 2021 Michelin Kyoto guide.
Tsunagu is to connect
Tsunagu in the restaurant’s name is the Japanese verb “to connect”. It was chosen from a desire to connect to the flavors of the original restaurant, connect guests with the chef, and connect guests with each other. While Kyotenjin Noguchi displays individuality yet never goes beyond the bounds of Kyoto cuisine, Noguchi Tsunagu builds on those flavors with casual Japanese foods and a large selection of dishes that wonderfully complement alcoholic beverages, as well as hearty Western-inspired foods like mince cutlet and curry. The course combining seasonal Japanese with plebeian flavors has been attracting attention since the day it opened its doors. This menu flexibility is one of the biggest reasons for Noguchi Tsunagu’s success. Beginning with a five-dish short course including the signature premium wagyu in broth, the meal can be added to as the customer wishes with small plates and a la carte dishes. Regulars love how the dining style allows them to eat incredibly delicious food they choose and not be filled by a long, predetermined course.
Somewhere in the five-dish course always appears the signature dish called Nikusui. It contains the best available wagyu cooked ever so briefly in a combined kombu and bonito dashi and is set with velvety arrowroot starch and topped with sansho Japanese pepper. So warming and comforting is this dish that it feels like the chef has delivered you a cuddle. Next, Sawara Spanish mackerel is marinated in miso and steamed yuan-yaki style. The miso has a remarkable affinity for the fattiness of the fish contributing to delicious mouth-filling umami. Koppe is the name given to female snow crabs, familiarly known as “phantom crabs”, caught in Taiza, in the Kyotango region. For this dish, only available from early November to year-end, Chef Yoshida gently steams the crabmeat and serves it with a gelée of tosazu dressing made from vinegar, soy sauce, mirin, and bonito dashi. Another dish you might be treated to is hand-rolled yellowtail sushi: richly flavorful grilled Ariake Bay seaweed wraps around a combination of daikon and raw yellowtail caught in Himi, Toyama, for a sushi bite packed with a wasabi punch.
It is perfectly acceptable for guests to end the meal after the basic course. But if you prefer to stay longer sipping on an array of beverages, a selection of tapas-like plates of bottarga or prosciutto is available. If you are feeling especially hungry, the chef is happy to prepare braised pork belly, a creamy deep-fried crab croquette, or a delectable beef cutlet sandwich. For something truly unique, try the carbonara made with silky udon noodles from the Goto Islands in Chef Yoshida’s native Nagasaki Prefecture.
While showcasing Kyoto through an array of delicious ingredients, Yoshida is not beholden to local items, choosing to focus on beautiful produce wherever it comes from. This includes Shimonita leeks that intensify umami in a dish when in season, Shinshu beef, sea bream from the Seto Inland Sea, and fish and shellfish from the seas surrounding Kyushu.
Yoshida especially leans on quality ingredients from his native Goto Archipelago in Nagasaki Prefecture. He describes the region as a treasure trove of excellent produce that he wants many people to enjoy: fish whose seasonal migration brings them in on the Tsushima ocean current and plump, umami-rich, wild fish varieties caught in the incredibly productive continental shelf area of the East China Sea. His dedication to home-grown items extends into the tummy-filling dish of Goto udon and seasonings like soy sauce.
The beverage collection features Nagasaki sake varieties and a wealth of red, white, and sparkling wines from France, Italy, and Japan. And while there is no pairing course, per se, the chef would be delighted to make individual selections for guests to pair with each dish.
NIHONSHU AND WINE
Yoshida’s recent efforts have involved searching for and procuring wines to complement Japanese cuisine. He especially loves wines from the Rothschild family’s Domaine de Baronarques in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. The refreshing whites are splendid with the flavors of vegetables and seafood dishes, and the reds are the perfect match for his heartier dishes featuring meat or fried foods. Available from 2000 yen per glass, wines such as these are selected to match the seasonal food and, of course, guests’ tastes.
The collection of very well-balanced nihonshu varieties with pleasant acidity pair well with the more classical Japanese dishes as well as more decadent offerings like the Goto udon carbonara and crab croquette. It features Nagasaki brewery Omoya Shuzo’s Yokoyama, Saga Prefecture Gomachida Sake Brewery’s Nabejima, and Azumaichi by Fukuchiyo Shuzo, also in Saga. A sake serving of ichi-go (approx. 180 ml) starts at 1500 yen.
- The price includes our booking fee of ￥8,000
- The price includes our booking fee of ￥8,000