A Feast @ Gyozan-en

魚山園 Gyozan-en

19th July 2010. Written by Xin Li.
Ohara, Kyoto, Japan.

One day left to Japan and I should post this up before leaving. This was the most extravagant meal I had during my previous trip. I had it at Gyozan-en 魚山園, one of the upscale Ryokans around Ohara located at the Sanzen-in side. I ordered a Oharame-Bento Set, which is a kind of kaiseki bento that is named after the Ohara maidens of Ohara.

魚山園 Gyozan-en - 大原女弁当 Oharame Bento

Aesthetics wise, it was very pretty, the food was contained within a decorative bento ‘cabinet’ like our tingkats and within each drawer was a nicely laid out piece of epicurean artwork. The food were arranged like a make up set (hmmm this is kind of feminine for a male diner, but its food who cares?).

魚山園 Gyozan-en - 大原女弁当 Oharame Bento

Along with the bento box are other side dishes such as the seasonal ayu fish, a fruit dessert, and a bowl of soup, a platter of appetizers, tsukemono, cooked dish, tempura and rice.

After a pleasing aesthetical introduction, its time to dig in! But, how to start? The portions, although it was meant for one is actually enough for two persons.

魚山園 Gyozan-en - Salmon Sashimi

I started with the sashimi, a 3 slices of sake (salmon) served on a piece of shiso leaf on a bed of shredded white radish. The texture was very smooth and the texture of the wasabi was grainy instead of the paste-like texture I used to have in most places.

魚山園 Gyozan-en - 大原女弁当 Oharame Bento

Then I proceed to the next drawer, there were pumpkin, takenoko (bamboo shoot) cut like a comb), snow peas, yuba and namafu. The bamboo shoot had a chestnut-like texture.

魚山園 Gyozan-en - Oharame Bento

On the top shelf…I realized it was like having a 3-tiered high-tea (Japanese style). Alright, the top shelf consisted of tamago, river prawn, a kind of fish that I couldn’t identify, long beans, yam and small ikan-bili like thing (probably jako and tasted quite heavy).

魚山園 Gyozan-en - Assorted Tempura

Then there was an assortment of vegetable tempura with nice juicy interior and a lightly seasoned crispy crust.

魚山園 Gyozan-en - Soup

The bowl of soup was quite light and pleasant with a peppery tinge.

魚山園 Gyozan-en - Kamoji Ayu

The star of the meal is this ayu (sweet fish). As the name suggest it was sweet and very delicious. The fish is probably cooked then lightly grilled before serving. The fish can be ate as a whole, the bones were very soft and the meat was juicy and sweet. I heard from Chef Derrick (of Dezato) that ayu has to be cooked for long hours in order to render the whole thing soft enough to eat.

魚山園 Gyozan-en - Oharame Bento

One the black tray, there were sesame tofu, tamago, ume and some kind of rice cake/paste. I enjoyed the sesame tofu for its delicate nutty flavour and smooth texture. I think this tray uses ingredients that are indigenous to Ohara. You can find many stalls selling sesame tofu and ume juice at Ohara.

魚山園 Gyozan-en - Tsukemono

Tsukemono is something you will always have in a Japanese set meal. I can’t remember the specific ingredients for this dish. (You will have plenty of tsukemono in Kyoto, as vegetables is one of key ingredients in Kyoto cuisine – something was passed down from Buddhist shojin-ryori as there were many temples in Kyoto) I only remember the purple one tasted salty yet sweet and the brown one had a wasabi-like spiciness.

魚山園 Gyozan-en

This yellow bowl of delight is probably spinach with kiriboshi-daikon (dried, shredded daikon), an addictive yet simple dish. Paired with rice, it is very delicious.

魚山園 Gyozan-en - Dezato

An orange for dessert wraps up the meal with a citrus finish.

魚山園 Gyozan-en

Reflecting, back I was more impressed by the aesthetics than the food itself. Probably $$$ doesn’t equate to better food. The whole meal cost me 4725 Yen, the Orange Dessert and ayu dish are add-ons. Food aside, the service was decent, but they don’t refill the tea for me automatically.

京都 Kyoto
大原 Ohara
魚山園 Gyozan-en


454 Raigouin-cho Ohara Sakyou-ku 601-1242


  1. Can I just say the I can fully understand why you were more impressed by the presentation rather than the food - they were indeed presented beautifully!

  2. haha! it makes me feel bad when I remove the pieces. It was like tearing down some sculpture =p.

    By the way those drawers were made of ceramics =o

  3. Mother said she liked the pictures very much!



the moose & snowman

the soft toy. the soft toy.

makan corner

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