A few nights ago, we went to Next for the first time. The fall menu for this year is "Kyoto," or their take on the kasieki meal. Most of these dishes are the chef's interpretations of kaiseki ryori. I was a little nervous since I had never been to Next, I've never had kaiseki, and a lot of fancy Japanese food has historically repulsed me. But I was brave, and I was rewarded well for it. Photos, descriptions from their menu and my own elaborations, and some thoughts below.
"japanese maple forest" with many shrimp and roe hors d'oeuvre type things
The "trees" are crispy shrimp heads.
Maybe these were supposed to represent toadstools? Roe and (salty!) corn pudding in a little yuzu rind.
Skrimpf eyes! It's like fancy kappa ebisen.
"sashimi, shiso, tamari": kampachi, salmon, medai with gold flakes and fresh wasabi (there were two dipping sauces: tamari and shiso)
"abalone, cucumber, red sea grapes" featuring kinome leaf, which make tongues tingle
"anago [saltwater eel], maple dashi, shimeji mushroom"
"matsutake chawanmushi [savory egg custard], pine"
I eat my chawanmushi like Pepperidge Farm Verona cookies (the ones with the jam in the middle)
Ayu. Dipping sauces were soy sauce with cured yolk, and wasabi puree.
The ayu was reportedly from a river in Kyoto. I still don't understand how that is true. Our server said that this wouldn't be available in a couple of weeks since they'll be out of season, so I guess in November, people will be getting another kind of fish.
Fried chrysanthemum, eggplant, and shiso leaf. Flower was edible but this was an item I had trouble eating.
Red miso soup with wagyu beef and vegetables. This was served with rice (Tamaki Gold, available at Mitsuwa [I asked]). There were pickled vegetables with this dish but they were too wasabi-y for me.
Dessert: roasted fig, yuba (tofu skin), and grapes on a little bed of reduced soy milk. This was a little salty to me but whatever the grapes were, they reminded me of tiny kyoho grapes.
My favorite dishes were the following: anago maple dashi soup (reminds me of Yokohama's Wakana, an eel establishment from mine, my mother's, and my grandmother's childhoods), the red miso soup (reminds me of what sumo wrestlers eat; it has a very home-y feel, but still special because of the buttery wagyu), and the warabi mochi at the end. It was better than Japanese convenience stores' warabi mochi, lol. Aside from flowers and wasabi being a weakness of mine, there was an uni-mayo dipping sauce for the fried lotus rings in the "maple forest" course that just straight up tasted like what I imagine licking the bottom of the ocean to be like. For similar reasons, the abalone course was a little tough for me to get through. For similar reasons, I thought I'd have difficulty with the sashimi, but I did not! It was the prettiest dish and very much edible by my standards. I'd even say I liked it a great deal.