Kyotofu in Hell's Kitchen offers a lunch dessert kaiseki during the day— $17 for five "courses" plated on one large dish. The components change every now and then, but you can always count on the miso cake, tofu pudding, and soft-serve as part of the kaiseki staple. Your five-part dessert tour, after the jump.
First up, the house signature piece: Sweet Tofu Pudding. Those familiar with Chinese dofu fa might scoff at paying so much for essentially the same type of dessert (in Chinatown you can get a quart of dofu fa for $3). But here, the extra cost travels far in quality and flavor. Sublimely smooth, feather-light creaminess in the mouth, the pudding is served chilled with a pour of kuromitsu black sugar syrup, a tiny slice of dried apricot to finish.
Then we move on to the Mochi Chocolate Cake, dark and velvety, a complete contrast to the delicate tofu pudding. This little number is served warm and, by virtue of the mochi, has an extra chew, a tenderness only achieved with the addition of mochiko powder. On the bottom is pool of kuromitsu creme anglaise, and on the top, a quenelle of matcha shiro-an. Shiro-an is a sweetened puree of white beans and sugar, commonly used in Japanese sweets (you often see shiro-an as a mochi filling, or served with ice cream). Here the shiro-an is lighter than the norm, with the texture of thick whipped cream. It is blended with enough matcha powder to turn it a deep green, and wonderful enough to serve as a dessert on its own.
The matcha chocolate was the least enjoy component of the kaiseki. Firm to the touch, with a white chocolate base, it turns unpleasantly sticky and chewy in your mouth. I took a bite and left the rest.
To follow, an espresso cup of matcha creme brulee, deeply flavored, though on the gloopy side in terms of texture, with crackly sugar top. (It was around this course that the sugar high began to set in.) Luckily, there was a piece of ume set off to the side of the cup, a tart, sour contrast to the all the sweets.
Soymilk soft-serve flavors, and their corresponding toppings, change at least once a week, but most of the flavors are repeated fairly often. This week? Chocolate and Roasted Matcha, with fresh fruit topping. The kaiseki offers a little sample cup of both flavors, with a single berry to finish.
Do go out of your way to try Kyotofu's soymilk soft-serves if you haven't before; the chocolate has this slight nuttiness to it, and the roasted matcha, sophisticated in flavor, is a far cry from your usual soft-serves. That said, I was getting fairly tired of matcha by this point; matcha showed up in four of the five desserts. More flavor balance would make for a more complete and satisfying meal. Their best soft-serve topping to date is without a doubt the matcha mochi—more jelly, less chewy than mochi can be. Kyotofu keeps their Twitter up to date with flavor changes, so check before you go. And if matcha mochi is the topping, run for it!
Your Kaiseki concludes with the check—and a single Genmaicha Brown Rice financier. Oddly enough, after the sweet tofu pudding, this might have been my favorite bite of the meal. One very toasty and nutty bite, subtly sweet, a haunting tea essence to the meal.
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