Admittedly, there isn’t a lot to bring a tourist to Kumamoto. From what I’ve seen of my new hometown, we’re good for a two-day visit and that’s probably it. But while you’re here, there’s a good chance you’ll check out the beautiful stroll garden of Suizen-ji. And if you do, I advise you to go in the afternoon, so you time it perfectly for a kaiseki dinner at Senri.
Senri sits right on the fringe of Suizen-ji Garden; there’s actually an entrance to the restaurant from inside the garden or you can access it from an outside street as well. At lunch, there are several light meals on offer (averaging around ¥2000) but if I were you, I’d splurge on the dinner. Reservations are essential, as the meal is a set one; when you call, you’ll actually be asked which course you would like – ¥5250, ¥7000, or ¥10500. As a reference, I opted for the “mini kaiseki” at 5200 and the meal counted at least 7-8 different dishes.
From the moment I walked into Senri (tiptoeing carefully down their cobblestoned path), I had high hopes. We were immediately shown to our private dining room, which comprised a small table (with actual chairs … hooray for no sore knees!) on tatami mats with an unobstructed view of Suizen-ji Garden. I didn’t get to ogle too long over the scene (though I could have, and admit that until the sun set, my head was permanently cocked toward the window) as our first course was upon us within minutes.
If the view was stellar, the food was just as good. Standout dishes included bites of chicken coated in black sesame seeds, eggplant grilled with a heavenly dark miso sauce and black sesame mocha (pounded rice) accompanied by fresh grape jelly. The rest of the meal filled out with clear mushroom soup, chawan mushi (a warm savory egg custard), soba noodles and eel over rice. If we were fed that much on the mini menu, I can’t wait to go back and indulge in the big one.
Senri has a beautiful website but unfortunately, it’s only in Japanese and the staff doesn’t seem to speak much English. Grab a Japanese speaking friend to help you with the reservation and the rest should go off without a hitch. Or book one of my Samurai Itineraries and I’ll take care of it for you.