A pair of ornamental cherry trees stand like attendants by a sturdy wooden gateway. A narrow flagstone path lined with bamboo and maples curves out of sight in the mid-distance. At one end you are on a nondescript backstreet in Akasaka; at the other lies Kyoto.

You have arrived at the Tokyo outpost of Kikunoi, one of the most illustrious of the exclusive ryōtei restaurants in the ancient capital. Though the setting hardly matches that of the Kyoto original on the tranquil, leafy slopes of the Higashiyama district, nonetheless this is a memorable, magical approach to any meal.

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