I return to Shion at 8 p.m. for dinner. ''When I serve customers at the counter,'' Takanashi explains as he leads me to my seat, ''I can anticipate their physical and mental states and see if they are happy or not. Remember, kaiseki is about hospitality.'' First comes sakizuke, the appetizer, a steamed persimmon, deeply sweet, in a gutsy pottery bowl. Next, chinmi, another appetizer—a plate of cold ginkgo nut and awabu ''salad'' with that whipped tofu dressing. For wanmori, traditionally the heart of the kaiseki progression, the soft cod roe is set with kuzu (an arrowrootlike thickener), pressed into a cube, and set afloat in ichiban-dashi in a red lacquer bowl. Mukzuke, the sashimi trio, follows: subtle tuna, sheer flounder, and slippery squid, the freshest I've ever tasted.