Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Grand Kitchen Tada

Grand Kitchen Tada opened in the latter part of last year in an old soy sauce brewery in the heart of town just north of Kyoto's famous Nishiki market. The building itself has been refurbished into a main restaurant area, private dining room and a very cute little shop to the left hand side selling a small selection of homewares, antiques and handmade Japanese decor items. Plus their soy sauce - yes the same family still own the building and are making shoyu! I spoke to the mother of the restaurateur one day when they were shut and she gave me the goss. 
I returned another time for lunch with friend Sally Lynch, who will forever stay Sarree Rinchee to me.
We sat up at the bar as they were pretty busy  - and I prefer to check out the action anyway. 
First came tea, pickles and Kombu tsukudani (kombu preserved in soy and mirin) then a couple of ice cold beers arrived. Not usually my thing but it was rather warm and we needed some cool relief. 
The speciality of the house seems to be the beef cooked on a hot rock (although other meats/veg are available to be cooked a la rock too). Ours came by way of a set tray which included rare duck breast, yuba salad, dumplings in broth, spinach ohitashi with salmon roe, scallop and shishito tempura, soup, rice, pickles and tea - all for around 3000 yen (about $35 at the time). It wasn't the best beef I've eaten in Japan - but that is comparing it to other Japanese beef so it certainly doesn't mean it wasn't decent. 
The food was fine - but nothing to jump up and down about. It is very convenient to Nishiki Market so if you get hungry mid way you can rest your legs for a while here and I'd say this food is less challenging to a western palate than some other Japanese restaurants so if you are new to Japanese food this is a gentle entree. 
Again, it was early days so if I return I'll let you know - or if you have been and had a great experience please feel free to share it here.  The staff were friendly and the space is gorgeous so all in all it was a very pleasant experience - and of course I had the company of Saree Rinchee.
Cold rock

You'll find the restaurant on Tominokoji Street ( sometimes referred to as Tomikoji street) just north of Nishiki Market on the western side of the street. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A late summer's Kaiseki in Kyoto

As summer ends in Kyoto town I thought I'd post some images of a summer Kaiseki meal in a nod to the gods of seasonal cuisine! 

This atmospheric venue is one of my favourite restaurants in Kyoto . Now if you have been on one of my tours you will recognise the place and the people immediately. Shhhhhh !!! 

For everyone else... I'm going to leave you guessing for a little while. A girl has to keep some things to herself.  But if you'd like to visit with me and be walked through the dishes, ingredients and stories behind them and meet the gorgeous chefs and owners  - you will just have to join one of my Kyoto Cuisine & Culture tours in winter.  These images will give you a little taste. Or should I say tease? 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Funahashi-ya Senbei

Funahashi-ya is a Kyoto institution famous for its Senbei - Japanese rice crackers. And with good reason. They have an excellent range of fine quality savoury and sweet senbei in a beautiful old shop. It is extremely hard to resist popping in for a look each time I walk by. 
All shapes and sizes, in plain or a variety of natural seasonings and crisp as could be. Soy glazed, sprinkled with salt or sugar, sometimes shichimi or curry. Some with nuts or roasted soy beans. There are seasonal varieties too  and they have some teensy weensy crackers to garnish cooked dishes and salads - they are quite hard to source and even more difficult to make that size so I always grab a packet for the pantry. 

Senbei make a great travel snack (excellent with a martini or a beer - it is common to be served a small bowl of the crunchy critters at hotel bars - believe me, I've visited a few and the best ones offered so far are at the new Ritz Carlton hotel - their martini's aren't bad either but the best are at the Hyatt Regency! Love the Touzan bar) and make the perfect take home gift for friends and colleagues - just make sure you pack them carefully so they don't turn to rice dust by the time you get home. 

 Chef Peter Gilmore of Quay restaurant nearly bought out the shop when I took him here - I think he was taking them home to his chef's but I'm not certain they made it that far - they are damn delicious and a little bit addictive!

This is the side view of the store which you look onto if you are standing outside the Starbucks just west of the Sanjo Bridge - it is a popular meeting spot.

If you are in the downtown area this store is just a few minutes walk east from the Sanjo/Kawaramachi intersection. Look for the  mouth of the sanjo arcade on Kawaramachi street and do an about- face - walk directly ahead and if you hit starbucks you have gone about 2 steps too far!


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Breakfast in Kyoto. To be continued....

Kyoto is not really a town you go out for breakfast in, at least not early in the morning. People generally eat breakfast at home and if you are a tourist desperately seeking bacon and eggs, if that is your thing, they are not so easy to find unless staying at a hotel that caters to foreigners. 

 I have, over time, found a few places worth checking out for brekkie and thought I'd start jotting them down. There are not so many places open at the crack of dawn but by about 8am there are a few bakeries, patisseries and the odd cafe offering morning sustainables.  And, for those who can't live without pancakes and omelettes there is a new store opening up catering just for you! more on that soon.
I'll start with this place first  Yojiya. If you are taking a morning wander to Arashiyama for sightseeing there is little choice of brekkie offerings except this sweet little place - although I should point out it doesn't open till 10 am!. While these pics are from the Arashiyama branch, Yojiya has  several stores around Kyoto and a couple in Tokyo.

Yojiya cafes are an extension of the Yojiya cosmetics company founded in Kyoto in 1904 and are most famous for their aburatorigami - velvety paper oil-blotters for your face (The Japanese only ever seem to 'glow' not sweat  - so these papers are perfect for tidying up their make up - I'd need a packet an hour of this particular type of handy wipe in the Kyoto summer!)  but they do a wonderful yuzu lipbalm too and their soaps etc make great gifts for taking home to friends - there is generally a shop adjacent to the cafe - well the other way around really - the shop is the main business here.  You will recognise the stores by this motif - a ladies face in the top of a coffee cup - the same lady who appears on the store signs and products for the cosmetics store - only she looks a little less traditional in the cafe's.  
But once again I digress. The cafe's are of course quite rehearsed in their menu for consistency across the board but for about $10 you can buy a decent 'western style' breakfast like this - including coffee and a little dish of yoghurt with fruit. Yes, it is common to find salad with your breakfast offerings in Japan. I actually think it works really well to lighten the heavier bacon and eggs... .(although no real risk of over-indulging with one egg and half a rasher of bacon). If you want fancy coffee with your brekkie there is a small additional cost.  And if you see the coffee, matcha and white chocolate drink on the menu - get it - it is suprisinginly good! And you may just find that lovely lady's face on top of your latte! Coffee art has really taken off in Japan. 


I'll be returning here as I find more breakfast/cafe images through my trawling of all things Japanese on my 1001 portable hardrives (there is never enough time in the day)  - but another place worth mentioning immediately is the lovely IYEMON Salon - on Sanjo dori (street)  just west of Karasuma dori (street) on the south side of the road. It is a large space with several areas for a variety of purposes - eat your breakfast in front of the Japanese garden, pop in for their namesake tea at other times of the day and browse through their book selection or the design gallery upstairs -  they also do lunch and dinner and  cocktails in the evening. There's also a  computer area with internet access. A good place to know in Kyoto town and it makes an excellent meeting point. 

To be continued.....

More Kyoto Strolling...

If you have been following this blog you will know that a) it can be a little bit random at times and b) I like to stroll and snap my way through Kyoto. I've shared various walks and wanderings via my images and will continue to do so as the mood strikes me. Today I'm returning back to a walk I have done many times and each time I find new things to share. 

When exiting the main gates of  Kiyomizu Dera you will walk down a very busy cobbled street lined with souvenir shops and the like - if you bypass all this and keep walking straight ahead you will find a set of stairs to your right that lead down to another street - Sannenzaka -which, if you follow it all the way around turns into Ninenzaka - there are plenty of shops, cafes etc to stop in and you could spend the whole day here if you really liked to shop. 
Recently I noticed this new soap shop and its unique sales strategy.  There are sinks with running water for you to try the soap - which feels like jelly in your hands - the girls above are checking it out. It was a pretty strange sensation but the soap was very nice on my skin and came in a variety of pleasant scents. I was particularly taken with the packaging. Either in bamboo leaf or cloth - like mini versions of the traditional Furoshiki cloth which people used to take to the onsen to wrap their belongings in when they stripped off for the bath. Furoshiki are now commonly used to wrap gifts. 
Instead of turning right onto Ninenzaka from Sannenzaka - you can choose to walk straight ahead - in a westerly direction.  This area has been having a bit of a refurb in the last couple of years and one of the  most bizarre things I have seen in some time is this Kiwi Pie shop. Of course as an Aussie we think we own the meat pie but my Kiwi friends tell me differently.  I  met the owner - he isn't Kiwi, Aussie or Japanese. I think perhaps South African judging by the accent. Close enough to Kiwi/Aussie I guess!
ok so we have a meat pie, a meat and cream cheese pie and a shepherd's pie (Shiepaado pai). The cream cheese must be a Kiwi thing??
Look right and you will see this charming tea house - which looks more like  a temple to me and in fact may well have once been one? I need to do some more investigation here. 
Just after the tea house is this ceramic artists studio - there's always a pretty eclectic collection of items on sale  - sometimes a little, how should I put this? indelicate? Keep an eye out for it if you are in the area -you really can't miss it.  These are some of the more PG items. 
A little further south and you'll walk past the tiered Yasaka pagoda (seen in the first picture of this post) and then come to a small temple on your left - Yasaka Koshindo (above) - a very popular place for  brides and grooms or 'Maiko dress up' peeps to have their photos taken. Yes, you too can dress up as a Maiko (trainee geisha) and parade around Kyoto for the day having your photo professionally taken - however selfies seem to be flavour of the moment... yes even in Kyoto.
Kukurizaru are the colourful climbing monkey dolls that protect the temple guardian Koshin san. If you look carefully below at the strings of 'monkeys' you will notice their hands and feet are tied so as not to succumb to earthy desires and enable one to keep focused on achieving your goal - no cheeky monkey business here. These monkey's also hang outside some homes and businesses to protect the inhabitants as monkeys are believed to be kind spirits who can ward off evil. The three wise monkey's mantra of hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil comes into play here and you can even see carvings of the wise three in the temple grounds. 
If you do an about face from the temple you will see a street heading north - it leads you in the direction of Yasaka Jinja (shrine). There are a few new cafes and shops here which so far are much less crowded than other areas... but I'm sure it won't be long until they are discovered. 
I love the look of these two below but haven't stopped in either so will report back when I do so!
This one is a Gallery Cafe - note the faded monkey's to your left.
The menu offers just a few hot and cold drinks,  few cakes and desserts
Now I believe the building below used to be a function centre/wedding reception place but now boasts  the AKAGANE cafe with a limited menu - and  a more expensive restaurant. 
                        I love the combination of the modern aesthetic with the older building.
Nearby is Ishibe koji - apparently the most beautiful street in Kyoto and indeed it is handsome (see below) but Kyoto town is not short on beautiful streets, places and spaces - I don't know how you would pick really...
Nearing Maruyama Kooen (park) I  snapped this young lady... looking a little annoyed that I was pointing in her direction but I love the serenity surrounding her.
This Teahouse is an oldie but a goodie - just a few minutes walk south of the south exit of Maruyama park  - they have a gorgeous Japanese garden and Koi pond to gaze onto as you sip.
And just a couple of doors north of this place is the Kyoto offshoot of the gorgeous Patisserie Des Reves.
If your feet are too tired from walking you can always hire a rickshaw - although I would never do that to one of these poor fellows. They are completely ripped but even so I'd hate to see them struggling to get my bottom up one of Kyoto's hills!
The beautiful Maruyama Kooen - known for it's famous Cherry blossoms it is also gorgeous at any time of the year for various reasons. The perfect spot for a picnic.
Walk west through the park and you hit the Yasaka Shrine. The people below are waking up the gods by ringing the bells attached to the ropes  - hopefully he will hear their wishes and prayers. 
                                                           South exit of Yasaka Shrine
Just west of the south exit is the spot to buy your ema (wooden plaques) for writing down your thoughts - further ensuring your wishes and prayers are heard.  To the right is one of several sub shrines within Yasaka Jinja.
If you exit through the main gate to at the western edge of  Yasaka jinja (shrine) you will hit Shijo dori (street) which runs from the eastern side of the city right through to Arashiyama in the west. Just a few minutes walk from the west gate is Gion - the most famous geisha quarter in Kyoto.
Turn left (south) at Hanamikoji street (by the way there is a large Yojiya store on the corner here (with a giant Yojiya lady's head in a shop sign on top of the building so you can't miss it) and you will find yourself in a very atmospheric part of town. 

Oku is a great little cafe/lunch stop if you are in the area. And they now have a bar and dinner service.  The lunch set is around $30 - so not the cheapest place in town for a bite but it has such a lovely calm, modern zen atmosphere.
Around the corner from here is a serene little spot for a cuppa - Zen cafe. Kagizen confectionery offers a delightfully quiet area for tasting their famous Wagashi (Japanese confectionery) with your brew of choice.
                                                   I love this mini courtyard garden.
Walk complete.

If you'd fancy touring around Kyoto with me 
you might like to take a peek at my 

And here are a few links to some more of my Kyoto Meanderings.....