Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Omiya dori Izakaya

Apologies, I have to confess I can't find any details for this Izakaya anywhere - mainly because I don't really know its name. The shop sign above features large Kanji (character) meaning Kaze (wind) which seems to be being nibbled on by a fish and I've looked up plenty of different versions of a possible name but so far no luck.  (If any locals know what this place is called please let me know!)  
However - all is well as it is really easy to find. 
Just head to Kyoto's Hankyu Line's Omiya station (just west of the main city grid) which you can see on the right hand side of the pic above.  (If you are downtown near the Shijo/Kawaramachi intersection you can easily locate the Hankyu station under the Takashimaya department store) 

To the left of the Omiya station building you'll see the entrance to an alleyway - between it and the 711  - this is Omiya Dori/Street where you will find plenty of restaurants and bars - and the odd pachinko parlour. 
This thin strip of Omiya dori is terribly atmospheric and worth a good wander  - stop in wherever you like but the windy fish place was quite good fun once we got passed the gatekeeper grilling things on sticks in the window. He was clearly trying to discourage us by scowling in our general direction but it only made us want to go there even more!! 
We walked up and back again a few times, gathering courage and taking in the surroundings 
( oh, just for the record Nijo castle is very near the northern end of the Omiya dori so if you are visiting there late in the afternoon this is the perfect spot to come for a drink and early dinner)
Then eventually we just pushed our way through the door. The funny thing is that once he realised we could read and speak a bit of Japanese and that we were totally into our food he completely melted and became our best friend. This is not a completely uncommon story in Japan. 
As you can see it was a pretty casual joint. The strips of paper on the wall? That's the menu. 
As it was summer when we visited... well, first things first 
Then came a range of small dishes ordered from the wall -  super fresh raw prawns and their roe
then grilled bacon
Some excellent grilled wagyu with grated daikon and spring onions just in time for the first glass of sake
Apparently the bar at the back is where all the regulars hang out - they were having a grand ol' time
                                                                      Next up yakitori
Then to our delight - the prawn heads and tails we'd left from the first raw course came back as crisp prawnie chips... deeelish. What a treat. 
Then came some juicy Gyoza
                                                             A head of grilled garlic
Some squid tentacle tempura
                                                     And a vegetable and yuba gratin
And... strangely we couldn't fit another thing in
Don't forget - to look for this shopfront and sign above . It is a few minutes walk from the entrance of the alley way (Omiya dori) on your right hand side (ie eastern side of the alley). Once you return to the entrance point of of the alley you will see this building if you look to your right - Cote d'Azur is a Karaoke joint - go crazy!

Osteria Ogino

If you are looking for an cosy spot for a bowl of pasta in Kyoto's Heian Shrine vicinity head to 'Ogino' on Nijo Dori.  It's only about a 5 minute walk west from the corner of Jingu michi (which is a block south from the shrine's entrance). 

Their Carbonara and Amatriciana, whilst not completely authentic are really delicious, they also do excellent grilled local meats - the pork is sensational. And the chef/owner is a real sweetie with a penchant for dancehall, ska and reggae - particularly The Whaling Whalers -  all on vinyl. There is a small but decent by the glass wine selection. And a couple of desserts. 

Open lunches and dinner but see here for details on opening days and hours.
When I say cosy, I mean real cosy - there is this one area at the front which seats upto 6 then 2 tables for 2 in front of the counter which also seats about 3 people. Still it's bigger than some Japanese restaurants! I'm just saying - go solo, take a friend or go in a very small group. In the evenings it is a nice casual spot for couples. We lived about 10 meters away for 6 months and we were regulars - sure it was convenient but the food was really good and at the right price. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sagawa Art Museum

Sadly the one and only time I have ventured to the handsome Sagawa Art Museum was when a kind friend drove us from Kyoto to check out the works of world famous graphic artist MC Escher  - the exhibition was sensational by the way! Wandered my head through those impossible constructions for hours. 
If you don't have a Kyoto friend with a car to transport you for the hour's drive you can take the JR Kosei line from Kyoto station to JR Katata station then it's a 10 minute cab ride. 
It is definitely worth checking out what exhibitions are showing before you visit but there is a lovely permanent Raku ware (tea ceremony related ceramics) exhibit and a modern tea house deserving of a viewing - but the architecture and surrounds of the museum is worth a trip alone.  Take a look.
On the way to the Raku room there is a large space that runs under the waterway which is visible through a large perspex panel in the ceiling (above)-  which also allows an ethereal light into the room.  It seems to be a popular spot for a pic!
Guess which one belongs to me? .....
Above is a simple display of ikebana at the entrance to the Raku ceramic wing
I  love the imprint of wooden planks on the concrete walls  - so clever