Saturday, March 3, 2012

Okazaki Eats  おかざき

My apartment is quite close to the Heian Jingu (shrine) in an area called Okazaki which also houses several major museums and art galleries - a very pleasant part of Kyoto with wide boulevards.  In recent times several new cafes have sprung up - which is great as far as I am concerned and I have enjoyed uncovering the offerings from each. I have written about one of them before - cafe cheka which you can see more about HERE. But I am going to put the rest of them, plus a few other eateries,  together on this page, adding to it gradually to try and give a good cross section of what is available in the area. 

Hiperikamu (as in the plant Hypericum)
First off I will start with one of the most recent addition Hiperikamu (above) which you will find on the south east corner of the Marutamachi michi and Okazaki dori intersection.  It is a sweet and cosy little place with a few basic savoury Japanesey/western food offerings (e.g. this bacon, cabbage,shimeji soup with dashi and milk served with rice balls on the side, a petit salad and pickled carrots)
 - plus decent coffee and a few cakes. The staff are lovely and its a very comfortable neighbourhood vibe. 

A few doors south is a cafe with slightly more substantial lunch fare (below) - but more in the pasta and risotto realm. They also have a large selection of cheesecake. 

Keep walking about 20m south on the same side of the road ( eastern side of okazaki michi) and you will come across a "grill" restaurant which is very popular - there is always an inexplicably long queue down the street and it took me many attempts to actually score a table - and sadly, I have to say,  the food is below parr. Its old fashioned, slightly stodgy yoshoku (Japanese Western food) and is therefore popular with an older crew or young kids because its pretty easy to eat in a comfort food kinda way "the taste of yesterday". The set plate lunch is your best bet as you get a range of tastes e.g. hamburger mince patty with demi glace, ebi furai (crumbed fried prawn) with tartare sauce, a dollop of pasta in a commercial tomatoey sauce and a little potato or green salad - that kind of thing. The other food is quite expensive and although the omu-raisu is what they are famous for - you can get plenty better versions elsewhere and for less yen - it was a tad bland. The hayashi beef has a strange sweet, spice flavour and is slightly gluggy in texture. Needless to say - I don't recommend it. The tonkatsu is OK and a safer bet. 

Further south again about 50 meters are a couple of noodle places which are always crowded and again - the queues often reach down the street ( but this is a popular area for tourists sooo...). Anyway I have eaten at one of them and had a rather lovely udon with fried burdock on the side. They have decent condiments - a range of pickles and spices and its an earthy kinda vibe -I liked it. 
**Next door is a little bit more posh looking but I am yet to venture forth - shall do that shortly. 

If we take a few steps back to the grill restaurant, and instead of walking south - we take a left ( or eastern) turn on the same corner the restaurant is on  - and keep walking until you can't walk any further east - you will find a couple of places on your left -  Kyoto nama chocolat organic teahouse  - a sweet little place serving house made chocolate, coffee and tea and occasionally more substantial fare - in a lovely Japanese house where you can sit on tatami and enjoy the view of the garden and snuggle up to their cat....I have written an earlier post on that HERE

A few meters north on the western side of the road is a great little Japanese restaurant called Tomoe (below) which does a set lunch for 1050 yen and it is excellent value for very decent Japanese food.  
It has one square communal table only with about 8 seats so it is cosy - and perhaps a bit intimidating at first  - as you cat see inside and there is no English - but the owners are friendly and just choose the set lunch for ease of ordering.

If you are just looking for a quick coffee, tea or juice and a cake - there is another new cafe /gallery on this street - but you need to walk about 50 meters south to find it - it is rather tucked away if you don't know where to look ... its nothing flash but is in an old Japanese house ( with a steep staircase so be warned) and its a pleasant enough place to stop briefly - always some new art on the walls. 

Returning towards the direction you came  from you should turn west or left at the next cross road ( on the corner will be the La peche love hotel) - continue heading west you will be back on okazaki dori at the traffic lights - the cross street here is reisen dori which is the street the heian jingu is on. 

If you are coming from nama chocolate or the japanese restaurant I mentioned above - you should head south when exiting either of these venues and within a minute or so you will find the la peche love hotel on your right - turn right ( west) here and continue to the traffic lights on okazaki/reisen dori. 
OK, let's jump to the Heian jingu ( just head west along Reisen dori). If you are standing on the street in front of the shrine and facing it - turn to your left and head west until you reach the tour bus parking area - you will need to turn right ( or north ) when you reach this corner. You will see a dam on your left. 

Continue walking north for a couple of minutes and you will come across several small restaurants and cafes on the left or west side of the road. 

The first is a Souffle joint "Satie" - which has the kind of atmosphere that attracts Japanese housewives looking for a little touch of elegance. The soufflé aren't bad - but I am fussy and the are not the best I have eaten - having said that  there is not a lot of soufflé action going on in Kyoto so you get what you can if you are a fan right? I had the walnut and honey soufflé and there are a choice of several flavours. Coffee and tea are served in nice cups. There are no savoury options that I know of - this is a dessert only joint. 

 A few doors north is a "gohan cafe" featuring old fashioned yoshoku food. The joint doesn't have the best ambiance but the grub is actually not bad! I try to avoid it if there are "salary men" in there smoking up a storm - but do find it a good, basic, casual joint otherwise. And the do breakfast which is rare to find in this town - a tasty little ham and egg sandwich and coffee for around 500 yen (if memory served me correctly..) 

Just a few steps north is La Voiture (above) - a lovely little cafe that does great Gateau Opera and what looks to be a luscious  tarte tartin and the coffee is decent. Its a pretty, cosy little place and rather popular. I have attempted to get  in several times only to find it too busy. Nice, relaxed vibe, a little jazz or classical music - rather Parisienne in a Kyoto way. I recommend this if you can get in. But have lunch first - they don't seem to do savoury at all. 

Further north and just before you reach the corner is this dark wooden building above. You need to slide the door back to get inside Udon Atagoya  - which can seem a little scary at first as you can't see into the restaurant at all  - and.... I was going to say they do a great tempura lunch but I just realised they have changed hands since I was last there. So I will have to give it a go before recommending it but I will leave it in so you know its there if in the area and looking for some udon! (and can't get into the other udon places I  mentioned above!)  I can recommend it for the lovely tatami room ( you sit on the floor) and the view onto the tiny little Japanese garden. 

Ok, let's jump back to the heian shrine for a moment - if you walk again towards the tourist bus parking,  instead of turning right where we did above - walk straight ahead over the bridge on Reisen dori and when you reach the other side turn right (north) and follow the street is it turns round to the west (there is no other way to go so you won't get lost) -you will be walking along the south side of the dam/canal. Along here you will find another gallery cafe (Cafe Mement Mori next door to Gallery ort project - below) that does good coffee and has a few lovely crafty things on sale next door - it only seems to be open on certain days so no guarantees but rather lovely and kyoto-ey.

Keep heading west and near the corner of higashioji dori ( street) you will find an excellent place for  coffee - Coffee House Shisui. The mocha is wonderful and the coffee master behind the bar is a joy to watch as he patiently focuses on every drip that as he pours the hot water through the coffee grains. No food here to speak of - although they did at one stage have sandwiches so I hope they bring them back!! It seems to have rather odd days of opening too - so apologies if it isn't open when you drop by - but it is worth checking it out just in case. 

That's it for now - I'll add more as I come across them. 

1 comment:

  1. Please note that it seems Coffee House Shisui has closed down... such a shame. JL