Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Inoda Coffee

Inoda brand coffee run a popular chain of cafes in Kyoto town.  They  have done since 1940. If you can deal with the smoke you will have a decent, old school, coffee experience.  
At the back of this particular shop on Sanjo street ( a few blocks west from the Western end of the Sanjo arcade) there is a large circular bar with  barristas stationed in the middle. It looks directly onto a serene Japanese garden and had it not been for the ashtrays sending up smoke signals I would have jumped at the chance of a prime position seat.  I mean the smoking section is find if there are no smokers right?  
Had it not been a stinking hot day (when the smoke seems even more putrid to me - maybe it's an Aussie bushfire memory association thing...) I might have spent the time it takes to watch my coffee drip through the filter into the pouring chamber then drink it - just for the opportunity to gaze at the garden. 

I have enjoyed a cup of Joe (and sampled a couple of their expectantly decent cakes) at several Inoda coffee shops around town and all are consistent -  but only recently visited the Sanjo store and its garden as they were recommended to me by friend (and smoker) Ricky.  (Apologies Ricky...  you know I'd definitely sit there with you even if you were puffing away - just because your company is so delightful... and sense of humour so wicked!). 

Kyoto summer essentials below. OK so the phone is a constant.  

***Heads up Australian cafes - this is coffee, iced. When I ask for coffee with ice in it - this is all I want. I don't need it to have a tonne of ice or ice cream frapeed through it - just ice, some milk and syrup on the side. And do note the sugar syrup because granular sugar doesn't melt in iced coffee. Why can't we get this right here? We are a bloody hot little island - iced coffee is essential for summer!! That is all.

PS - if you like Inoda coffee they have a range of varieties available in take home packs. I'd take a guess you can buy the syrup too!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

HARBS Cafe Kyoto

My last trip to Kyoto involved some very important research. 

Above is the result of a full blown investigation into Kyoto cafes. Ooops - slight exagerration - one cafe. I was specifically looking for a "back up" venue for a cafe I plan to include in the itineraries for my Kyoto Winter Cuisine and Culture  (Zenbu Ryori and Zenbu Zen) tours 

On this trip I discovered that my first choice cafe for one particular day of the itinerary is now closed on that particular day of the week (blah!) - so the additional research was an absolute necessity. I therefore sacrificed my arteries to the god of cream and chocolate... 

All the cakes and tarts in the glass cabinet of Harbs ( in the Daimaru Department Store) - looked fantastic. Perfect. Too perfect... I was sure they would be the opposite. All style, no substance. A pretty tease.... I've been tricked before ( although long ago) in Japan. 

Turns out I'd been too quick to judge. I found the German chocolate and walnut number (above) to be quite, quite stunning.  And only wish I could have asked for a tiny slice of each offering, just a wee tastette... you know like people apparently do when planning their weddings.... Clearly I'm a very committed tour guide. And not just greedy!

So lookout Harbs - I'll be back soon, with a few friends. 

And if you bloody well end up being closed we might have to resort to this nearby vending machine for an ice cream!! 
Coolish anyone?? (They are actually not bad - for an squeezable ice cream you suck out of a bag..)

If you like the look of these you might like to hop over to my KYOTO WINTER TOURS PAGE.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Eyes on Kyoto

Just thought I'd share a few snaps from my recent trip to Japan. 
Always so inspiring, so delightful. 

Want to come along with me next time?

Well you can. 

My Kyoto Winter Cuisine and Culture Tours for January 2014 are sold out so I recently decided to add just one more tour for 2014 in April  - the most popular time of the year to visit Kyoto.

Stunning weather, beautiful blossoms, luxury accommodation, fine food, great company, learn about Japanese culture -  and get your Zen on! 

ZENBU HARU is my Spring Tour 2014 - see HERE for details.

**PLEASE be advised that BOOKINGS FOR THE 2014 ZENBU HARU TOUR HAVE NOW CLOSED but stay tuned to my KYOTO WINTER TOURS  page for details of new tours coming soon!

Hinata Restaurant - Kyoto

It was the end of a lazy Sunday afternoon in mid October. 
Good friend, and longterm Kyotoite, Liz and I had made the most, of the last, of the year's warmer evenings by lolling beside the Kamogawa.
In the romantic glow of the lingering afternoon light, we bore witness to much canoodling (holding hands and leaning) at the same time noting the amount of older men hovering on their bikes clearly hoping for a cheap glimpse of something more,  but it was the tiny flying mushi (insects) which finally drove us away. 

We were seeking sustenance, and a glass of wine, somewhere casual - and vegetarian friendly. 
Within minutes of leaving the river we discovered Hinata, in a lane way just off  west off Kiyamachi street, a few streets north of  Sanjo dori, and it fit the bill perfectly. They specialise in Kyo-yasai (revered Kyoto vegetables) and seasonal varieties featured in both vegetarian and meat based dishes. There was certainly enough vego and seafood choices to keep Liz happy (and, well there was wine so we were always going to be OK really...)  and they had some great sounding meaty/piggy/offally bits too - quite the contrast ... I'll have to head back without Liz!!
As soon as we entered the restaurant we noticed there were quite a few foreigners - the place is in the heart of the city and they have an English menu so it is an easy joint for a casual but very decent meal with  reasonable prices. (the lot including wine cost us around $60 AUD).  We ordered drinks and within minutes a small plate of pumpkin terrine and tofu with dashi was set down before us  - for a casual joint this was a lovely surprise. 

Tomato salad filled with tomato mousse above, Bagna cauda with vegetables below:
Arancini above, pumpkin and chicken gratin with a deliciously rich chicken jus. There was also a shellfish dish which I must have been too busy scoffing to photograph.

Everything was flavoursome, fresh, well executed, and pretty simple. There was a distinct Italian theme but also some Japanesey flavours too. Easy fare for the fussy eater or for those who may need a change break from traditional Japanese food. 

Here's a link to a sample menu  - don't forget to use google translate!

Look out for the logo above on the building sign board at street level ( there are quite a few businesses in this tall, skinny building)  - and please note that the restaurant is on the third floor.  There is a lift. 

If you are coming from Kawaramachi street - this restaurant is the first little street south of the Kyoto Royal Hotel and Spa. 

As it happens  - there are a couple of other cosy looking Italian and Spanish restaurants on this street too including one excellent woodfired pizza joint. - about half way along but possibly just closer to the Kawaramachi end of the street. I love Da Yuki in Higashiyama and have always rated it as the best pizza in Kyoto but this place is right up there. Must head back and try the pasta! Sorry no name but will grab it next time I'm in town...

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Tonkotsu Ramen Recipe ( almost)

(not so) Recently I made my first batch of Tonkotsu Ramen. (just found this post lurking in my 'to be published folder' from winter... ooops)

I won't lie  - I was pretty chuffed with my efforts. It is not often I'll spend a couple of days making stock for 2 bowls of noodles... had I known it would only yield that much liquid I would have started with a much heftier load of pork bones of course... 

Some people prefer a simple shio (salt), shoyu (soy) or miso based stock for their ramen, which are indeed much lighter bases, but for me - on a cold winter's night there is no Ramen that beats Tonkotsu ramen with its super rich, thick porky broth and quivering slices of 'soft as butter' pork belly.  

I did a little research and using my well practiced tastebuds as a guide I ended up making a rather decent bowl. The Ramen 'expert' (only so by comparative consumption) in the house gave it the big thumbs up.

But it did take quite some simmering - 12 hours in fact to break down the collagen from the pork bones which enriches the flavour and adds a certain viscosity.

Now for a very pale stock (which is preferred by some) you are supposed to chuck the cooking water when it starts to look like the photo below (but I don't mind my soup looking a little darker and I felt the flavour would be more concentrated this way.   

So a mixture of pork bones, spring onions, ginger, well-caramelised fried garlic simmered away for long enough to form a really decent drop. I slow cooked a nice slab of pork belly in sake and served slices of it over the noodles in the broth, with some extra, sliced spring onions. It was good - but almost too rich - which I never  thought I'd hear myself saying. So it is back to the drawing board. I'm going to give it another shot (making a much larger batch because cooking a pot of bones for 12 hours should at least provide enough broth for more than 2 bowls of noodles right? Once I have it spot on (at least in my eyes!) I'll be posting the recipe. Just a few little tweaks...

Ooh and there's a delicious chicken version I'm also going to test soon too! 

Tankuma Kitamise - Kyoto

So if you read my last post you will know I am just a little time poor at the minute and therefore postings will be very light on content/detail for the next little bit.... Apologies. But it's the option of sketchy or... nada - and nada's not really ideal for keeping a blog alive. 

So, here are some beautiful Autumnal dishes from a meal I ate a couple of weeks ago in Kyoto. This lunch was around 10,000 yen with some sake. Just over $100 AUD.

The image above is the Zensai - or substantial appetiser plate consisting of items such as salmon roe and pickled flower petals, rolled duck breast and wasabi,  fish rolled around beans and simmered in a sweet soy mixture, ohitashi of mushrooms, greens and chrysanthamum petals, fresh soybeans cooked in smoky dashi, mini sabazushi like sushi  - using Kamasu - a type of Baracuda instead of saba (mackeral) - detail below. And a small sweet made of sweet potatoes and red beans. 

The chef entertains a group of Japanese women who were fascinated by the Gaijin chick who was asking him for details about the food... although they knew I could speak some Japanese they spoke about me as if I wasn't sitting directly next to them. A surreal experience.  Lucky for me they were being polite.
Sashimi of Tai (red snapper), Maguro ( tuna) and ika (squid)

A young chef with a focus on preparing a broth for my next dish below - containing a fish paste dumpling wrapped around prawns, matsutake mushrooms, sandomame ( green beans), konnyaku and scented with green yuzu zest

Chef prepares a takeaway wooden bento for one of the customers. It was stunning. 
Gindara (black cod) marinated in saikyo miso before grilling and Tai grilled with salt. Turnip greens in sesame dressing. 
Working on a small radish flower for the above-mentioned bento.
Takiawase - simmered dish - seasonal vegetable, fish and tofu dish  containing a maple leaf of nama fu (wheat gluten), turnip with yuzu miso, pumpking, ko-imo (a type of taro/potato), thin pieces of sweet/smoked fish and yuba (soy milk skin)
concentration for the perfect duck slice to pop into the takeaway bento
Indulging the ladies once again... this time with a photo
Agemono - the fried course of tempura including hamo ( conger eel) , manganji peppers, prawns, their heads, shiso, pumpkin, sweet potato and lotus
The gohan or rice course was quite fancy here and contained seasonal matsutake, shiitake, shimeji, jako (tiny dried sardines) and manganji peppers. The pickles were  made from eggplant (which tasted remarkably like black olives), daikon and cucumber (detail below)
Bye bye ladies...
Refreshing dessert of Black sesame kuzu mochi, nashi, wine jelly, muscat grapes and crisp persimmon

Exterior of the restaurant - if you happen to be looking for it...

Here's the link to the restaurant site - you will see there are a few in the family....

If you don't speak Japanese - I recommend trying the branch at the Kyoto Tokyu Hotel. Or check it out when you are in Tokyo - however I have eaten only at this venue in downtown Kyoto  ( which, by the way, was really excellent as you can probably tell from the pictures.)

Like the look of this ? then you might want to hop over to my KYOTO WINTER TOURS PAGE!