Yasaka no To Pagoda
Our next stop on our Japan trip is Kyoto, only a short train ride from Osaka plus a taxi ride to our guesthouse. We split between two taxis as we had two big luggages, but it wasn't until we got onto the taxis and that we realised how little known the location of the guesthouse was. Neither of our taxi drivers knew where it was!
Having the address in Japanese and a screenshot of Google maps seemed little use and we thought for sure that we'd be stranded (separately too as the taxis had each taken their own routes) until luckily we caught a glimpse of the other taxi and decided to follow behind. Eventually we made it there, by which time our stomachs were grumbling so took the 30 minute walk back down the hill to find food.
Mendoraku dai 麺道楽 大
There wasn't much within walking distance of the guesthouse- a small sushi train, a bar and a noodle restaurant. We'd chosen the noodle restaurant but because of the confusing signage, we walked into bar instead of the small stairway down into the noodle bar and embarrassingly walked out ten minutes later.
Mendoraku dai sepcialises mostly in Udon, and the English menu mostly covers just that (the Japanese menu seemed a little longer). The tempura udon is quite impressive, and easily our favourite with a selection of light and crispy mixed tempura, just as we like it.
Despite the cold weather outside, the cold udon was very welcoming as their heating was on full blast. The dish comes with noodles only, served on ice with a side dipping sauce. The focus is on the noodles, which are the perfect mix of chewy and bouncy. There's no meat or veggies with the noodles, but we don't find ourselves missing anything as the sauce imparts just enough flavour.
We were a little disappointed when the curry udon came in a thin soupy stock rather than the thick Japanese curry we were expecting. Tastewise, it was a sort of a cross between curry and the usual udon broth- I can't say we were particularly big fans of this version
Umezono Kiyomizu 梅園清水店
We spend the remainder of the day strolling down Kiyomizu-Zaka Street- a tourist strip lined with plenty of shops and food. And being in Kyoto, we just had to try matcha desserts somewhere, so after walking up and down the street a few times, we decided choose somewhere that appeared popular.....
.....which is how we end up at Umezono Kiyomizu, a small dessert cafe with what appeared to be a never ending line at its entrance. The cafe specialises in matcha, adzuki and mochi, with a rather interesting variety of desserts- matcha parfait is nowhere to be found on the menu.
Instead, there is a selection of sweet adzuki soups with mochi balls and fruit. We weren't too sure we'd like the combination but we're quickly sold after a few spoonfuls. It's quite unlike Chinese red bean soups, this one being more smooth and not overly sweet. There's a great balance of sweetness between the soup and the fruit (which is sweeter than expected).
We also order dessert set which comes with a little bit of everything. We love the cute mitarashi dango- minature sized mochi lightly grilled with a sweet soy based glaze.
The set also comes with a matcha mochi and a couple of mochi based sweets which we can't figure what they are as well as another red bean soup which is quite similar to the full sized version we ordered, only with a splash of matcha as well. It's pretty awesome.
The anmitsu is essentially the same as the other desserts, minus the soup plus a few more varieties of mochi but tastewise quite different and perhaps my favourite. There's a side of black sugar syrup but I find I only need to add a little since it's quite sweet in itself. The (peeled!) mandarin slices are rather intriguing as they tasted strangely like lychees.
There was a ridiculous amount of traffic back down the hill when we were wanting to leave so we decided to walk towards our guesthouse and see what kind of restaurants we stumbled upon for dinner. We'd wanted to try Okonomiyaki in Osaka, but unfortunately didn't get the chance to, so when we walked past this restaurant it was an easy choice.
It's an interesting set up, with the large teppanyaki grill in the corner of the restaurant where all the food is cooked, and each table with its own hot plate to keep the food warm. We were lucky enough to snag the last available table right next to the large grill, where we witnessed the chefs make okonomiyaki after okonomiyaki.
We ordered the set menu which inlcuded a bit of everything- and at ~3000yen for two is great value. Yakisoba is extremely fun to play with and we wasted no time in getting our spatulas to show off our awesome cooking skills. The noodles had a nice char (not our doing of course) although we weren't sure if we were served two different versions or if the chef was more generous with the soy sauce in one batch compared to the other.
The omelette was cooked beautifully, having a nice soft texture and plenty of flavour in the mostly vegetable based filling.
The grilled nagaimo looked rather much like scallops, but tasted anything but. I've only ever had nagaimo prepared the Chinese way- sliced thinly and stir fried in a flavoursome sauce such that the nagaimo is really more there for texture more than taste. In this version, it is cut into thick chunks, grilled and lightly scattered with some chilli flakes, bonito and seaweed such that the focus is on the gentle flavour of nagaimo.
And I found that I really enjoyed this version!
Being an okonomiyaki restaurant, if there's one thing they do well it's the okonomiyaki. This version is nice and fluffy with a decent serve of veggies- you get not only plenty of cabbage in the okonomiyaki itself, but also a very generous sprinkle of shallots. There's also plenty of sauce lathered on, although we couldn't help experimenting with the condiments which included seaweed and bonito!
And no meal is really complete without dessert so we opt for a soft serve which turns out the be exactly the same matcha soft serve that we had earlier at the Kuromon Ichiba Markets!
Japan, 〒605-0965 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Higashiyama Ward, Imagumano Ikedacho, 4−14, B1
3-339-1 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0862, Kyoto Prefecture
Seawife geo-Shimizu, Kyoto 1F, It is ru 562, Yuugyoumaecho in Gojo, Higashioro, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, 605-0864