Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Japan Night 3 & 4: Kyoto Eats - East vs. West

It's 8:30pm in Kyoto on a week night.  You don't know the town at all, let alone what's where.  A shop closes each second the clock ticks by.  You've just got off a 2.5 hour bullet train ride.  Family is counting on you to lead the way and decipher what is available.  They have absolutely no opinion of their own as to what to eat.  You are tired, language deciphering and translating abilities are non-existent.  What do you do???

First, find the nearest "restaurant town" building, in this case we were at Kyoto Station's Isetan JR.  Second, roll dice to decide which floor you'll eat from or roll dice to decide on a style of cuisine - Asian cuisine sounded good, no one really wanted anything heavy after a sedating train ride.  Third, take advantage of the Japanese custom that displays most of their dishes in plastic replicas inside a display case.  Point and go.  This was the result.

Mochi korroke (croquette).  480 yen.
Everyone else chose the Unagi-don set (eel rice bowl).  1500 yen
You know how when people are at a foreign place, don't know what to order,
can't read the menu so they all order the same thing, like "salad"?  Well, this is it.

Meow hates cooked fish...so she chose something else.
Appetizers that comes with set dinners
Pickled cucumbers, mushroom mix of sorts, a tofu thingy, and squash
Tofu banzai dinner set.
Tofu hotpot, sashimi, clear soup, rice and a bit of pickles. 1680 yen.
My tofu "pot"
It was some sort of paper, but not waxy, that acts as a pot.
Fire below to keep it warm
Mystery fish

We went with this Japanese style restaurant, Kyohyakusai (京百菜), because the other restaurant on that floor that was still open was Chinese food.  What Chinese person goes for Chinese food in a foreign country unless they're out of options or for shits and giggles (yes, before you point out that I've had Chinese food in Chinatown in Paris...)

It was a wonderful choice.  They gave us seating immediately and in a private room.  All their dishes were very simple and very light.  Nothing greasy, not even the deep fried stuff.  It was definitely, in my opinion, comfort food especially for after a tiring journey.

A $20 dinner?  And it's not fast food?  How can you go wrong?


Fourth night was also spent in Kyoto.  During the day, we joined a local tour visiting all the "must see" around Kyoto.  Places like the Golden Pavillion, the Kiyomizu-dera, the Nijo Castle, etc.  Hop on the bus, hop off the bus, contend with the swarms of school kids who are also on their school field trip...  Busy day, and we also squeezed in an evening show at the Gion Corner watching geishas dance and do their thing.  So again, a late dinner.  But having learned from previous night that restaurants don't stay open too late, our group at least came to a consensus that we should look for food back at the train station/mall since there seemed to be plenty of choices.  Well, that's a start.  Next, we went by the good ol' rule of looking at the plastic displays and peering into the restaurant to see if it's busy.  Cafe Grill Touyoutei (東洋亭)appears to be the winner.

Pasta with mushroom cream sauce, porcini style (1020 yen)

Ah, the omelette rice...I would definitely say that this is one of those east meets west type of dish.  Every Japanese kid would have had one at some point, and it seems to appear in most anime too.  Even some kids are capable of making one.  If you have left over rice and can fry an egg, go nuts!
Omelette rice (940 yen)

Where I live and have lived, purin came in containers in the cooler aisles.  They resemble the Jell-O pudding cups, but at least they're not shelf stable scary like Jello-O is.  When the opportunity came up to try an authentic purin, I didn't care how full I was, I NEEDED to have it.
Pudding (purin) (480 yen)
More like a crème caramel

Another successful night!  It truly was a harrowing 2 days hopping around Hiroshima and Kyoto where I'm not familiar with the place having only been there once previously and my family have never been there before.  It was like the blind leading the blind, except the first blind speaks some strange Japanese to lead the way.  Sights seen, bellies filled, roofs over heads, wallets are not dried, I'd say I have survived and did quite well.

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