We had a nice walk over and met Kat and Satoshi. The place was much more busy than on our last visit.
And we spent a good deal of time catching up on things and just having a good time.
After all, places like this were made for friends gathering, sharing "pupus".
You can read all about this in Kat's post....and it also shows how far behind I'm at with my travel posts as well!
So from here on; it's most it's mostly photos.
Man, I love basashi.....
At the end of the meal, we gave the owner some Mac Nuts....even though we were sure he wouldn't remember us, he'd given us so much samples on our previous visit, we wanted to make sure to show him our appreciation...so of course he busted out the home made ume-shu......
The Missus was rarin' to go during our first full day back in Kyoto. We'd put in a it of mileage on this day, but She did let me (us) catch the Keihan Line two stops to Demachi Yanagi. We got out, had a quick cup of coffee and headed East. Thru a few winding streets somehow ending up at Hyakumanben Chion-ji Temple.
From which we were to get our bearings and head back down Higashioji-dori taking a turn onto Imadegawa-dori.
In spite of being a pretty large street, things were very quiet on this morning, with very few people, and this rather unhappy fellow around.
We knew we were getting close as the street went over the river.....
Before heading back down that street and to the Philosopher's Path.
The path ends in the Nanzenji neighborhood and we walked on over to Sanjo Dori, crossing over the Kamo River. I was in search of our lunch destination.
Before we were interrupted by Typhoon Vongfong on our previous visit. I had planned having a lunch at a place that did Obanzai; basically a place that made seasonal dishes, many of them simple, rustic, and vegetable based, created to minimize waste. The dishes I saw just reminded me of stuff I ate growing up. this was almost the antithesis of the very popular Kyoto Kaiseki.
Just simple, home style dishes....soul food, if you will.
The place I chose was Mimasuya Okudohan......which had a display of "yasai" (vegetables), displayed outside a typical Machiya in the area north of Nishiki Market and the shopping arcades.
There was no one waiting when we arrived at opening time. The fragrance of steaming rice permeated the air as we were seated.
There was a simple two multi-course menu for lunch.
Like the "okazuya" I grew up doing take out from, things were prepped and set-up for a quick service.
And the place filled up fast.
We got one of each of the two lunches.
So many of the flavors were so familiar to me...and the Missus, since I make quite a bit of Japanese nimono style dishes at home. What we really remember is how good the rice was here....I mean, really fragrant, slightly nutty, just amazing.
And the miso soup....more of a red (aka) miso, with a savory bite to it.
And of course those items the Missus loves so much like Kabocha. I really enjoyed the nasubi (eggplant), which had so much savory and earthiness to it.
One of the lunches came with a not so traditional dessert.....which the Missus enjoyed as well.
As we left, we noticed that quite a queue had developed outside the restaurant. It's nice to see folks wanting to try obanzai. For me, it was like stepping into Baban's kitchen. And that's priceless.
Mimasuya Okudohan 318-3 Sanjocho, Nakagyo Ward Kyoto, Japan
The Missus and I have our favorite cities, Kyoto is one of these. It strangely felt almost like coming home, we feel so comfortable here. We again stayed in the area near Higashiyama Station. We enjoy the less hectic pace here, yet the location is close enough to everything.
After dropping things off at the apartment and getting a load of laundry going we headed off to an early dinner.
We headed up Higashioji-dori to a familiar sight.
The place was just opening up. The gentleman running the place was just getting things in order, towel rolled over the back of his neck. There's a comfortable, well-worn vibe to this shop.
Just as on our previous visit, we were greeted with a smile, seated, plates were pointed out. Then he pointed to the self-service dishes on the counter telling us "helpu you self....."
It was apparent on our last visit that rice bowls and fried chicken was the way to go here.
The Missus enjoyed the chashu gohan here the last time; but had really developed a taste for mentaiko in Hokkaido. So She surprisingly chose that!
Very nice savory tones, perfectly cooked rice.
So I ordered the chashu gohan....love the balance of salty-sweet in this version of chashu.
And the wonderfully crunchy, super moist, umami laden chicken karaage.
Surprisingly light, with a faint flavor of ginger, a hint of sweet and major deep savory tones, must be Shio Koji.
A pretty inexpensive meal as well; about $12 for two!
Karako 12-3 Okazaki Tokusei-cho Kyoto
After dinner we crossed over the Kamo River and made our way back to the shopping arcades and the Nishiki Market area. It was quite relaxing to revisit those now familiar places, like the Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine.
It was such a crisp and clear evening. The bright lights of the restaurants and bars on Ponto-chō reflecting beautifully on the Kamo River.
The last time we were in Kyoto our visit was slightly interrupted by Typhoon Vongfong, I promised the Missus that we'd return and finish off the plans we'd had. And so we decided to visit during autumn, where we'd see the wonderful changing of the seasons.
But first, let's have a Mt Fuji break. As I mentioned previously, when leaving Tokyo for Kyoto or anyplace in Kansai for that matter, get a seat on the right side of the Shinkansen....... On a clear day, there's nothing more picturesque than passing a snow topped Mount Fuji.
We left from Tokyo Station quite early in the morning.....I call this shot; "Onigiri at Sunrise".
And a little something from the "Ekiben Stand".
One of the really great things about train stations in Japan is....well, besides being super clean, are the availability of lockers. We stowed our luggage in a locker and headed off, back to Tōfuku-ji. I guess checking out the autumn colors is serious business here as we walked past quite a line to get in.
Of course everyone wants to view things from the Tsuten-kyō Bridge (The Bridge to Heaven) which looked absolutely packed.
As were the trails....though things were covered by the autumn foliage.
And yes indeed, the crowds were no joke.
Though this is Japan, so things were rather orderly.
And views were quite stunning.
And in spite of the crowds, things were rather quiet. So you could find that little peaceful space to admire.
Satisfied we left and headed back to the station to catch the train back to Kyoto Station.
Stopping at a few temples along the way like Taiko-an.
Back to Kyoto Station, they were gearing up for Christmas.
The chill in the air called for ramen and we headed up to 10th floor of the Station Building to Kyoto Ramen Koji, basically Kyoto Station's own "Ramen Street". There are 8 different ramen shops on this floor. Having already had Seabura (Pork Backfat) Ramen, flame torched chashu Miso Ramen in Sapporo, and Iekei Ramen, I wanted some nice Fukuoka style Tonkotsu. So I talked the Missus into Hakata Ikkousha. Yes, I know they have a location in Orange County, but I believe the menu is slightly different.
They were also the busiest place on this floor. We went to the ticket machine and put our money in and got our ticket and waited in line for about 10 minutes.
As is somewhat typical for us; there's no way I can finish a whole bowl myself; we got the Ajitama (soft boiled egg) Ramen and a side dish to share. The presentation at Ikkousha is interesting. They lie four thin slices of chashu on top of the bowl, making it look like a single large layer of pork.
Man, that egg was just a perfect soft, runny boiled thing of beauty. The pork was not my favorite, especially after having so much during this trip as it was on the bland side and rather dry. The noodles were good, a tad past how I prefer them prepared, but way better than anything here in the states. The broth was rich, but I found it less satisfying than Ippudo (we'd go to the Kyoto location later during the trip). I found it less porky and not quite as rich, even though it seemed nicely viscous. It was not bad by any means; quite good, as it still had that "aaaah" factor.
The Karaage was decent, good flavor, but the texture was a little too soft for our taste. Again, we'd have our favorite version again while in the city.
Overall, a nice bowl, decent karaage, it was autumn, the air crisp, our bellies warm.....
Hakata Ikkousha Kyoto Ramen Koji Kyoto Station Building (West Zone), 10th ﬂoor
After having a wonderful time visiting Kamakura, we were pretty hungry. We arrived back in Tokyo and freshened up. We had one more night left and the Missus still hadn't had Her share of Yakitori yet. Isehiro had been a recommendation I received and we even tried to get in on our first evening in Tokyo, but they were strangely closed. So we decided to give it another try.
My understanding is that all the tables upstairs are usually reserved, but the tables and counter downstairs are not. There was not a single soul in the place when we arrived.
But the gentleman behind the grill was cooking like crazy, then placing items in containers. The Missus and I looked at each other and got a feeling that this wasn't going to be a particularly stellar meal. Items are precooked, then reheated.
Next little thing. We were told that there were two "set" menus available.......you can do extras, but no a la carte. The full course was 6480 ¥ (about $60/US at the time) and the "healthy" course was 5832 ¥ (about $54/US). Man, that's not cheap. Each course had 9 skewers, the healthy course had some vegetable items.
We decided to stay the course and just go for it. Though at this point, I'm thinking this better be good. I decided to get a Highball to start.
After the traditional oshibori, the hot towel, things started coming fast a and furious....I mean why not? Most of it was premade.
We both got the Sasami (Chicken Breast) to start. This has never been a big favorite of mine and this version was dry and needed much more salt as well. I first thought that this might be tori-wasa, which would be tender and medium rare, but this was overcooked.
One item that I thought was good here is the Kimo; the chicken liver. The Missus loves this, but I'm not too fond of it. However, this was very good, not too minerally in flavor, without that mushiness I'm not a big fan of.
The tare added a nice sweet-saltiness that deflected all the flavors in chicken liver that I don't like.
We both also received Sunagimo, chicken gizzards.
I usually enjoy how gizzards really absorb the smokiness of the bincho; but instead of being crunchy, this was hard, and strangely didn't have that smokiness I enjoy.
Next up for the both of us was the negi-maki, thigh meat wrapped in scallion.
The meat was very moist if a bit on the tough side. The bitterness of the incinerated scallions was rather unpleasant.
Next up for the both of us is one of my key favorites when it comes to yakitori; tsukune (chicken meatball).
In complete contrast to other items that were basically burnt, this needed a bit more color. What little tare was used on the meatball brought nothing to it. The meatball was toughr than I prefer and there were hard bits as well.
Next up for the Missus, Cherry Tomatoes.
Innocuous, tart, could have used a bit more time on the grill.
I received another of my usual favorites; "kawa", chicken skin.
The burnt bits were crisp, but the rest dry and gummy. This needed more saltiness, or at least a good tare.
The Momoniku (thigh) was quite good.
Except for the scallion being burnt bitter again. Great sweet-salty flavors for the toothsome but not tough chicken thighs. The slightly smoky flavor lifted the dish.
Next for the Missus, Shiitake.
This was fine, but really didn't have any seasoning....it was almost like it hadn't been grilled. Check out the skewers, no blackening on it. Odd.
I received the Aigamo (Duck).
This needed more seasoning and was overcooked for our taste, making it tough and rather stringy.
The Missus finished up with Nankotsu; chicken cartilage.
This was decently prepared, if a bit on the dry side. The amount of salt used was perfect.
My last dish was another favorite of mine; Teba, chicken wing.
Dried out, rubbery, and too salty. Not my favorite combination of textures and tastes.
The Missus and I left somewhat disillusioned. I've always said that it's hard to get a bad meal in Japan and while this wasn't terrible, it wasn't close to being good. I'm wondering if it was just a bad night? Luckily, we'd get some great yakitori later on during this trip.
Isehiro Kyobashi Honten 1-5-4 Kyoashi, Chuo 104-0031 Tokyo
I saw this interesting little diner as we got off the train.
Spam Musubi....malasadas....loco moco...hmmm.... But of course the Missus was having none of that. Plus, I was still stuffed from breakfast.
We strolled on over to Hase-dera which was already starting to get pretty crowded on this fall morning.
The temple is built on the slope of a mountain. So while folks were headed to the Kannon Museum to view the statue of Kannon.
We decided to head up the "Prospect Road".
Which was still quite peaceful on this morning.
Which ended with a wonderful view of Kamakura and Sagami Bay.
We just meandered around the temple grounds.
Coming across the Benten-kutsu Cave.
Which contains bas-reliefs of Benzaiten and other Buddhist Gods.
There's something about the temples in Kamakura that just puts me at ease. I'm able to relax and mentally regroup and feel that yes, I am away from work.
The air seemed so fresh and clean that we decided to walk back to the Kamakura Station area. We walked along the large, but relatively quiet street, stopping along the way to buy some wagashi and also to just take it all in.
Reaching the relatively busy shopping street heading back to Kamakura Station we stopped for a coffee in a random Café.
And the Missus had Her kimishigure.
Feeling energized the Missus decided that instead of catching the train to the next stop up from Kamakura Station and get off at Kita-Kamakura; we would just walk.
Engaku-ji is right next to Kita-Kamakura Station and right behind Kencho-ji is ranked second among Kamakura's five great Zen temples.
The Butsuden displays a wooden statue of Shaka Buddha.
The Shariden displays what is supposed to be a tooth of Buddha.
This Juniper Tree is named Biyakushin and is said to have been planted by the founder of Engaku-ji, making it over 700 years old.
It's great fun wondering around the grounds of this good sized complex.
Up this hill resides the Ogane, the "Grand Bell", which of course has a story.....
And the Bentendo......
Fairly close by is Meigetsu-in. Meigetsu mean "bright moon", so you'll see representation of rabbits, (remember the Japanese children's story Tsuki no Usagi?) on the grounds. We found this one, right near the entrance to be quite charming.
The area is rather small, but hosts some important items. Kamakura was not well known for having a good fresh water supply. Therefore, any good drinkable water supply was considered a blessing. Kam--no-I is one of the ten wells of Kamakura.
There's a cave here as well; known as the Meigetsu-in Yagura. Yagura are human made caves that were used as tombs.
It is said that this is the tomb of Uesugi Norikata who is said to have founded this temple.
Along one of the walls were little "squirrel houses". There actually were squirrels scampering from house to house to grab a bite.
Speaking of grabbing a bite. Many of these temples have tea houses....which seemed kind of touristy to us. But we needed a short break so we thought why not.
This turned out to be a nice break for us.....
A nice bit of tea......a not so sweet confection.
And all on the grounds of a lovely temple in Kamakura.....
I'm sure that not having too many folks visiting when we were added to the "atmosphere". But things surely seemed serene to us....and that's what really mattered, right?
The Missus beat me to the Natto Combination....so I got the Nikudōfu (simmered beef and tofu) combo. Both were an inexpensive 570 yen! The seating was interesting; salarymen were seated together, sometimes sharing tables. But because I was with the Missus we were seated in a booth.
The Server took our tickets and soon enough our food arrived.
Think of this the next time you grab something from Mickey D's or the like for breakfast. For about $5.50, the Missus got tofu, natto, and even some sashimi with Her combo. Which, BTW, She really enjoyed.
What I got wasn't exactly slim pickins' either.
The beef and tofu; while not amazing were both nicely flavored; not too salty, not too sweet. When did I start enjoying mentaiko for breakfast? I'm not sure, but I really like the saltiness...and perfectly cooked rice.
Don't need much more than that.
Hatsufuji was an interesting place. We passed by several times during our stay. After breakfast, the ticket machine is rolled to the side and you'll notice a collection of set lunches, displayed in full plastic glory in the window.
During the evening, the place becomes an Izakaya. I find it fascinating and I'm hoping we'll be back in Japan more sooner than later. And if we're around the Yaesu exit of Tokyo Station Underground you can be sure we'll be back at Hatsufuji.
Yaesu Hatsufuji Yaesu underground shopping center North 1, 2-1, Yaesu, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 103-0028
There wasn't a line when we arrived and we were lead upstairs, where things did look rather busy. We got the last booth in the place and placed our orders.
It's quite simple; there were two Oden sets available for lunch, each about 680 yen and we ordered one of each.
Boy did this hit the spot.
That simmered daikon had really absorbed the flavor of the broth and was perfectly tender; not falling apart, but so easily cut with a chopstick. Our favorite item was the Toumeshi; indeed this is called the toumeshi set and I can see why. That tofu had absorbed the savory-sweet-dashi based flavor so well and rice was also a great vehicle for passing all of that. Simple, but just wonderful.
The Missus ordered the other Oden set which was quite good as well.
This was just the perfect thing for day like this. Then a kind of interesting thing happened....I'm guessing it's fairly common given the crowded nature of Tokyo.
The Missus and I were sitting across from each other in the booth. Two salarymen came in and sat down right next to us in the booth!
So now we were kinda trapped! The Missus and I looked at each other and cracked up. And we couldn't help but text each other our observations; especially when a couple of pieces of rice got stuck on one of the men's face....it kept moving around while he ate, but wouldn't fall off, and was quite mesmerizing!
Actually they were quite nice. When they noticed we were finished, they both stood up and waved us through. So, I guess this is fairly standard eating in Tokyo!
There was a line of people waiting outside in the rain as we left. I walked across the street to take a photo, and wouldn't you know; that line extended across the street!
It's easy to understand why folks would wait in the rain for this place. Good, comforting food at an inexpensive price. And it sure did hit the spot on a day like this.
Otakou Honten 2-2-3 Nihonbashi Chuo, Tokyo
Feeling nice and warm, our bellies full, we headed off in the drizzle to our next destination. I really enjoy the beer that Hitachino produces and had read that they had opened a beer bar in the Akihabara. I recommended going on the Yamanote Line from Tokyo Station, it's like a 4-5 minute ride. But of course this is the Missus; so we walked.
It turned out to be about a 30 minute walk. The Brewing Lab is located right on the Kanda River.
It's a nice cozy little place and very quiet during this time of the day as there was only one customer the whole time we were there.
There were 8 pulls on this day and we ended up getting 4 beers; even Session IPA. We ended up with the Masters Selection, Nipponia, Weizen and the Nest Lager.
The Lager was my favorite; while the Missus enjoyed the Weizen. Man, Hitachino makes some really good stuff. If you're in the area; this might be a good stop.
Hitachino Brewing Lab 1-25-4 Kandasudacho Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Soon enough, it was time to go. And this time the Missus relented and we caught the train back to Nihonbashi. We had some time to do a little shopping; then head back to the apartment for a short nap before meeting Reiko for dinner.
We headed out and along the way passed what I believe are the offices of Ajinomoto Corporation, who had their Christmas gift sets out on a on display.
We headed into the "underground Tokyo Station City", which is an apt description of the floors, street, and underground passageways that surround Tokyo Station. We needed something small to eat and decided to stop in at this little udon shop in the underground.
There was a gentleman making udon in the window, obviously a good draw for the place. But what made us stop was the sign....I asked the Missus, who can read Kanji, "does it say what I think it does"? And She said yes; "Udon, all the broth you can drink, all the tea you can drink, and rice ball....325 yen." That's like $3.25...... Okay.....
The set-up is cafeteria like; I got the special, plus extra cup of tea, and some veggies for like five bucks....really!
A simple dashi based broth (we saw folks going back for more), nice chewy noodles, onigiri, and tea..........more than a decent breakfast for us. I'm not sure when I spent five bucks for breakfast for two......
When we got back, I tried to find out what the name of this place was...to no avail. Thanks to the help of FOY (Friend of Yoso Kat - who recently celebrated her eleventh year of blogging) Kat, I actually managed to find the place. Which is located right at the corner of......
Mugimaru Yaesu Minamiguchi 八重洲2-1 八重洲地下街南1号 B1 Chūō, 東京都 〒104-0028 Japan
Like I've said, you can eat for 300 yen or 30,000 yen in Tokyo....it's your choice.
Interesting little note; we'd never exited on the Maronouchi North Exit of Tokyo Station, which was (when we were there) being renovated. There's a European feel to the façade.
Since we decided on hanging around the Chuo and Chiyoda area on this day; we headed off to the Imperial Palace which was fairly close by.
By the time we got back to Tokyo Station from Kamakura, dusk was quickly approaching.
We got back to the tiny apartment, freshened up and relaxed for a bit. Then it was off to Ebisu Station to meet our good friend Reiko, who we hadn't seen since we had dinner at Tanyaki Shinobu. Hearing that the Missus loved Yakitori, Reiko wanted to take us to an "old school" yakitori "joint" named Tatsuya.
It is a place where salarymen and old timers hang out shoulder to shoulder at the bar, drinking and filling themselves with reasonably priced skewers.....
The business hours; 8am to 5am (?!?) kind of tells you what kind of place this is.
To be honest; the yakitori here is fairly generic.......the Missus and cracked up when we actually had problems figuring out what was kimo (chicken liver), because all of it looked kind of alike!
It was an interesting view into life in Tokyo........ And super reasonably priced as well. And I'm sure this stuff would be great after like 3-4 (or 5-8) beers. It was a fun experience.
Tatsuya 1-8-16 Ebisu-Minami Shibuya, Tokyo
Reiko had another stop planned, but the place was closed. So we decided to walk into a nearby yakiniku shop.
Reiko rarely has yakiniku so she was all for it.
So we ordered a couple of plates and some beer for us.
Good lord this stuff was so good!
I mean, the beef tongue and highly marbled rib meat (A5 Kobe) was great as expected. But the Missus just loved the liver and I was just amazed at how almost buttery and tender the horumon was. And the flavor from the charcoal.......oh man!
It's amazing how a little serendipitous moment can turn into such a great meal. So now, I may have to find a great yakiniku place the next time we're in Tokyo.
There's no info in English on this shop; just a rather light entry in Tabelog.
Oumiteipurasuwan 1-8-10 Ebisu-Nishi Shibuya, Tokyo
Arriving back at Tokyo Station....walking past all the all the men displaying what we call the "Asian Gene", we had to smile.
Yes, Tokyo is a lot of bright lights, hustle and bustle....there's something going on all the time, the folks here walk really, really fast....but a few blocks away you'll find a serene moment. It's that charm that makes me want to keep on coming back.