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
Ed (from Yuma) shares a fancy omakase dinner with Tina – and now with you, dear reader. Tomorrow Kirk or Cathy will share something different.
It was a dark and stormy night, after a dark and stormy drive over to San Diego, so Tina and I were happy to walk into the clean well lighted space that is Kokoro (website). We'd made an early reservation so Ishito-san had no other customers at the bar when we arrived:
Both Kirk and I have posted about omakase experiences here, so Tina and I wanted the top-of-the-line omakase and ordered it three days in advance.
The meal started with a simple looking mushroom appetizer – enoki and sliced oyster mushrooms in beautiful little bowls:
That pic doesn’t show much food, but the shrooms were lightly sauced and had an earthy/woodsy flavor. Nice modest beginning.
Then bowls showed up with a large oyster cut into three pieces, flanked by little pieces of dark seaweed, and topped with a blast of ginger:
The concentrated flavor of the ocean.
About this time I ordered 6 oz Kikusui sake:
It was cold, smooth, and altogether pleasant.
Our sashimi plate was a thing of beauty:
The maguro was exceptional and deeply flavored. The uni was good, of course, and the tako had a nice balance between flavor and chewiness. Even the scallop, which was pretty bland really, tasted fresh and tender. I should add that the wasabi was quality as well, hot spicy with bits of real wasabi throughout.
Here's another view of the plate:
Ishito-san was proud of the white fish selection. "Five different fish, all different flavor and texture." The hamachi was what you'd expect, fresh tasting, firm, and rich. The hirame (right behind the octopus) had firmer texture and deeper richer flavor than expected. I'm pretty sure that the slices were endawa, dorsal fin muscle, which I have not had since Wal Mi Do closed. Both Tina and I enjoyed the range of flavors, textures, and richness among the five.
The last item on the platter was maybe the most amazing of all:
I have never had or seen two toned tuna before. And yeah, real good and real rich.
It was time for a change of pace, so we were pleased to see a small covered bowl set in front of each of us:
Inside was a deceptively simple looking clear broth soup:
The cube was a piece of crab and seafood cake, mild and tender. The green herb was very strong flavored and contrasted nicely with the cake. But the key to the whole dish is the thin golden brown oval on the bottom of the bowl – a slice of bottarga – salted, cured, pressed, and aged mullet caviar. When you bite into it, it dissolves into a myriad of minuscule fish eggs.
The next course was one of our favorites, a complex autumn/winter stew that seemed perfect for a rainy evening:
The two main ingredients were pieces of crunchy fried fish and thick succulent tender slices of beautifully braised daikon. They were accompanied by gobo root matchsticks, fried slices of lotus root, a couple of candlenuts, and a few salmon eggs. The flavors, textures, and colors of the stew made this a big winner for both of us.
At this time, our hashi were replaced with new ones. “Why?” crossed my mind briefly, and then an amazing beef salad was set before us:
The steak was exceptionally tender, deeply flavored, and rich. The greens with their fresh and sometimes bitter flavors provided contrast. And the yuzu based steak sauce/salad dressing went with both, its tang balancing the rich meat. "That's wagyu beef from Japan,” Ishito san said, “Grade A5, the best." We believed him. It was good.
Then Tina and I each got a couple slices of fried monkfish accompanied by ponzu:
Okay, but not especially memorable.
The sushi course was the last savory part of the meal. It looked pretty ordinary:
However, it was quite good. The anago was sprinkled with coarse salt and was fresh and meaty tasting. The saba had been lightly cured so we could taste real mackerel flavor. The unusually large ebi, never a favorite sushi of mine, was wonderful here. We were told to use no shoyu, which seemed odd, but the shrimp were so fresh, meaty, and sweet that Ishito san wanted nothing to mask that taste.
The meal concluded with a choice of Italian style ice creams or sorbet. Tina loved her raisin and vanilla bean ice cream:
And I was blown away by the green apple sorbet:
Overall a great meal.
Kokoro, 3298 Greyling Dr. Ste. B, San Diego, CA 92123, (858) 565-4113
The mmm-yoso!!! gang has been busy for the past few days, with work, holiday parties, shopping trips and other end of year tasks. Kirk and Ed (from Yuma) haven't had time to write and Cathy is writing a short, pertinent compendium today.
We have had some very cold days this month and today it is wet and windy: Winter has hit San Diego. Kirk mentioned this last week. If The Mister and I aren't staying home and cooking, when eating out, at least one of us is ordering a warm meal that is served in a bowl and has a spoon as an essential utensil.
Kirk had mentioned that Mama Testa was re-opening, but neither of us has done a post. I've had the chicken mojados here ($10): rolled taquitos, cut and topped with lettuce and sour cream with a mild, chicken based broth on the side; you can pour it over everything to make an interesting soup-type meal. (The beef mojados is beef rolled taquitos and a spicy, red broth). This is unique and tasty. Mama Testa 9225 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126 website
The Bahn Mi Bo Kho ($7.50) at Lucky Seafood is indeed the best Vietnamese style beef stew; I have tried versions everywhere, planned on doing a comparison post and was frustrated with so many bad meals. Pho Lucky 9326 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126
Whenever The Mister and I stop at Chopstix Too, He takes His time looking at the entire menu and alwaysorders the same thing, mabo ramen ($7.45). Chopstix Too 4380 Kearny Mesa Road San Diego 92111 website We were back at Pho Hoa Huong after grocery shopping (and looking for 2017 calendars) and stopped in for a large bowl of pho tai ($7.25) which arrived with the beef still raw and cooking in the hot, flavorful broth. PhoHoa Huong 6921 Linda Vista Rd San Diego, CA 92111 Kirk had called his meals at Sam Woo BBQ 'early lunch'. The menu lists these under 'breakfast' ($4.25 each). I almost always order the fish porridge, but another choice is the shrimp dumpling noodle soup. Each is good and satisfying. Sam Woo BBQ 7330 Clairemont Mesa Blvd Ste 103 San Diego, CA 92111 An Item I haven't mentioned that is served at Tip Top Meats is the Beef Stew ($6.98). Made daily from scratch, limited in quantity, this rich, meaty, traditional stew is great. Tip Top Meats and European Delicatessen 6118 Paseo Del Norte Carlsbad, CA 92009 Website
Stay warm and dry!
Then again, you can just drop into a local grocer (this was at H-Mart) and grab something to enjoy at home.
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.
I'm finally catching up on things. A few recent observations.
More Ramen Coming to Kearny Mesa ?:
At least if the ABC notice is correct. Something named Menya Ultra. Some quick slapping on my keyboard yielded a clue.... and a bit more. I'm pretty sure that the folks at Nishiki Ramen can't be happy at the company name. But another Hokkaido ramen chain in San Diego? Well, I think there's room for that.
mmm-yoso!!!, the food blog, is where you have found yourself. Kirk is still vacationing (literally at the top of the globe), Ed (from Yuma) is just East of us, enjoying his retirement and mini vacations in places other than California and Cathy is writing this post.
My job is odd, I can meet with clients at their home, office or in a public place. The 'ambiance' of an all you can eat buffet is such that there is less pressure to turn over a table quickly (unless there is a line out the door waiting to get in, which usually isn't the case during the week). One client in particular enjoyed (very much) the now closed chain of Hometown Buffet restaurants in the county, and I would meet him there primarily to eat all the fried chicken with the unique side dish 'Spinach Marie' that I could.
There are still 'all you can eat' places around, mostly Chinese buffets and San Diego based Souplantation.
My client discovered Onami, the all you can eat Japanese sushi/seafood buffet at the Westfield Mission Valley Mall. While waiting to be seated, you can see a 'Ramen and Udon Bar' just to the left. You can have a bowl prepared and a choice of five (do it yourself) toppings are available. Right around the corner is a cold noodle area, which offers the only toppings needed: green onion and shredded radish. Seating areas are varied and interspersed next to the variety of hot and cold food areas. Near the back of the restaurant are the hot foods, with many seafood choices.
There is an area where you can choose various vegetables, fish pieces and shrimp to be freshly battered and fried. There is a cold area with a selection of twelve prepared salads. Along the other side is the sushi area, with item choices being prepared and refilled constantly. Then there was the dessert area, with a tremendous, portion controlled selection available.
Everything was fresh and tasty and quite nice. The space is quiet enough in some areas for conversation. The cost for weekday lunch was less than $15 each, which I though was good for the quality and variety.
Enjoy your weekend!
Onami 1640 Camino Del Rio N Ste 206 San Diego, CA 92108 Phone number (619) 295-9774 Hours: Mon-Thurs 11:30 am-2:30 pm, 5:30 pm-9 pm Fri 11:30 am-2:30 pm, 5 pm-9pm Sat 11:30-9:30 Sun 11:30-9
Thanks for stopping to read mmm-yoso!!! today. Cathy is writing because the guys are just too busy.
After I got my fill of spicy foods following three weeks in the Midwest, it was time for what I just couldn't get back there (comfort food, San Diego style).Kirk posted in 2005 and again in 2015 about the original location of Chopstix. In 2006, he and I wrote a joint post about the second location and, in general, both locations are efficient with fresh food.The simple Hiya Yakko (cold tofu topped with chopped green onion, grated ginger on top of salad)($4) was just something I never thought I would miss and this really hit the spot. Hiyashi Soba ($9)- cold buckwheat noodle topped with imitation crab, chicken, sprouts, corn, cucumber, egg and seaweed was a perfect flavor mix on this day. The Mister ordered his 'usual'- mabo ramen ($7), which has a deep, sweet-spicy flavor along with the ground pork and tofu. Most of the other soup bases and fillings here are sort of 'plain'.
Chopstix 4633 Convoy San Diego 92101 (858)569-9171 open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily
Ten years ago, I wrote about Niban and then again in 2010 and in 2011. It's a regular spot for us when we don't want to cook at home: fast, fresh, unassuming. After ordering and paying, finding a seat and having water and hot tea (still free) brought out, food soon arrives. The chicken katsu salad ($4.50) was what I wanted. So simple: iceberg lettuce topped with cold noodles, carrot and cucumber slices and cherry tomatoes along with a perfectly breaded and fried chicken thigh. The miso based, Japanese radish/fresh ginger salad dressing is so very good. One of the window specials that day was chicken katsu curry ($7). The Mister wanted his own pieces of chicken along with the flavorful beefy curry sauce made here-it satisfied his cravings.
Niban 7081 Clairmont Mesa Boulevard San Diego 92111 (858)268-0465 Mon-Sat 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.-10 p.m., Sunday 4:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m.
Then there was my craving for something from underrated, more than ten yearsin the same location,consistentalways good,comfort food for Kirk also, unassuming restaurant located at the South East corner of the 163 at Claremont Mesa.The rock cod with black bean sauce ($16 if not at lunch or late night (after 9 p.m., when it is $8)) is just done right here. Lightly crisp fried fish with red and green peppers, onions and salty black bean sauce along with some red-chili heat is just what I wanted. Then again, so was the simple beef topped egg foo young ($14 at dinner, $7 at lunch or late night). That is a larger than tablespoon spoon on a very large platter. The crispy vegetable filled omelet, so simple to make (in theory) is just wonderfully flavorful, crispy and somehow addictive in flavor here. Most times, we order it just with gravy/vegetable only, because that's all I really want.
Golden City 5375 Kearny Villa (at Claremont Mesa) 92111 (858) 565-6682 open daily 11 a.m.-midnight website