As much as we enjoyed Rhodes, we had been kind of underwhelmed at the food we'd had. It's the tourist trade that brings in the money, I get it. It wasn't until the end of our stay on Rhodes that we found a place, a humble taverna in the Old Town, just a block or so off the main tourist track, named Taverna Kostas.
You walk in and it looks like a simple little shop.
The first time we visited, we peeked in the front and had our doubts, but the older gentleman sitting at the table peeling garlic, stood up and warmly greeted us...."welcome, welcome....come in!" And we couldn't turn back. This was Kostas, whom we loved.......warm and friendly, with a gentle demeanor.
We were led to a much brighter and nicer dining area at the rear of the restaurant.
There were no other workers in the place.........everything was done by one man....and done with great joy.
When we mentioned how much we loved the olive oil he served, Kostas, smiled and said he got it from one of his relatives.....
Then proceeded to show on the standard issue Rhodes Taverna paper tablecloth, cum map where he got the olive oil from.
When a larger party came in, we noticed they set the table themselves, putting on the tablecloth and getting water.........as they conversed with Kostas, it became clear that they were regular visitors who came to Rhodes every year and ate here....they knew the drill.
The next night, after walking past several places, we decided to head back to Kostas. After walking in, we set our own table, which just delighted Kostas! "Good, good....thank you....you are now family!"
The item the Missus enjoyed the most were the Gigantes Plaki.
And while some of the other dishes were less memorable, none of them were bad at all.
Of all the meals we had on Rhodes, it was this humble taverna that we enjoyed the most. On another funny note, one of the restaurant owners of a place in Rhodes I posted on has sent me a couple of emails ordering me to delete my post or be slapped with a law suit....really? C'mon, get serious. Just kind of tells you about the folks who run that place.....
And then you have Taverna Kostas. A little place on a side street with well priced, unpretentious, honest food.... and one heck of a nice owner.
The Missus had made some plans for our third day in Kyoto. Unfortunately, the impending arrival of Typhoon Vongfong made us change our plans a bit. Masae, the owner of our Machiya kept us apprised of the Typhoon situation, as did Kat. So instead of doing the Philosopher's Walk, we headed off to Shijo-dori to wander around and do some shopping.
Strangely, most things seemed like business as usual. We walked through the Gion and over the bridge, first heading to Nishiki Market, which, unlike the mass of humanity we encountered on our first day in Kyoto was quite sedate at this time of the day.
A handful of businesses were closed, but for most it was just another day it seemed. Like these two who were out scrubbing the walkway in fornt of their shop.......right before a Typhoon?
My favorite stop was the knife shop....with all the handmade scissors and knives.
At the east end of Nishiki Market on Teramachi street is Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine.
The lanterns are quite stunning.
The water that comes from the deep well in the shrine is supposed to be so pure and clean that it has no odor and the temperature is usually at a steady 65 degrees.
The shopping arcades were quite empty at this time of the morning......in startk contrast to our previous visit to the area.
We couldn't help but notice all the "Kyoto drip" gear in a shop called Holly's Cafe as we walked past.
The Missus, who's become a bit of a coffee nerd over the last year just had to stop. So I had a nice Kyoto cold brew....which was very cheap compared to the states....like about $2.50 or so!
It was a nice and relaxing break.......sitting and watching the folks walk by on a slightly wet Sunday morning.
Refreshed we headed off, across the Kamo River for the umpteenth time.
On the corner of Hanamikoji and Shijo streets the Missus found a bustling shop.....full of make-up and other stuffs. One of the objectives of this trip was to stock up on various brands and products, so the Missus was in heaven.
The store was a outpost of Yojiya a time honored Kyoto brand known for their facial blotting paper. The Missus had a blast and purchased a good number of gifts.
We'd done a pretty good job of passing the time and the Missus was getting hungry. She was still craving that karaage from Karako, so we headed up Higashishoji-dori, first stopping off to unload our purchases.
Unfortunately, Karako was closed due to the impending storm. I recalled a couple of shops across the street and we found one of them open. We decided on eating here based on the plastic food display.
No English spoken, but not a big deal..... I had the Tempura Soba, which was nice and hot.
The Missus had been wanting to have a Katsudon, one of Her favorite dishes since we got to Japan, so She got Her wish...though what She really wanted was a Chicken Katsudon, which seemed to be pretty rare.....anyway, She finally got a katsudon.
She actually enjoyed the miso soup the most. As for the katsudon? I think it did the job, though She did tell me; "you know what....you make a pretty good katsudon."
Usually, when we travel, I get some aches and pains from all the walking......with the Missus making fun of all the "grandpa" noises I make. On this trip, I could tell that all the walking was taking a toll on the Missus as well. Somehow, it just made all my aches feel that much better....I guess sharing the wealth does that to you.
Heading back for a post lunch nap we passed this shop.
This place specialized in Yatsuhashi, one of the most well known confections of Kyoto.
We decided to get a few nama yatsuhashi....the soft, unbaked version to try.
I'm not big on sweets and the Missus doesn't care for cinnamon flavored confections, so while it was nice to try these, I don't think we'll be racing back to buy any.
We headed back in a rather roundabout way, taking our time. It had started to rain intermittently, the sky was getting pretty dark, and the wind was starting to pick up.
Even the ducks in Shirakawa Canal seemed to think something was up as they all faced the same direction....upstream.
We headed back to the machiya, the Missus took a nice long bath, and I worked on a post. We'd been going at a pretty good pace so an easy day was a nice treat and just what we needed.
After a short nap we awoke and decided to take a walk around. It was starting to rain pretty hard and the wind was blowing pretty good.....but there were still quite a few people and cars out and about.
We wandered around a bit, then headed back....
Meanwhile, many of the shops in the shopping arcade started closing up early. Even with all of this; things just seemed to happen at a very relaxed pace. Before leaving Tokyo, we chatted with Reiko about the Typhoon. She said, "yes Kirk-san, there will be some rain, maybe some wind......." Some rain? Maybe some wind?
Darkness seemed to fall quickly, like someone pulling a shade down. The big question was, "what are we going to eat?" There was always picking something up at Family Mart....you could basically live out of convenience stores in Japan....though I'm not quite sure what your sodium levels would be after a couple of weeks.
We'd noticed a gyoza shop right around the corner from the shopping arcade the previous day. This seemed like a simple, light meal.
Just one of the many shops you see everywhere.... Serving basically one thing; here it's gyoza, with a few small "salads" on the menu. And cold beer......nice, cold, and refreshing beer.
The gyoza was as good a gyoza can be; crisp on the bottom, the filling nice and light....nothing like a good guotie, mind you, but still good.
We actually enjoyed the onion salad more.
Earlier in the evening, Kat sent me a text, reminding me to pick up some snacks since we wouldn't be going out and about this evening. Thanks Kat! So on the way back, we dropped by the market, which was pretty busy........ I guess everyone was buying some snacks on typhoon night!
So that's what we did as typhoon Vongfong passed. The Missus was upstairs reading....while I turned on a television for the first time during this whole trip and watched storm reports....
While having a couple of beers and some snacks.
Sometime before drifting off to sleep the Missus said, "you owe me......another trip to Kyoto". I told Her, "no problem, we can come back anytime you want." We have unfinished business here. Which I'm hoping to take care of in the near future.
Before heading off to Sitka & Spruce for dinner, the Missus needed a couple of gifts. Chocolate is always appreciated. I looked up a couple of places and found a listing for Intrigue Chocolate who specializes in truffles.
The kitchen, cum shop is located....well, I'll quote the website:
"The shop, which is also our industrial-style kitchen, can be a little tricky to find because we are not on the street level. Easiest way to find us is to find the entrance to Sake Nomi (Sake bar) and continue up the stairs. Then it's just down the hall which turns to the left, and we are the clearly marked brown door, third on the left."
The two guys running the place were so enthusiastic, they'd let us try everything if we'd been able to stay longer! They also make a nice cold brew concentrate as well!
Our favorites were the Juniper Berry and the Nutmeg & Chipotle.
We loved the place, they just seem to enjoy what they do.....and even though they currently use, high quality Belcolade chocolate, we were given a taste of a work in progress, the chocolate they are developing on their own. It was nice talking coffee and Belgian chocolate. We'll be back.
Intrigue Chocolate 76 S Washington St. Suite 104 Seattle, WA 98104
We headed back to our room, dropped off the truffles, and headed off to....
Sitka & Spruce:
The walk was a tad over a mile, though the hills.....sheesh...anyway we did pretty good time, about 20 minutes to Melrose Market in the popular and trendy Capitol Hill neighborhood. We loved the setting; Sitka & Spruce is located in back of the brick building, understated, in that warm, yet somewhat industrial style, high ceilings, a large communal table, and open kitchen.....
The restaurant itself is not large; just a few tables, counter, and communal table seating. As is our MO, we try to eat early, before the rush and crowds. We usually get a better experience and the restaurant is able to do "it's thing".
My main reason for selecting S&S was the menu, which is nice and tight, focusing on seasonal Northwest products. We both thought the tapas-type dishes were much more interesting and we prefer having a tasting style meal. Our diet has changed quite a bit over the last couple of years and the small dishes at S&S seemed right up our alley. A variety of great local produce with interesting combinations of texture and flavors. So we were quite excited to try this establishment of the Matt Dillon empire.
There was one interesting thing about the beverage selection.....based on our dinner the previous night at The Walrus and the Carpenter and now Sitka & Spruce, it seems that Wine and Cocktails are still king for meals in Seattle. Which I thought strange since I usually see Seattle ranked in the top 10 beer cities in the US. Here it's nothing on tap, five choices Hilliard from a can or Rainier?
Whatever....I guess we'd just go and find the Stumbling Monk, or another place after dinner.
We started with the Charcuterie ($25)
While the air dried ham (aka prosciutto, though they can't call it that) was "meh", really bland and lacking in the deep cured flavor we love, there were some real winner here. The chicken liver, basically a a light, spreadable pate really caught me off guard, sweet molasses at first, giving away to savory, with that chicken liver finish. I'm not a big fan of metallic chicken liver flavors, though I love my pate's. This gave me a wonderful ride. The duck rillette had a tremendous almost condensed duck flavor. The head cheese was nice and balanced and the pork terrine was also very tasty. Loved the variety of flavors present here.
Next up Delicata Squash, Haloumi, and Pumpkin Seeds ($15).
We started seeing Delicata Squash on menus last fall. The Missus loves them; moderately sweet, with a nice texture, and an edible peel....heck, even I enjoy them. So it goes without saying the Missus loved this. I really enjoyed the combination of flavors, the nuttiness of the pumpkin seeds, the light subtle milkiness of the haloumi cheese. I thought the amount of nuttiness and milky flavors went beyond just the haloumi and pumpkin seeds. When I mentioned this to our Server, she also noted that the sauce was made of whey and argan oil. The mint also added another dimension of flavor.......
My least favorite dish of the night was the Charred Celeriac, Braised Quince, Ambrosia Apple and Bread Crisps ($15).
I really didn't care for the amount of almost tart-tannic flavors. The celeriac was lost in the dish. Tongue numbing and not in a good way.
The Smoked Potato, Pickled Seaweed, Anchovy, and Egg Yolk ($16), took me to that edge.....I loved the smoky flavor, the seaweed added a nice oceany brine, the anchovies were teetering on the edge of too salty, but that egg yolk somehow seemed to temper the salt.
I loved the smoked potatoes....why hadn't I tried that before? Smashed potatoes also seemed to be "the thing" in Seattle. The Missus said She'd have preferred bacon, but I told Her, "that would be so TGI Friday's". Loved the crisp skin on the potatoes as well. you can tell by the meal I made the day after we returned, that this dish made an imprint.
By far, the best single dish we had on this trip was the Hen of the Woods Mushroom, Guanciale, Oyster Cream, and Cider ($18).
My goodness, the earthy-savory aroma, meaty texture of the Hen of the Woods mushroom, more familiar to me as Maitake, was just superb. The sage along with the cider added an citrus tone, along with a hint of sweetness. The oysters in the sauce just took the flavors to another level. I'm not sure of the purpose of the guanciale as I couldn't make out any pork flavors. But who cares. In terms of an outstanding dish; this has our votes.
I realize that the dishes we chose and enjoyed at S&S might not be for everyone; especially the hardcore carnivore. There are 3-4 entrees on the menu any given night....this time it was chicken, black cod, and rabbit. I just chose dishes that best reflected the foraging background of Matt Dillon. I believed that this would be the strongpoint of the restaurant and it seemed that way to us. Our check came in at a bit over a hundred and it was worth every penny.
Sitka & Spruce 1531 Melrose Ave Seattle, WA 98101
We were a bit too full and decided against finding a pub. But, as we headed back toward Pike Street we noticed a crowd of people being let into a building. We walked up Pike a bit, then headed back down. When we passed the building again, the Missus couldn't help it.....we had to go and check it out.
The place seemed buzzing....hip.....totally perfect for the Missus....totally wrong for me.
Arriving at the door, we asked the gentleman inside what was going on. "This is the grand opening of the Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room, please come in......" Wow, it seemed like a big deal.
Just looking at the equipment, it looks like Starbucks is experimenting with going more high end.
I'm not the biggest fan of Starbucks....but kudos to them for seeming to ride the Third Wave.
This place looks fantastic and smells wonderful. Roasters were on hand to explain the different processes and equipment.
These guys really know how to market.......
Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room 1124 Pike St Seattle, WA 98101
Heading down Pike, we ran into the inevitable shopping crowds.....heck, Christmas is around the corner.
But the crowd seemed extra dense and we heard music in the air......and my goodness...Sugarplum Elves?
It's all these things that makes Seattle special for us....there's always an interesting surprise.
We talked about this as walked back to Whole Foods......the Missus wanted me to get in as much exercise as I could. This was the reason I was thinking of moving here before I met the Missus.
And while I don't think we could live here; it's a bit too cold, there's not enough Asian food within a 2 hour drive, and there's not enough sunshine. The city holds a special place in our hearts. So I guess we'll have to keep coming back.
It always makes me want to jump right back in bed...... We usually wake very early when travelling. Getting up at 4 or 5 am is the norm, whether in Hanoi, Prague, Antigua, or Istanbul. When in Seattle though, we usually get a great, long, night of sleep. And usually awake famished......
The Missus picked the spot for breakfast; Lola in Belltown. I was interested as well, since this is part of the Tom Douglas empire. In spite of all my visits to Seattle, I'd only eaten in one Tom Douglas restaurant; Dahlia Lounge back in 1994, when he won the James Beard award for Best Chef: Northwest.
It was 8am on a Friday morning and the place was packed!
The Missus ordered the "Lola Breakfast" ($15).....and for some reason ordered Her eggs boiled...6 minute eggs. One of the eggs that arrived had cracked and the albumen was oozing out sloppily. She asked about it and the Server grumpily removed the plate and it was brought back very quickly....so we knew they had just scrapped off the egg whites and dropped the plate back on the table.... the eggs, were also way past 6 minute territory.
Other than that, the smashed garlic potatoes were wonderful....I enjoyed the fingerling the best. We had potatoes this way twice in Seattle, something that I had done at home a while back, but now I've been inspired to do potatoes this way again. The bacon was very nice, great flavors, crisp around the edges, chewy in the center.
I ordered Tom's Favorite Breakfast ($19). I had read that Lola is Greek inspired and this "hash" of sorts featured octopus, which did not disappoint.
The octopus was among the best I've had in ages, perfectly tender, yet slight crisp from the griddle. The winter squash added a wonderful, mild sweetness to the dish, the bacon, salty-smoky flavors, and let's not forget the leek, which brought the entire dish together.
The poached egg was adequate, though I'm not a fan of the sourdough toast here....they are still into hard and chewy breads here.
We both enjoyed the coffee and instead of feeling weighed down by breakfast, both thought this hit the right balance in terms of portion size.
Lola 2000 4th Ave Seattle, WA 98121
We then headed off to this Seattle landmark and truly one of my favorite places in the world.
No matter how many times I've visited Seattle; I've never gotten tired of checking out Pike Place Market.
We have our favorite places; the Missus never gets tired of watching donuts being made at the Daily Dozen Doughnut Company and I enjoy checking out Beecher's Cheese.
Well, make that "used to be" a must stop. I got a Sauerkraut, Cabbage, and Carrot ($4.20) which seemed to be a shadow of its former self....did they change the recipe somewhere in the recent past? First, the filling was pretty cold and strangely bland, second, the pastry lacked the buttery-yeasty flavor that we both recall.
Kind of sad since this used to be a tradition for us.......
Piroshky Piroshky 1908 Pike Pl Seattle, WA 98101
Still, it's always grest to visit Pike Place Market and to check out places that weren't around the last time we visited......I did want to taste the shot of the brine at Britt's Pickles, but no one was around....so we'll just have to go next time.
We then started off to our next stop when it started to come down a bit. So we ducked into Seattle Coffee Works...the Missus had Her V60 pour over and I had some iced coffee.
When things settled down a bit we caught the route 131 bus down to SODO. Now, I might joke about the Missus and Her love for Chanel bags and such......but I've got a bit of a bag fetish as well. You see, I'd been searching for the perfect carry-on bag for years. We only do carry-on when we're travelling, unless we'll be bringing stuff back....we have a foldable duffle for that. A few years back, I got a Tom Bihn Tri Star, basically a European sized carry-on and I loved it. The Missus complained about spending so much for luggage, ya-da, ya-da, ya-da.....Until the Aeronaut 30 came out and I got Her one.....now She's a Tom Bihn-nite as well.
Anyway, Tom Bihn's factory and only showroom is located on Ohio Ave South. So we caught the bus, got out at the South Dawson Street stop and walked to the showroom.
The showroom is basically a partitioned off section in front of the factory floor. But.... I was in travel bag geek heaven! Anyway, the Missus determined that I should get an Aeronaut 45, which can actually hold a lot more than I believed. So yes, another bag for me.......
We caught the bus back to Pioneer Square. By now we were getting a bit hungry. So we stopped by this fast casual shop named Sprout, ordered a Cobb Salad and went back to the room and shared it. By now it was nap time for the Missus and usually, I'd be joining Her. But, for some reason, I was still a bit jazzed. I guess that 10 hours of sleep I got he night before really did me good....except for my legs of course....
It had dried out a bit, so I decided to take a walk around the area....to some of those places I hadn't been to in a while.
Man, the last time I actually visited the Waterfall Garden was back in the 90's.
And though the area is still kind of gritty.....kind of like the Tenderloin in SF, things look a lot better than I remembered. It looks like folks are starting to move into lofts, we saw folks walking their dogs.....
I had a destination in mind.....funny, how you get into a pattern of things. By habit, I went to the "old" location of Uwajimaya.....and then remembered it had moved over a block back in 2000!
Picked up some bottled tea and water and walked back to where we were staying. I was kind of suprised to smell so much reefer in the air as I walked around Seattle. I don't ever recall that before!
I'd been gone over an hour, so the Missus had a nice nap. It looked like it was going to be a nice evening.....
And we had reservations at Sitka & Spruce for dinner.....
The Missus and I have always said that Seattle is one of our favorite cities. I had even considered moving here before I met the Missus. We've always enjoyed the personality and vibe of the city; the unpretentious, tolerant, down-to-earth, polite, though perhaps a bit introverted folks..... We used to visit every year and our best visits were during the holiday season, so shame on us for not visiting since 2007. And double shame on us for not visiting during the end of fall/beginning of winter in 10 years!
There have been alot of changes in the 7 years since we visited, the very inexpensive Link Light Rail route from SeaTac to Downtown Seattle didn't even exist back then. Now it's an inexpensive $2.75 from the airport. I'd have never even considered staying near Pioneer Square when I first started visiting in 1993, yet here we were dropping off our luggage at the Courtyard Pioneer Square. It was easy making eating plans for this trip. Included in those plans was a visit to the Walrus and the Carpenter. The Missus jumped at the plan, since most of our past trips have kind of revolved around oysters. Of course She had Her own little twist on things. I've long mentioned various "death marches" the Missus had taken me on. Well, this time the Missus had an urban version planned.
She wanted to walk from Pioneer Square to the Walrus and the Carpenter. A walk of approximately 5.72 miles. In Seattle, in winter, yikes!
Just for kicks, I posted the question of this walk on the Chowhound Seattle Board. Unlike some of the other CH boards, the folks here seemed quite helpful. I didn't expect 20+ answers....such varied opinions, from being a terrible (read: a nice way of saying certifiably insane) idea, about 50%, to being an urban adventure. As a joke, I mentioned the comment about going to Fremont, since the Missus had never seen The Fremont Troll. Well, She was all in....which made the walk over 7 miles long! Double sigh.....
Still, we were to start at Salumi. We'd never had a chance to check out this very popular shop, so I was more than happy to start here.
I was told that there's always a line at this shop run by the Batali family....yes, that Batali family. It's an interesting story that you can read here. So, of course there was a line, which moved very quickly, with folks replacing those in line at about the same pace.
I've read rave reviews about the pochetta and all that stuff, but this is a salumi shop. Plus, the Missus doesn't eat much bread these days, so the salumi plate ($13) was an obvious choice. Man, this was good, nice, distinct, yet balanced flavors to all the salumi. And only $13??? Boy, does what we had at S&M recently seem highly over-priced. My favorites? I loved the addition of a hint of curry to the traditional fennel salame, the Finnocchiona Salame. The flavors of the Agrumi Salame, hints of citrus, also was fantastic.
The beef tongue is not sold by weight, so we ordered a sandwich ($10). The tongue was very nicely flavored, beefy, not too salty, nice seasonings, fantastic tender texture. It's a bit too much bread for my taste and I felt bad about not eating it all....but I just couldn't do it; especially after the Missus ate all of the meat of one half the sandwich. A bit too much olive spread for me as well. The ratio is kind of off....but oh man, that beef tongue.....
On a whim, the Missus ordered a single meatball ($2.50) and it was love at first bite.
I loved the sauce, it had just about the right balance for my tastes.....simple, tangy, lightly sweet, that flavor of sunshine.....
The woman managing the orders was very nice. The place is super packed, so she told us to sit at the "front table", which is basically the front display window. Kind of odd and cool at the same time. You feel like some kind of window display and yet, it's interesting to people watch.
We really enjoyed our meal and we look forward to returning next time. More meatballs for the Missus.
Salumi Artisan Cured Meats 309 3rd Ave S Seattle, WA 98104 Hours: Tues - Fri 11am - 330pm
After this, the death march ensued. We basically headed straight down 2nd, past all those familiar places. Up Pine, past Westlake Center and one of the places we used to stay at; the Westin, swinging around back and down Westlake Avenue which used to look a bit more industrial, but now there quite a bit of construction going on. And I swear, the Space Needle used to seem a lot farther away than this......
And when did Whole Foods get here? Must be after 2003 which was the last time around these parts.
This can only mean one thing.....this part of the Denny Triangle is obviously doing well. I was told all the construction going on in the distance were buildings for Amazon in Belltown....
As for the three fairly odd statues right outside, they are works by ceramic sculptor, Akio Takamori, named "Young Woman, Girl, Mother and Child".
From here we passed a ton of newer buildings, intertwined with more industrial businesses like a Firestone Autocare, before arriving at Lake Union.....
And all those houseboats.....
It started drizzling a bit more.....though temperatures weren't too bad....in the mid-high 40's. We hastened our pace a bit, before finally coming to the Fremont Bridge and that sign I love.....
Of course, after crossing we'd have to climb up to visit The Fremont Troll under the Aurora Bridge which is on North 36th Street.
After crossing the Fremont Bridge, I was a bit wet and somewhat sweaty....it was time for a break. We stopped at Milstead & Co, the Missus had a coffee and I some iced jasmine tea, which really did the job.
We then hikes up the hill, to visit the troll, who seemed to have a mesmerized fan.
The young woman in a blue coat, who looked Japanese, just sat very still and quiet, like she was trying to communicate with the beast crushing a VW. She moved not an inch....she was quietly sitting in place when we left. For all I know, she might still be sitting there, meditating in front of a troll.
Down 36th Street is another of Fremont's "(in)famous" art pieces.....
Yep, that's a statue of Lenin (not Lennon), as in Vladimir, wishing you Merry Christmas. The story of how this statue made it from Poprad, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia) to its current resting place is quite interesting. It's funny how you find little threads if you travel enough, this statue which was in front of Poprad's Lenin Sqaure was removed during the Velvet Revolution, which I mentioned in a previous post about Prague.
It was just about 310......and so it was time to head off to our dinner destination.....which was a "mere" 1.9 miles away! Lovely.....
And so we walked on, past the Bev Mo and and the Fred Meyers....and all those industrial areas in between. I'd never been to the Ballard area before....but knew that as long as we saw the #40 bus, we'd be ok. Walking along Ballard Avenue NW, I knew to look for the sign... The Missus walked right pass, but I knew what to look for.
You then had to go down a hallway and at the end you hit paydirt.
It was 345, we'd done pretty good time, about 35 minutes. We were the third party in line(no reservations at this small place)...not bad. I went down the stairs to the restroom, following one of the guys who exiting the restaurant. I was a bit wet and somewhat sweaty from the walk and the drizzle. The guy asked looked at me and said, "drizzling down a bit out there?" I told him that it was a combination of things since we walked here from Pioneer Square, via Fremont. "You what? "I heard that this was where we needed to come for oysters...." "Ok, then, you'll be happy, we got some good oysters tonight." Nice guy! I got myself a bit more presentable and headed back upstairs.
We were asked where we'd like to sit and requested a seat at the bar, which turned out to be a great decision. Remember the guy in the restroom? Well, he was the one working the raw bar..... I just knew this was going to be a nice meal. After all, we were here for the oysters, all local, no middle men, no brokers........
The restaurant itself is tiny, cramped, but warm and inviting and without pretense....like I guess what your little secret neighborhood spot serving world class seafood would be like.....
As for the oysters.....well, I asked for recommendations, describing that I enjoy the finish that's interesting and more on what I call the "nutty, rare beef side", though I appreciate that cucumbery flavor as well. David, our master shucker, chose us, "the oysters he would choose on the menu today."
The first dozen were composed of Treasure Cove, Blue Pool, and Baywater Sweet. The Missus immediately took to the Treasure Cove, which took real well to the mignonette. When it comes to good oysters, I just do a drop or two of lemon, it does just enough to balance out the salinity for me. I just took to the finish on the Blue Pool, it was sort of funky, slightly nutty, with a deep and long lasting finish..... it was just what I'd been wanting.
Meanwhile, our first garde manger dish arrived; the Duck Breast, rockwell beans, masutake mushrooms, sea wolf croutons, and tarragon.
In terms of what we had, this was the weakest dish; but by no means was it terrible, it's just that the duck breat was dry and lacking in the duck flavor we enjoy. The masutake mushroom and especially the beans were the stars of the dish for us. Loved the use of tarragon as well.
The beef tartare was very nice.
Buttery, with a clean, refreshing finish. This went very well with the rye toast and is osmething I'd have weekly if I could.
Our second dozen oysters; Nordic Knute, North Bay, and a repeat of Blue Pool.
I still loved the Blue Pool.....
The Missus demanded equal time, so we got another dozen with Her favorite, the Treasure Cove, plus the Hove Cove and one of my old favorites the Hama Hama.
The Hama Hama had that almost acid like citrus flavor I recall, but the Treasure Cove were still the favorite of the Missus.
Meanwhile, we got to chatting a bit with the master of the raw bar between plates. He was super fast and shucked with amazing ease. Anyway, "David" is David Leck a champion shucker. If you'd like to see him doing his thing, check this out.
We had a great time...... we loved the oysters, the vibe, the folks working here.....they have a great cocktail program and a nice wine list....but I wish they'd do a bit more with the beer program.
Still, when in Seattle, we'll be back. David made it a great night for us.
The Walrus and the Carpenter 4743 Ballard Ave NW Seattle, WA 98107
Speaking of beer. A bit further up the street is a beer bar named The Noble Fir. We stopped by....because; well, I wanted a beer. Luckily they were having a nice progressive. Which I enjoyed while the Missus went meandering around the local shops.
Anyway, the big name in the progressive was the Bourbon County Imperial Stout, boozy, with coffee-caramel-molasses tones, and a boozy hit. It was a bit too much for me, but the Missus really liked it. She also had a Blueberry Ale from Cascade brewing.
Funny, the thing I enjoyed most about the place was the great 80's music they played!
The Noble Fir 5316 Ballard Ave NW Seattle, WA 98107
After our liquid refreshment, we walked over to the bus stop and caught the 40 back to downtown Seattle. The Missus, still believing we needed "more exercise", decided that we should get off at 3rd and Virginia. Which was kind of nice, since we'd get to enjoy the walk through downtown and those sights we'd gotten used too.....
Years ago, we flew into Seattle right after Thanksgiving and ran into a Holiday Parade. At the end, the star at Bon Marche was lit. So even though it's now Macy's, it's still the Bon Marche star to us.
You never know what you'll run into in downtown. On this night it was a Ferguson protest.....
We skirted the protest, which seemed very peaceful and headed down 2nd......past some very familiar sights.
And some that weren't around the last time we visited.
Making back to our hotel. It had been what seemed to be a long day, but it was barely 8pm! I dunno.....maybe old age is settling in, but all that walking....perhaps 9 miles or so really wiped me out!
Still, it was nice to be back in Seattle and we were eating well!
I realize this was a supr long post. Thanks for reading!
On the way back to the machiya, we ran into Masae, the owner of the property and also the craft beer bar in the shopping arcade. We asked her about finding some tea. She recommended a visit to Ippodo Tea. So after a nice shower and a short nap, we headed off to find Ippodo. Up Higashioji-dori, then west on Marutamachi, crossing the Kamo River.....left on Teramachi-dori right when you hit Kyoto Imperial Palace Park......about four block down, you'll find Ippodo.
The shop and the connected Kaboku Tearoom, where you learn to make and also taste various teas was doing some brisk business. One of the young ladies spoke excellent English. We didn't have time to dally, but she went over all the main types of tea with the Missus and we got to sample a few. We ended up purchasing a few packages.....which the Missus loves. I'm thinking we'll be back.
Ippodo Tea Teramachi-dori Nijo, Nakagyo-ku Kyoto
We really weren't sure of exactly where our dinner destination was. I'd heard of a place serving rustic wild game; I recall the term "mountain food" a couple times when reading about the place. It really didn't take us long to find the place. Masae pointed out it was near the Hotel Heiannomori, right past Okazaki Shrine.
The rabbit is the spirit of the shrine and is also said to house the god and goddess of easy childbirth.
It's a nice peaceful place to visit.
Right past the shrine, you can't help but locate Okariba. You can't miss the signs. The place is dark, warm, and very rustic looking. The trappings are simple; a large grill in the middle of the room; beer kegs lie about, the lines drawn to the taps. The owner is a very gentle and soft-spoken bespeckled gentleman named Aoki-san....whose mild manner belies the name of the place; "Hunting Ground" as well as the firearms hanging on the wall.
The Missus took a quick look at the sake bottles on one of the tables and said; "he has his own sake, with the name of the place on it."
And so we sailed off on our maiden voyage at Okariba, with simple, but nicely braised slices of daikon and aburage.
The sake was mild and sweet, but really, this type of food called for beer. After starting with this; it was beer all the way.
Things started off with what is probably the signature dish here (though folks who came in later all ordered trout); the grilled wild boar. Wonderful, surprisingly tender chunks of wild boar with a classic Japanese marinade and tare; smokey from the charcoal, slightly sweet, nicely porky, but mild. The portion size was quite a surprise for us; this is enough for two or three to start.
We weren't going to Kyushu, but I knew I could get a specialty of that area here; basashi - horse sashimi. I really love the flavor of horse; I know, it's not PC.....but it's not endangered either, right?
This was very nice; served just slightly frozen, just the way I was told it shoud be, the flavor is quite clean, with a mild sweet finish. The texture is like beef, with a tad more toothfullness. I love this dish.....
Arriving with the basashi was a combination of preserved vegetables and something else....more on that in a bit. I grew up eating items like takana-zuke, so I loved the pickled greens. I'd never had fuki-miso, basically akunuki butterbur, stirfried with miso, then preserved.
The most interesting thing was the "Inago" - locusts, which had been glazed with a wonderful sweet mirin-soy. These were nice and crisp and so sweet and salty....going well with beer.
The Missus's favorite dish by far was the hobamiso.......
A wonderful, savory, but not salty miso with mushrooms and scallions grilled on a leaf. It was funny; we thought we were doing pretty well; but Aoki-san came by......and decided he needed to show us how it was done....it became this wonderful, miso-mess of flavors.
This just screamed for another beer; so we ordered one. And were soon surprised with this....Aoki-san brought it over and said "gift-tu"..... Some nice home made tofu.
Then another "gift"....this was fantastic. I'd never had Wasabi-zuke before. This was wonderful; made from the leaves and stems of the wasabi plant; on occasion you'd get a super pungent bite, but the flavors were amazing, sweet-pungent-bitter-sour-salty...totally my kind of dish.
When this arrived, I just thought I needed to have another beer.....he's giving us free food. So I had another beer....at which time fried tofu arrived.
By this time I figured out...the more we drank, the more stuff would be coming out. I'd better quit here or we'd be literally rolling back! If there was a time I wished we could tip in Japan, it was here. The warmth and hospitality made me want to do something. I should have brought some omiyagi, or something......
We decided to follow the Shirakawa canal through Gion. I took this photo on one of the cement bridges, the type with no handrails that passes over the canal near Shinbashi.
Crossing over the Kamo river, we then headed up, the now busy Ponto-chō, restaurants now going full tilt.
As we passed by a hair salon, something caught my eye. I pointed out the one guy doing "hair" in the salon, which was closed to the Missus. She said, "yeah, he's doing hair, so what?" I told Her to take a look....that head had no body! He was actually working on a wig placed on a mannequin head. I'm not sure if this is SOP....but it just seemed a bit, well, strange......
And finally, there as Shijo-dori....while not crazy as Tokyo; which seems to actually be pulsating with it's own heartbeat, the crowds and objective sure were a contrast to the Gion.
The Missus really seemed to take to Kyoto. The size, the crowds, the shops, were just Her speed.
At this point, we decided to head back.......the Missus was tired for a change.
As we crossed Furumozen-dori, we noticed some activity up ahead. Lanterns, laughter, drums......and strange specters seemed to float ahead.
Suddenly we both remembered. Masae had told us that Awata Matsuri was happening this weekend. This was the Awata Jinja Lantern Festival! We were told that one of the key points of the Matsuri was that this was the day when both the Buddhist and Shinto Priests actually get together and celebrate together.
Then of course, there's the inevitable intermingling that occurs when everyone takes a break at Family Mart!
Once things got started, we quickly made it back to the machiya. Why? Well, because the lantern parade went right through the shopping arcade, right past where we were staying.....
It's quite amazing. The paradox, the new, modern, somewhat glitzy, but there's always the respect for tradition that pulls things in....bringing order to things.
And also very thankful. For the fire control, who instantly put out all the burning embers from the fire which was placed on the ground for some symbolic reason. Once it was lifted back up, they sprung into action and made sure everything on the ground was put out in the blink of an eye.......that's Japan in a microcosm.
Having started our day before 5 in the morning, we'd walked at least 7-8 miles easily. The Missus, for the first time I can recall was totally bushed. It had been quite a day. I'd planned our "red-lettered day" in Tokyo; starting with Tsukiji Market and meals at Michelin starred Sushi Iwa and Suzunari. And while that was an epic and unforgettable day. This rather unscripted, hastily planned day was its equal.....Sushi Iwa and Suzunari showed me the skill, execution, and polish of a great restaurant. Karako and Okariba displayed the heart and soul......each has its place in my eating universe.
Our first day in Kyoto was pretty tiring......I gotta admit, I get pretty wiped out when we travel; but man, the Missus was totally fried as well. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow and up before 5am. After encountering the crowds at Fushimi Inari the day before, I just knew that the best way to experience the place would be early in the morning or late at night. So we got on the Tozai line, transferred at Yamashina to the Biwa line, got off at Kyoto Station, which wasn't quite as confusing as the previous and got on the Nara line....getting off at Inari Station. Fushimi Inari-taisha is literally right across the street.
Fushimi Inari is the head shrine of Inari Okami, the Kami.....which is hard to describe in English, let's just say it's the spirit, god, or deity of most importantly, rice, but also fertility, sake, and foxes...... which, if I recall serve as messengers for the Kami. At the entrance of the shrine, you'll see a statue of a fox (no, it's not a "doggie") holding the key to the granary. I remember learning about the kitsune serving the rice god in elementary school....funny what you recall at odd moments in life.
For most folks......us included, the most stunning feature of Fushimi Inari are the 30,000 plus gates that line the paths up the mountain, which is also named Inari. Each torii (gate) is paid for and donated by businesses....which you totally forget about when you see it.
It is both beautiful and haunting seen at dawn with nary another person around. Just the sound of your footsteps and the wind whispering through the trees.
No loud chatter or folks brandishing "selfie poles".
This is what I saw in my mind's eye when I thought of Kyoto.
After taking in the atmosphere of Fushimi Inari, we headed back to Inari Station, got back on the Nara line, getting off at the first stop at Tokufuji and hopping on the Keihan line, getting off at Kiyomizu-Gojo. from there it's about a 20-25 minute walk past all the shops.
This most well known feature of this temple complex is the veranda of the main hall, which has great views of Kyoto. Though, I think more people take photos of people taking photos on the veranda.
I understand that not a single nail is used for any structure in the temple complex.....
Heading past the three story pagoda and down below the main hall is Otowa Waterfall. Drinking of the water from the waterfall is supposed to bring good health and a long life.
So of course the Missus had to partake!
Heading back down the mountain, you'll notice some steps and a sign to your right, this leads to Sannenzaka, then Nannenzaka. Two well preserved neighborhoods.
This was one of the most pleasant walks we had on our trip. It was early, with few tourists, so you could really enjoy the restored structures. It felt like a trip back in time.
We took a break at a little shop near Yasaka Pagoda and Kodai-ji Temple.
The coffee....all pour over, was great and restorative. We made plans for what we'd do on our next leg. It was nice respite.
We'd head up to Maruyama Park and Chion-in Temple.
Somehow, we got a little of course and ended up at Higashi Otani Honganji. There was a large service going on.....
As we righted our course and headed toward Maruyama Park, we could hear country and western music playing.....the singing was of course, in Japanese. Apparently there was a Country and Western Music Festival close by....it was just another one of those strange and rather surreal moments.
Past the park is Chion-in Temple, which was going though some major restoration at the time of our visit.
By now we were "hitting the wall". We'd seen the places we really wanted to see and temple fatigue was setting in. It was time to change our focus.....so we headed bacl to the machiya to freshen up...and then off to lunch.
We had decided on a ramen shop I had heard off named Karako. The address 12-3 Okazaki Tokusei-cho was a bit difficult, but it looked like it was right on Higashioji-dori....which is kind of where we found the place.
We were the first customers to arrive and the older gentleman pointed to some seats at the end of the counter.
We quickly placed our order and he spoke the only English I heard our whole time there, pointing to the hijiki, tofu, and green salad on the counter he said, "helpu you self....."
The prices were very reasonable - ¥650 for the Kotteri Ramen.
The chashu was wonderful, full of flavor, just melt in you mouth delicious. The noodles were fine, just chewy enough. In spite of being "kotteri", as in extra rich, the broth really lacked the tongue coating texture and the richness in flavor I enjoy. This was my least favorite bowl of ramen during our trip.
The Missus got the Chashu Rice Bowl ¥320 - which had the wonderful chashu.
The one item which was a total surprise was the karaage. It has got to be one of the best I've ever had.
Light and crisp, moist and succulent, with wonderful flavor, a touch of ginger, slightly sweet, shoyu tones, and something else.....deep and savory. And a bargain at ¥500 - like five bucks!
This was just fantastic fried chicken......probably worth a side trip to Kyoto!
A few minutes after we sat, folks started streaming in. The older gentleman ordered the special, which was a bowl of ramen, a bowl of rice, and chicken....which turned out to be an entire order...five pieces for ¥880!
We kept watching to see how he heck he was going to finish his food...well, he's got his own system down. He ate the ramen and took the rice and chicken to go!
We actually tried to return to Karako the next day, but they were closed.....bummer. But hey, next time we know what to order, don't we? As in this old saying.
Karako 12-3 Okazaki Tokusei-cho Kyoto
There was of course, a requisite short nap after this lunch, so we headed back. Little did we know that we'd be having another wonderful experience for dinner.
One of the great things about train stations in Japan is the abundance of storage lockers. For about five bucks US, you get a good sized locker for the whole day. Since we left Tokyo quite early in the morning we arrived way before check in time at the residence where we were staying. We managed to stow our bags....we travel light, I have a Tri-Star and the Missus an Aeronaut 30, which She loves. How the Missus ended up agreeing with me about Her Aeronaut is a story for another day. Anyway, these two bags are European carry-on size and we can easily travel for a month (or more) with what we pack in these bags......mine weighed out at 9 kilos for this trip.
For some reason, we found Kyoto Station to be bit confusing....Tokyo Station was a slam dunk; but Kyoto Station just seemed like a maze at first. After finding the gates to the JR Nara line, which wasn't that hard, we got on the train.....which ended up being the Express, which bypasses the Inari Station! We actually didn't feel too bad, since there were at least a dozen people (all Japanese) who did the same thing. We got off at the first express stop after Inari Station and headed back...with the other folks who took the wrong train and made it to Fushimi-Inari.
Our first impressions of Fushimi Inari-Taisha? It was so strikingly beautiful.......and so crowded!
And while we could enjoy the vibrancy and character to the shrine; the packed crowds, the noise (remember we had spent a couple of days in Tokyo, so it's all relative), and the lines to walk through the colorful torii (gates), were just a bit too much for us. I told the Missus that the shrine opens at dawn.....if we woke early enough, we could get here at dawn, and really enjoy the place.....so we decided to return the next morning. We'd bundle Fushimi Inari and Kiyomizu-dera for the next morning.
Having read enough about our travel, I'm sure you realize that the Missus was not going to stop and proceed to sit on Her hands. She decided we should walk up the street...... It was an interesting walk as the shops gave way to temples, several of which we walked through.....ending up at the impressive gate of Tōfuku-ji.
This massive Sanmon is the oldest in Japan and is considered a national treasure.
The Dragon painting on the ceiling in the Hondou (Main Hall) is by famous Kyoto-born artist Insho Domoto.
The temple is known for the stone and moss gardens and the Tsuutenkyo Bridge.
I can just imagine what this view would be like during autumn when all the leaves turn color!
There are many temples and shrines in the area.....
So we just meandered around.......
We ended up at Shorinji Temple.....
It was nearing noon and our check in time, so we headed down the hill to Tokufuji Station, back to Kyoto Station, where we got confused again....this time trying to remember where our locker was. Once located we headed off to our destination. A Machiya in the Southern Higashiyama area.
First off, the owner wasn't kidding when she said it was one minute from Higashiyama Station....it was literally one minute! Located in a shopping arcade - Furukawacho shopping arcade, this is among the top ten places we've ever stayed....it was huge; two floors, a large kitchen, an awesome bath....of course the sleeping arrangement was traditional Japanese.
Masae was fantastic, so organized, she even had a map of the area around the arcade, with restaurants and shops listed. There was a typhoon, Vongfong headed our way....she kept us appraised via emails. She made our stay wonderful.
Meanwhile, we had asked Reiko about things we should buy in Kyoto. While on the way to the Machiya, Reiko mentioned getting a Furoshiki. And Masae knew just the spot. A few blocks away was Kakefuda. The Missus was taken with the various patterns. The young man here did a demo....a couple of times, showing the Missus how to do some of the basic tying methods. Somehow, no matter how many times She's practiced....it just doesn't look quite right. That's alright though......the Missus got something for herself from Kyoto.
We then headed West, over the Kamo River, finding Nishiki Market. Man, this placed was packed. It was wall to wall people. My first instinct was to bail....but the Missus was hungry and getting a bit grumpy, so we decided to hunt for some "snacks", starting out with an ok Takoyaki....kind of too soggy for my taste. It was just meh......very dull...so I'm thinking a black and white photo describes it best.
We came across a stand selling Hamoyaki; grilled conger eel brushed with a tare. They had a little standing table and we really wanted a respite from the masses. This was actually pretty good. Hamo is very mild in flavor, so it's basically a palette for the tare. We really enjoyed the light texture of the eel.
We made our way further down the market and something caught the Missus' eye.
This place made yakimanju and yakimochi....grilled rice cakes. We tried a yakimanju....
I have to say....I love the fragrance of these....but as a whole, I'm not a fan of yakimochi and this was basically the same thing.
Nothing amazing, but enough to keep us going......we spent the rest of the afternoon shopping around Shijo-dori. When it was time to head back, I asked the Missus what She watned to do for dinner. We'd had a long day; I awoke at 330am and actually did a post. We'd need to wake by at least 5am tomorrow and we were bushed. So, Daimaru's resutoran-gai ("restaurant town") just made sense, especially since the Missus was craving salad, which is rather hard to come by.
This stuff ain't cheap, but the variety is staggering.....as I mentioned previously; large department stores have an entire floor full of food stands and vendors. It's easy to get lost in all of this.
Dinner in hand, we made our way back to the house. Not directly of course......
This thin, alley-like street is named Ponto-chō, it is one of the Hanamachi, Geisha districts in Kyoto. The street runs parallel to the Kamo River and is full of restaurants, bars, and, after being absolutely shocked to see a Geisha walking down the street, Geisha houses I guess?
The wooden buildings and hanging lanterns sure adds to the atmosphere.......
Having come from Shijuku and seeing the Robot Restaurant, then Shibuya and the goth-Hello Kitty chicks, to this in less than three days is something to wrap your head around.
Crossing over to the other side of the Kamo River, we made our way back to where we were staying.
We followed the Shirakawa Canal, into the Gion, another Hanamachi district, and the street folks told me was the most beautiful in all of Japan.
I can see why.......
The sound of the water; the wooden buildings, the trees.....take a photo and ask someone where this is and they'll say, "well, Japan of course....."
Getting back to the machiya, the Missus decided a nice long soak in the wonderful tub was on the agenda. I went upstairs to the sitting area.
I had some tea while watching the folks pass through the marketplace below. There's a meat market and a small convenience type store right across the walkway from the house.
Dinner was a a simple affair......but perfect as we were pretty tired.
As you can see, the Missus got Her "salad fix".
Here's the rather unique Furoshiki the Missus chose. She said it would always remind Her of Kakefuda.
After dinner, we took a walk up Sanjo-dori and some of the side streets in the Gion...packed with bars and Izakayas. There was a Family Mart and a Grocery Store right around the corner from where we were staying as well.
Life is full of happy coincidences. When we arrived, Masae told us that she had just opened a craft beer bar in the same arcade, a few yeards from where we were staying. Really? A craft beer bar? Awesome!
We headed over for a nightcap. The tiny spot was busy, but they found us a small table. Looking at the beer list, I had to crack up; Stone, Lagunitas, Pizza Port, Saint Archer.... you gotta love it!
Of course there was a selection of Japanese craft brews as well. The Missus likes Her sours, so She went with the Morita Kinshachi Fruits Draft Lemon.
I mentioned that we were from San Diego and had recently visited Belgium to Masae....who apparently loves her beer. we had a nice conversation about San Diego breweries, along with a promise that if she visits San Diego, the beer is on us!
I had the Kure Beer Belgian IPA, which was interesting. Less hoppy than an IPA and not veyr boozy; this was on the sweet side and not unpleasant.
Man, it had been quite a long day; from Tokyo and a view of Mount Fuji, to temples, then shopping, and finally a nice quiet self catered dinner, followed by a visit to a craft beer bar......
So this was Kyoto, huh? Though we were dead tired, we were having fun.
We decided to head back "home" to Oahu before heading to Japan. The Missus needed to visit Her parents....and I needed to recharge. I love seeing my in-laws, they truly treat me as if I'm their son. The one problem being, and no offense here, I'm a "townie" by nature....for me finding the kind of places and grindz I like is kind of hard in Ewa Beach and West Oahu.....things are getting better...but for the most part, it's trips to Tanioka's for us. And yet, I wanted something different and special for us....the family, to go out and enjoy. Somehow, I'm still not entirely sure, I came across Kahumana Farms and their Cafe, which serves lunch and....great for us, dinner from 6pm - 8pm Tuesday to Saturday.
Over the last 10 years we've been doing the blog, things have changed, we eat less, still enjoy food, but temper things with more healthy choices. Plus, there's just a sort of "hippie" side to the Missus that has come out the last couple of years......let's put that "high maintenance hippie", have you seen the prices of dried mulberries? Yikes. However, there was just something about this place that seemed right.
The whole Kahumana Farms thing was established by Father Phillip Harmon back in 1974. The farm and cafe reside "out there" down the unpaved roads of Lualualei Homestead Road. The land is fruitful, I've been told that there are more than few archaeological sites in this valley. And the Kahumana Organization supports transitional housing and programs for those with disabilities. A big plus, you're getting "stuffs" grown right on the farm. You can read more about this here at their website and otherarticles.
I called and made reservations......
Like they say, getting there was half the fun. From what I recall, a lot of the area is Hawaiian Homestead land. I haven't really been down to Waianae in almost 30 years or so.....once upon a time, I drove here weekly for work, but it had been almost forever....ok, let's just say a lifetime. We arrived and walked in the door, past the shop area......the place was doing some decent business. Finding that we had reservations....we got a table in the covered lanai area.
The staff here is very friendly....not polished mind you, but they make up for things with their warmth and friendliness. The menu is written on a chalkboard, one of which is delivered to your table. It's an interesting aggregation of dishes...hummus, Pacific Rim, Indian influences.....
We started with some Kabocha Soup.
The Missus loves Kabocha, so choosing this was a no-brainer. Smooth and comforting, a slight heat, herbaceous, perhaps a little too sweet for our taste, this was still quite nice.
The dish we enjoyed the least was the chicken stir fry, which, in spite of the wonderful flavors of the vegetables, had severely over-cooked the chicken.
The Chicken Masala on Brown Rice (yes, brown rice) and stir fried vegetables was very good.
No, I wasn't expecting Punjabi Tandoor, but this was quite good....can I go on about the greens? The "masala inspired" sauce had a bit of zip and nice balanced spice profile....good enough that I actually ate a good bit of brown rice! The chicken was nice and moist on this one.
The Macadamia Nut Pesto with Mahi Mahi was solid.
Call it the "Shandong" influence, but I was not a fan of the noodles, which were kind of brittle and lacking in texture. The "pesto" was very nice, nutty, with a good herb flavor. I'm kind of leary about Mahi Mahi, having worked with it quite a bit in one of my former lives. You need to get it really fresh...it attains a "sour" flavor when at less than optimal freshness. Plus, too many folks just cook it to death....and this one looked unimpressive....until I had a taste...nicely seasoned, moist.....very good! A nice piece of fresh fish prepared simply, but well.
I think it might be hard for folks to understand how a simple salad could be the best dish......
It is, after all, a plate of vegetables.....but let me say, the Missus and I enjoyed this the most. The cucumbers sparkled, crisp, with the flavor of melon...the greens, bitter, herbaceous, taste each separately. The tomatoes were good....but you have to understand, my Mom was from Maui....I still have the flavor of ripe, Kula tomatoes on the brain. The flavor that really got our attention were of the shaved beets, so sweet, so much flavor, I had to ask if they marinated it in any way......the answer? No.......
The Lilikoi Cheesecake....well, I don't do desserts, so you'll have to ask.
As I was waiting for everyone to finish "potty duty" after dinner....a gentleman walked up to me and struck up a conversation. He introduced himself as "Robert"...so in retrospect, I assume he is Robert Zuckerman, the Manager/Chef of Kahumana Cafe. He asked us where we hail from.....it was quite obvious, there are the regular customers, and then there were us. It was a wonderful 15 minutes; we had seen kids....well, teenagers eating in the dining room. We were worried these were homeless kids, but no....kids on a 10 day program learning about farming. The young folks we saw gathering a bit later on were the workers, some of which were Woofers, basically a program by which food and housing is provided in exchange for work on the farm. I thoroughly njoyed our conversation and promised to return.
I hope to keep that promise........I'm looking forward to my next salad!
Kahumana Cafe 86-660 Lualualei Homestead Rd Waianae, Hi 96792
We got up early as is the norm when we travel. We had made reservations for the early train out of Tokyo Station. So we caught the 5:04 train from Yotsuya Sanchome.
We had mixed feelings about leaving Tokyo. We'd had such a great time and loved the vibe and very distinctive personalities of the various districts we were able to visit. We both felt a tinge of sadness....you could live here for decades and still only scratch the surface. It is both crazily busy, but with an order to things. Everyone goes left on the escalators, no one talks above the barest whispers on the trains and subways......"never trust a person who eats while walking". You stop and eat. The cleanliness, for a city this size.....
We had spoken to several folks; Reiko and the couple while having coffee near Tsukiji. They mentioned missing the "last train" out of Tokyo and having to stay up in a coffee shop to catch the first train out in the morning. And the young ladies here seemed to be a prime example of that.
We were amazed to find that folks would just nod off upon sitting.....this is the other side of life here, it can be hard and tiring. Just as quickly as they'd doze off, they'd snap to attention right before their stop!
Man, Tokyo Station was buzzing, even this early in the morning. The Missus went to grab some drinks and this was the check out line.
I was intrugued by the Ekiben stands. Man, the plastic food looked just delicious. The Missus decided we should get one; just to see if the bento actually looked like the plastic food.
You know what....it pretty much delivered....
And did bear an almost eerie resemblance to the plastic version.
I tried to, but couldn't really fit in an overnight trip to Hakone. Next time I told the Missus. She was disappointed in not getting to see Mount Fuji. But guess what......