After having a fun evening with Kat and Satoshi we got up fairly early and headed out. The Missus wanted to revisit Kiyomizu-dera to check out the fall colors. We got on the Keihan Line and got off at Kiyomizu-Gojo. The Missus was up for walking all the way up to the temple. But I had already done that the last time and I talked Her into taking a cab! Whew.....
We decided to check out a few areas we missed the last time we visited.
We headed to the Jishu Shrine, which is dedicated to Ōkuninushi, a gentle-hearted god, who along being "in charge" of farming and business, is the prime deity of match-making.
Here we found the "Love Stones"......you can read all about it....
The stones are actually set about 10-15 meters apart. If walk from one to the other with your eyes closed, you'll find true love.....miss...and "sorry Charlie".
Two young ladies actually tried when we were there.....to rather humorous results. I'm kind of relieved the Missus didn't try. With Her sense of direction, I'd probably go up in a puff of smoke!
Speaking of true love....check out this affectionate little guy.
He is truly a pampered pooch......
The main reason folks come to Kiyomizu-dera is for the view. Man, the main viewing hall was a lot more packed than the last time we were here.
The views, whether from the Main Hall or along the trail are quite beautiful.
We meandered along, stopping now and then to take a photo. We'd been here before and it seemed so familiar. And yet, we were able to stop at places that were quite busy the last time around. Like the Three Story Pagoda. I think folks were focused on the views and I don' blame them in the least.
Even with all the folks around us; there's a sense of tranquility.
You get to appreciate the beauty of it all.
Soon enough, buses of non-Japanese visitors started arriving and the noise level started increasing. It was time to head on out.
Just as on our previous visit, we headed back via the side streets of Sannenzaka and Nannenzaka. There's always something interesting to see.....
On this day, there were a couple of wedding photo shoots going on.... This one went for a more dramatic, glamorous look.
While this couple and their photographer were really friendly and nice.
And when I went a displayed my camera, even flashed nice smiles for us. It was adorable.
We headed on back to Shijo-dori. There was some shopping the Missus needed to get done. It was, however, still a bit early. As we passed a coffeeshop, I noticed that the place had "morning service". We'd enjoyed the morning service at Komeda's Coffee in Kamakura, so we decided to stop and get some breakfast. From what I understand, this practice of providing toast, perhaps an egg, salad, yogurt, or something similar originated in Nagoya.
We shared the toast, yogurt, salad...the Missus had a coffee, I got tea. I don't recall what the name of this place was, but this held us until dinner!
Soon enough, a couple Salarymen came in and started smoking....it was time to get the Missus's shopping done.
We then headed back to the apartment, took our usual afternoon siesta....and headed off to Nagoya for dinner. Which we'd be having at a place with ties to San Diego.
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......
It was our last evening in Seville. And to be perfectly frank; this wonderful gem of a city really charmed us....relaxed, friendly, warm, and fun. For our last dinner, we headed back to the scene of our favorite meal in Seville, the Zaragoza location of La Azotea.
Like I mentioned previously; if you want tapas sized portions at La Azotea, you need to sit at the bar. We arrived right after opening and was greeted with a smile from the very efficient bartender Pablo, who recognized us from our previous visit.
After having some really delicious navajas (razor clams) on our previous visit, the Missus was all about the seafood here.
We started with a media racione (half portion) of Coquinas a species of Donax (small clams) served with fried baby artichokes.
That garlicky white wine sauce was so good and the clams nicely sweet, briney, and tender.
The Calamares was the weakest dish of the evening. Tender, but really nothing special in terms of flavor or how it was fried.
Sticking with the bivalve theme, the Almejas (Clams) en su Salsa (cooked in their own juices) was excellent.
Nice oceany flavor, cut with a bit of acid. The clams were very tender as were the shrimp. Another sauce just made for bread!
And of course, our favorite from the previous evening; the Foie Gras ala Plancha.
Which was just as beautifully rich and decadent as what we had previously. Great balance of sweet and earthy tones, crisp on the outside, molten and quivering inside. Just lovely.
We finished with a nice Vermut. What a nice way to end our stay in Seville!
La Azotea - Zaragoza Calle Zaragoza 5c Sevilla, Spain Open Daily: 130pm - 430pm, 830pm - Midnight
It was Saturday night and Seville was happening. We headed back to the apartment, but decided to stop and enjoy this early (in Spanish terms - like 1030) evening. The Missus had been eyeing out this Helados (Ice Cream) and She decided to step in and get something.
And got the Goat Cheese and Quince Jelly Ice Cream!
I had a different notion....something from across the street.
I think there was some kind of student initiation or something going on here......
I had no idea what was going on, but it sure was festive.....
Though it seemed that most of the guys here just wanted to watch the football match.....
I had my one beer and left. It was time to hit the sack. Our train was to leave early in the morning.
We were a bit sad to leave Seville.....our trip to Spain was almost over. Just one more night in Madrid, then it was back to work.
Here's my requisite Jamon Bellota Iberico Pata Negra shot.
Actually, we shouldn't have been concerned. I had snagged really cheap first class train tickets form Seville to Madrid.
And this being Sunday morning and all; things were really quiet....like "Japan quiet". We were the only passengers in First Class which meant that we got a decent breakfast......and then were able to catch some shut eye!
With dreams of Foie Gras ala Plancha dancing in our heads!
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?
Though we really loved the little groups of Rollerskate Kids we saw along the way.
I'm not sure if this was some kind of special event or if this was a typical Saturday kind of thing. Regardless, it was really cute, kids on rollerskates, accompanied by adults, dressed up in costumes.
It really added color as we made our way along the Guadalquivir River. Finally crossing over on the Puente de Isabel II to the colorful neighborhood known as Triana. We stopped again at Mercado de Triana, picking up some Jamon Bellota Iberico Pata Negra. We'd be heading back to Madrid the next morning at it was kind of our tradition to always pack some bread, jamon, and good Spanish Olive Oil for a snack along the way.
For lunch, I went searching for a place I'd read about only once; I really don't recall where....but down the back streets of Triana, on Calle Victoria.....is this place.
Appropriately named Victoria 8. We walked in and were told that there were no tables available, all were reserved. But we asked to sit at the bar.......just wanting to graze on some tapas.
Which was no problem. It was fun watching folks walk in.....quite a few larger parties, all of which seemed like locals.
We placed our orders, got some wine, and something to start us off.
The wonderful slightly acidic tomatoes....the "taste of sunshine" I call it; matched with a nice peppery-grassy olive oil; the jamon ends, salty and chewy adds texture...and who doesn't like a little boiled egg on top of anything? A very nice rendition.
The Missus loves Her callos.
This was an ok version; the flavor a bit too mild for us.....except for that morcilla (blood sausage), which was really good. I ended up ordering that to end our meal.
The Croquetas de Rabo de Toro - "Bull's Tail Crouquettes" were rich and full of flavor.
Glad we only got three, this would have been too much of a good thing. Well mixed, melt in your mouth, beefy goodness. The potatoes were fairly crisp but quite routine.
We decided to try the Alcachofas (Artichokes ). It was the one dish we didn't care for at La Azotea and I wanted to try it again.
This version had Foie Gras and confit scallion and was delicious; some nice acid, but not too much, richness from the foie gras, sweet-pungency from the confit scallion.
The last item might have been the best; such a beautiful dish with a rather long name; Morcilla de Burgos y Piquillos con Manzana Confitada.
Burgos is famous for their blood sausage (morcilla) and this was lovely. Again, it was combination of the earthy flavors and in typical Burgos style had onions and rice. The piquillo sauce had a nice smokiness and light sweetness; the apple (manzana) confit was nicely spiced and added just the right amount of sweetness. This was delici-yoso.
We had a very nice meal and if I recall, with a couple of glasses of wine each was still less than 40 bucks. It was a very nice time, we were satisfied, but not stuffed, one of the things we really enjoy about tapas. We'd gladly, and probably will return if we're ever back in Seville.
Victoria 8 Calle Victoria 8 Seville, Spain
We made our way back to the apartment....it was Saturday and Seville was buzzing. I'll end the post with the requisite photo of Plaza San Salvador, which I've included in many of my Seville posts. As you can see; this is a happening place.
I had made plans after we'd done quite a bit of walking and of course shopping during the day. We'd already done nearly 12 miles and would end up at nearly 15. Of course there was the requisite nap and taking a leisurely walk before dinner.
It is indeed the city of light, regardless of what the true story behind that nickname.
Just take a look at Invalides, lights shining brightly even on a foggy night like this.
We meandered our way to our dining destination; Restaurant David Toutain in Arrondissement 7. I picked David Toutain because of the namesake's innovation and skill, especially with vegetable dishes, something the Missus is leaning toward these days. I thought I'd save the heavier and more traditional dishes for Burgundy, where we were headed in the morning. I'm not going to make this a very long post, as while we really enjoyed this meal, and found a wine that we kept searching for throughout Beaune and Burgundy, a fabulous and amazing white from the Domaine Alain Gras in Saint Romain (we even went to the Domain), this meal was over shadowed with an amazing meal from Sola that we'd have on the way back.
Still, that is not to say the meal wasn't innovative, starting with the amazing combination of Salsify with White Chocolate.
Earthy tones with a very mildly sweet and creamy "dip".
It was a show of creativity and the presentation was quite interesting.
This brioche was addictive.....
An interesting variety of textures and techniques; a bit of molecular gastronomy here and there.
Yes, there was quinoa, fried, airy pork skin, thin slices of walnut.....
And one spectacular piece of Cod, that had the Missus and I staring at each other. The texture was so decadent and buttery; I'm thinking this was sous-vide.
We're still talking about how amazing the fish in this dish was.....
Another fantastic dish was the Smoked Eel in Black Sesame; not something I'd generally think would go well together.
But the strong, smoky flavor of the eel really stood up well to the powerful nutty flavor of black sesame. The toothsome texture of the fish and the thick sauce complimented each other as well.
At the end, there was dessert.....a lot of dessert.....
The Entremets (palate cleansing course) was another amazing combination of flavors that worked together; Cauliflower Puree with White Chocolate and Coconut Ice Cream.
Dessert is of course, the Missus's thing and She really enjoyed Herself.
I thought the presentation of the Churros was a bit much.....
The staff here was amazing; professional yet friendly and warm. When the Sommelier noticed we enjoyed the Alain Gras so much, he gave us a second glass, and then matched it flawlessly with a few other dishes to display the fine range of the wine. The actual restaurant is quite discreet, no big signs, just a simple "DT" carved in the doorway.
While I'm not sure we'll be back soon; I'm glad we had the experience.
Restaurant David Toutain 29 Rue Surcouf 75007 Paris, France
We walked back to our hotel, quite happy with our time in Paris. Heck, even the Eiffel Tower surrounded by fog looks quite romantic, don't you think?