Saryo Suisen 茶寮 翠泉 烏丸御池店 – Have you ever had a Matcha gloop?!

Saryo Suisen 茶寮 翠泉 烏丸御池店

461 Kinpukicho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan

DSC_1031An intriguing tea place, though located far from central Kyoto, was operating on a full house even at 5pm when we arrived (just an hour before it closes). And if you think google map might have gotten it wrong as you walked through the quieter residential streets, Saryo Suisen 茶寮 翠泉 could indeed be aptly described as a “hidden” gem. Focusing mainly on the more popular matcha and hojicha flavours, every dessert is as impeccable as you could have imagined for the other tea houses around Japan, but Saryo came across as unique with its creative take on some desserts! Behold the gloop!

DSC_1023DSC_1027Apart from the common parfaits, what caught the foreigners’ (we were actually the only gaijin there) as well as the locals attention was this blob of Matcha Gloop. Its texture – a hybrid of mochi and jelly; with the stretchiness of mochi skin but could be separated more easily. Lashed with the adequately sweet brown sugar sauce and eating it with the partially mashed red beans and lightly salted yellow bean powder, this dessert tasted familiarly unfamiliar. pretty delicious! ¥630.

DSC_1025c3This Suisen parfait, as luscious as it looks, does indeed taste satisfyingly good! A melting soft serve that is intense in its matcha flavour, with a light bitter taste that cuts through the other sweeter elements, topped with some fluffy Matcha pancake, and a crispy quality Matcha waffle roll. Very well executed indeed.

DSC_1021Saryo Cake Set served with the fluffy Matcha swiss roll that has been piped beautifully with the strong tasting matcha cream. ¥800.

DSC_1020And ending the whole afternoon tea with the decadently rich classic Hojicha and vanilla ice cream. ¥780.

c1Looking more local than my apparently gaijin friend, he was the one who placed all the orders fluently! Definitely a fun tea place for all of us, especially so when that gloop was served to us.

Verdict: A good tea place. 3.6/5

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Gion Namba なん波 – Aesthetically so strong the sets are!

Gion Namba なん波

Shijo Hanamikoji Higashi iru, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto

DSC_0944Quite a difficult find again this single starred restaurant is; hiding away along a super narrow alley perpendicular to the bustling main street, it is really easy to miss it if you forgot to make that sharp turn. Though not exactly coming across as an exhilarating, bold restaurant, its stellar and spot on presentation at Gion Namba なん波 did invite some exclamation from us. 3 lunch sets given and the cheapest one at around 5000円 was chosen.

DSC_0946The first course – Creamy Shirako Fish milt with tofu and kombu looking gorgeously vibrant already, was cut through by the lightly tart chilled tomato puree and yuzu zest. Very beautiful bowl, appetite perfectly whetted.

DSC_0952Clear soup with hints of yuzu, as again, commonly expected in almost any Kaiseki restaurant in the Kansai region, Michelin or not. Still delicious and refreshing in its own right but the largely similar taste is starting to turn monotonous. The squid paste ball with shrimp and ginko nut encapsulated within though, was beautifully textured.

DSC_0958Sashimi – Tai Sea Bream, squid and yellow tail with kikuhana (yellow flower). You know the yellow tail has been aged really well when the broken down proteins (into amino acids) melt sweetly in your mouth.

DSC_0965DSC_0966Fried fish, Shredded kani crab meat, Mackerel sushi, shellfish with mentaiko, topped with the huge yellow ginko leaf symbolic of the autumn season. Precision, accuracy, and balance, all three attributes found in the multi-faceted flavours, yet not confusing at all.

DSC_0967DSC_0968Chawanmushi as a course? It definitely has got to take some guts to present a seemingly insignificant dish that is ordered usually as side dishes from chain Japanese restaurants as a course. And boy we understood why. Uniquely prepared as a semi-broth with a less starchy consistency, the ingredients used were meticulously prepared as the grilled Mackerel fish hidden within tells it all, while sweet potato was added to give it the adequate sweetness.

DSC_0974Steamed rice with small fish, perfumed lightly throughout by the kikuhana yellow flower.

DSC_0975Smooth, refreshing yuzu sorbet made special with a faint bitterness that complemented beautifully the mushy sweet persimmon.

DSC_0977DSC_0978Red bean manju with the super bitter, anti-oxidant packed matcha to end the meal beautifully.

As you would have agreed, presentation was stunning and you could feel the thoughts and effort put in every course. Delicious in its own right still, there were however certain courses that were little more conservative and lacking in boldness, such as the clear soup and rice course (that I have gotten accustomed to and have my anticipation naturally written off for those courses when they’re on the menu). Having said that, all the other qualities you would have looked out for in a Michelin restaurant are still well executed.

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Verdict: A good restaurant. 

Tempura Tsunahachi てんぷらつな八 – Lip smacking Tendon served here!

Tempura Tsunahachi てんぷらつな八

52 Shincho, Shijo Kawaramachi-dori Nishi-iru, Simogyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture , Inside Takashimaya Departmental Store

DSC_1008Hailing from Tokyo Shinjuku area, Tempura Tsunahachi てんぷらつな八 has made its way across 450km and landed itself in this ancient city Kyoto. No long crazy queues but just a short wait as it was operating on a full house even at 1.30pm, this was indeed a good stumble. Located at the top of Kyoto Takashimaya, it makes navigating so much easier as compared to the very hidden restaurants out on the streets. To find out more about this place, you could click here for the English site!

DSC_1009DSC_1015This tendon easily forms a satisfying bowl for hungry men like us as atop the perfectly cooked Japanese pearl rice, boasts a generous load of tempura seafood. Fried to an addictive crisp, the batter used here was a winner as it is thicker than the usual lighter tempura, rendering it a heavier taste. And as for the tantalising toppings: a huge slab of moist anago, chewy block of squid, and of course fresh succulent prawns. So beautifully fried without undermining the freshness of the ingredients, these sets were definitely worthy at ¥2400.

You could also opt for the lighter tempura set which utilises a lighter batter, still as crispy but less heavy tasting. This, just like what we normally have, goes perfectly well with the soy sauce by the side. ¥2400.

DSC_1014I’m not too sure about this as my tempura felt perfectly balanced and wholesome already but for those who wish to intensify the taste, then some interestingly flavoured salts are available by the side. Reading off from the tag of those I know, you have wasabi salt, kombu salt etc etc.

DSC_1017Yeah, a thoughtful glass of tomato palate cleanser at the end of the meal to wash the grease off!

tendon1And that’s me and the satisfied buddy! Great meeting you after half a year!

Verdict: An excellent restaurant. 5/5.

Afterthought: Comparing the tendon specialty store in Singapore, Ginza Itsuki, with this, I say the Sg restaurant is actually quite on par with the standard over here.

IYEMON SALON CAFE LOUNGE 伊右衛門サロン – Polished dinner menu

IYEMON SALON CAFE LOUNGE 伊右衛門サロン

80 Ogura-cho, Karasuma Nishiiru, Sanjo-dori, Nakagyo-ku | Chiso Bdg 1F, Kyoto 604-8166,Kyoto Prefecture, Near Karasumaoike station

6 months ago, during the transition into the blazing summer season, Iyemon Salon Cafe was visited for its super delectable lunch sets that are priced at an almost unimaginable affordable rate. And this autumn, we have decided to revisit it for dinner which definitely has raised the bar on our expectations for cafe food back in our own home.

DSC_0821Green Tea Miso Tofu – I reckon green tea could be used as an ingredient in almost any course, savoury or sweet, when you are in matcha fanatic Kyoto. Perfect tofu with the silkiest texture one could have imagined, the more savoury, sweeter miso has been cleverly utilised to gel the matcha bitterness together with it. ¥460

DSC_0823Red Sea Bream Carpaccio – So fresh this sea bream is, that is immaculately tossed with salt sauce, while its overall taste lifted naturally by a light citrusy drizzle Continue reading

Lipton TeaHouse リプトンティハウス店 – So hearty!

Lipton TeaHouse リプトンティハウス店

Shijo Teramachi-dori, Kado, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture near Kawaramachi station

If not for the fabulous experiences at the Japanese cafes (Hoshino Coffee, Watanabe Coffee, Muji Cafe etc) opened recently in Singapore, I could have regrettably skipped this genre of ‘Japanese cuisine’ during this trip to the Kansai region. Not strictly Italian fare, the cafes here however, have cleverly turned it into a successful tantalising Italian-Japanese hybrid. And Lipton TeaHouse, though was a random cafe we chanced upon that rainy night, left us with an extremely satisfied tummy thereafter. Not stingy in serving, yet presented with perfected techniques and creativity, this is definitely a place highly recommended.

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DSC_0881Western Style bento. It was almost impossible to resist such an oxymoronic item on the menu. As without a hint of Western plating, the chef has undertaken the 5-colour rule to turn it into a beautiful Japanese bento. Served in the bento: A plump breaded salmon, creamy stuffed croquette, juicy beef hamburg steak complemented with the impeccably poached egg with Japanese rice at the side topped with the lightly sweet chestnuts (once again, the evident subtleties in Japanese cooking), al dante flavourful speghetti with saute shrooms. The most expensive set on the menu at ¥1800 but with so many going on, this could be the heartiest of all too!

DSC_0878DSC_0876Seasonal Vegetables, Shrimps and avocado salad. A huge bowl of crunchy greens, with huge cuts of creamy avocado, lashed with a refreshing sauce, completed with a net of flaky cheese above, this was a simple but impressive huge bowl! ¥980

DSC_0886Roasted Tottori-grown pork chop with demiglace sauce. Lip smacking slab of pork here, made even heavier tasting with the thick demiglace sauce. ¥1280

DSC_0891Kyoto wazuka matcha and black soy bean waffle. With a slew of waffles available, the battle was really down to trying newer, bolder flavours such as the special mont blanc, or sticking to the largely favourite Matcha one that could hardly be found back home (Or even if there is, isn’t impressive at all). And the Matcha prevailed. Crispy outer layer while the fluffy sponge within is heavily stained with the green Matcha. Fabulous taste on its own that is beautifully completed with the decadent Matcha ice cream! ¥980

DSC_0892And we ended the perfect meal with a moist chestnut sponge cake.

And as you might have guessed already, this is indeed a very worthy meal as the bill didn’t pass S$35 per pax. What a steal!

Verdict: An excellent cafe