Jiki Miyazawa 食宮ざわ – The all sesame tofu that gave it its fame

Jiki Miyazawa 食宮ざわ (1 star)

553-1 Yaoha-cho, Sakaishijo Agaru Higashigawa,Kyoto 604-8123, Kyoto Prefecture

Near Gion Shijo station

DSC_0830Bridges, you would soon realise, is an integral form of architecture in the kansai region as they give these cities their unique character and charisma. While those in the more modernised Osaka exuberate a grander, sky-scraper laced skyline, those in Kyoto consolidate its rustic charm. Now we may seem to be slightly out of point here, but the gorgeous view you would get en route to Jiki Miyazawa 食宮ざわ じき宮ざわ from Gion Shijo subway is definitely unignorable.

DSC_0831DSC_0835Having searched for quite a few Japanese michelin restaurants previously, we have grown wiser to keep a lookout for the less conspicuous and quieter side road. And there we were, got past the curtain, ushered promptly to our comfortable counter seats, and got a Lager Kirin beer while waiting for the ¥3500 set lunch.

DSC_0833Starter – Plump and refreshing crab meat forming the base, topped with the lighter radish and salmon roe

DSC_0836Clear soup – Perfumed throughout with the shimeji mushroom fragrance, while its refreshingness is further lifted by the citrusy yuzu zest; all with the purpose of bringing out the natural sweetness of the scallop encased tofu.

DSC_0838These Spanish mackerel sashimi were lightly steamed at the side yet still maintaining its tenderness, while the rawness is preserved within, thereby increasing the complexity of its overall texture.

DSC_0841Showcasing its culinary acumen, the Sesame tofu, topped with a blob of savoury sesame sauce and lashed with sesame sprinkles on top is definitely the star of Jiki Miyazawa. Lightly sweet, savoury, fragrant, the nuances in the sesame flavours have been brought out by the different textured ingredients. With so many elements in just a seemingly simple course, this is definitely not straightforward but has been prepared with much finesse. Notably, the tofu has a thicker and bouncier consistency yet still maintaining its silkiness, this is the first kind that I ever have had.

DSC_0849Rice course: Together with the peppercorn sardine, it was a good finish to the meal. Do not be shy to ask for more if you need more carbo as they will gladly scoop more for you!

DSC_0854Considered as the fruit in Autumn or winter, the fuyugaki (literally winter persimmon), with a meltingly soft flesh, tasted very sweet and juicy. All ended by the sweet hojicha macaroon counterbalanced by the ultra bitter quality matcha.

DSC_0840While I wouldn’t say that this lunch is mindblowing as most of the tastes, we were already familiar with. However, at just ¥3500, that includes the brilliant sesame tofu, I say it is worth a visit.

Verdict: A good restaurant.

 

 

Arashiyama 嵐山 -What to eat in this big tourist attraction during the busy Autumn season?!

Arashiyama 嵐山

亀山家 Restaurant 

Sagakamenoocho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 616-8386, Japan

Near Saga-Arashiyama JR station or Arashiyama Station

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Some maple leaves at the Tenryuji temple

Giving way to winter already, Autumn has but just reached its peak only recently in Kyoto last week. With the lively colours of golden yellow and fiery red bursting in the many different parts of Kyoto, this former capital of Japan never fails to turn into a tourist hotspot every Autumn season. Lucky to be there last week and one of the spots that should never be missed is the ancient-looking Arashiyama region that is littered with tranquil peaceful temples, the famous serene bamboo forest and small but beautiful mountains that form the perfect backdrop in every season. You could check out the important places in the Arashiyama region here.

Having been here 6 months ago in the summer, the number of tourists streaming into Arashiyama, or perhaps the whole of Kyoto has definitely skyrocketed during the Autumn season. From relatively emptier streets to hordes and hordes of people everywhere this season, lunch would be a headache for most as every restaurant along the main street sees a super long queue that may potentially turn a simple lunch into a high tea.

DSC_0794DSC_0795We kept walking, taking in the sights fully while trying to get into a less crowded restaurant for lunch. And luck was with us as we only waited for a short 30min to get into 亀山家 Restaurant; from which you could have an unhindered view of Arashiyama moutain while filling up the growling tummies. Not expecting much, thinking that this would just be some normal tourist restaurant that serves the normal Japanese fare, I reckon this was a splendid lunch and definitely a small family restaurant that has put in loads of sincerity and effort in their cooking to complement the magnificent view ahead.

DSC_0799Starting with this piping hot Oden, the generous variety of traditional ingredients present has whetted our appetites greatly, from the juicy daikon, savoury Yaki Chikuwa (Fish paste cake), spongy Mochiiri Kinchaku (purses), to the springy Konnyaku (savory jelly), they were all bursting with the dashi broth flavours. So well marinated and no short cuts taken, the oden calmed the stomachs. About ‎‎¥600.

DSC_0803Nishin teishoku – The herring set meal was another spot on set, with the meaty herring taking centrestage. Bones removed, substantial springy meat served that is completed by the lightly sweet shoyu marination, this was a worthy set for about ‎¥1000.

DSC_0804Oyakodon set – A semi runny omelette sweetened up by the sliced onions and tender chicken, I could never have imagined but peppercorn powder has been  cleverly added that beautifully cuts through the umami fragrance. Definitely an impeccable bowl! ‎About ¥800.

DSC_0805While for dessert, the hand made cream puff and Matcha cake were both on point. So refreshing it is as chilled, milky vanilla cream is stuffed within the flaky crust!

While this humble family restaurant may not be as conspicuous as the rest, it is definitely a gem hidden at the end of the road. And what’s more, the wait isn’t as unbearable as the rest.

DSC_0786DSC_0817DSC_0811And what lies ahead of Restaurant 亀山家, at the top, live these cute rotund, fluffy wild monkeys which you could come in close contact to. Loving the one that is perched on the pole with its fat butt facing the camera.

And while trekking in this region may seem tiresome, some commonly sold sweets could keep your day going. This semi-mashed red bean mochi were baked lightly to give a light crust.

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And this was the beloved picture captured in the Arashiyama region of the day!

Verdict of 亀山家 Restaurant: An excellent restaurant.

梨吉 Rikichi – The story of the chef who previously rejected the Michelin star

梨吉 Rikichi

95 Sueyoshicho, Gion, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto

DSC_0705 DSC_0708Who would in the right mind choose to reject the highly coveted Michelin star?! Not any chef in this world I suppose, but such a strange scenario is however not uncommon in the land of Michelin restaurants – Japan. We may get the jitters when we first step into a Michelin Japanese restaurant, with a slightly haughty-looking chef behind the counter who only expects respect from his customers for his lofty culinary skills. I didn’t expect anything less than such a demanding attitude, especially so when I have chosen to visit Rikichi 梨吉 that previously rejected the star. This might sound a little nerve wracking but the curiosity behind the chef’s story beckons!

DSC_0709 DSC_0710And upon stepping into the one-man restaurant, who is both the chef and waiter, I felt absolutely relaxed, totally unlike what I have expected. Very casual counter bar restaurant with typically just a few seats, the old chef who has helmed this restaurant for 29 long years, coming to 30, is perhaps the friendliest one that I’ve ever met. Just like a grandfather cooking for his grandson, apart from the fact that I have to pay 8000 yen there after. After being seated comfortably on the wooden chair with a simple cushion over it, down-to-earth appetisers were first served. Showcasing the subtleties of the appetisers, the crunchy hanaguri clam has all it takes to whet the appetite.

DSC_0711Japan has been highly revered of its naturally sweet underground roots without additional flavouring from condiments at all. Perfectly embodied by the two fat moist pieces of satoimo or Kyoto yam, the sweetness has been perfectly locked by the sequential steaming and frying process with much precision.

DSC_0712One of the most favourite dishes that night – Yuzu Nasu dengaku. The miso rendition has always been the one being served at restaurants; yuzu – that must be a first for me and most. Really creamy slab of tangy yuzu puree spread over the comforting tender aubergine, that was a perfect combination as its sourness manages to reconcile beautifully with the savouriness of this dishContinue reading

Kikunoi Roan 菊乃井 露庵 – less than $50 for a 2 Michelin starred lunch!

Kikunoi Roan 菊乃井 露庵

In between Gion Shijo or Kawaramachi Metro

DSC_0732Affiliated to the 3 Michelin Starred Kikunoi Honten 菊乃井本店, the sister restaurant Kikunoi Roan 菊乃井 露庵 (2 Michelin stars) starts its lunch kaiseki set for as low as ¥4000. The second michelin restaurant visited in Kyoto and somehow there seems to be an apparent difference when crosschecked with the experiences from the Tokyo michelin. More casual perhaps and a slightly less polished service rendered, I think the Tokyo experiences felt more wholesome. Well, nevermind about that as we came here mainly for the food.

DSC_0733 DSC_0736Once seated comfortably, you will be served with a saucer of cold refreshing sake before the chilled appetisers are served. Pretty good platter of appetisers that embodies the subtleties of Japanese cuisine which otherwise, not overly outstanding for a shout out.

DSC_0737My first actually – A very refreshing take on sashimi as these succulent slices of bonito are served with a jelly-textured ponzu sauce that adds a desired subtle sour tang to the already very fresh fish slices. Definitely not as straightforward as it seems, much thoughts must have been put into this ponzu sauce! 

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Iyemon Salon Cafe Lounge 伊右衛門サロン – stating it as an affordable lunch would be definitely be an understatement!

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

DSC_0680When I mention about Cafe hopping in Japan, it may seem a little out of place with the inundation of so many traditional Japanese restaurants that serve from polished kaiseki sets to sushi that may make you feel as if you haven’t had a good sushi before this. But Cafe hopping has so far been outstanding in Japan (Well, it’s hard to hit a less inspiring restaurant anyway over here in Japan) and the other cafe visited during this trip in Kyoto, Iyemon Salon Cafe Lounge 伊右衛門サロン, though slightly squeezed out of the top 100 places (rated 105 out of 7000+ restaurants in Kyoto by tripadvisor) but still in the top 5% of restaurants, would be a highly recommended cafe for both breakfast and lunch. Having an industrial backdrop with the uncovered pipes running along the corners of the walls and a super spacious interior, this cafe does indeed feel really comfortable without the usual claustrophobia that one would have to put up with at any cafe in Sg. Thumbs up for the atmosphere already and more praises for the food as we read on…

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DSC_0687Priced at just ¥900 for a lunch set, stating it as an affordable lunch would definitely be an understatement as its quality has far surpassed its value! Basking thoroughly in the subtlety of the appetiser, the black seaweed with lotus and clams would have whetted your appetite greatly already with its quiet savoury taste. The juicy horse mackerel on the other hand, armed with a layer of thick crispy skin, was brilliantly accompanied with a rich tomato base that has clam bits in it; providing a light sourish tang with great savouriness. While the ponzu-sauced salad makes this entire meal even more refreshing!  Continue reading