eX cafe (イクスカフェ)京都嵐山本店 – Matcha Carbonara was way too good! That’s what I call the perfect cafe.

eX cafe (イクスカフェ)京都嵐山本店

Saga Arashiyama JR station

DSC_0653The arashiyama 嵐山 area in Kyoto is definitely a must visit for both its magnificent scenic nature walks and crazily old picturesque streets. Definitely touristy with its alluring rustic charm, it would be very much regrettable if such a mainstream area is avoided by the cynic tourist. And lucky for the foodie traveler, as this interesting area also has marvelous restaurants and even cafes to pair with itone of which the eX cafe イクスカフェ.

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DSC_0642Cha Soba Cabonara – this must be my first soba cabonara and could perhaps be one of the most memorable ones. Soaked in the thick, robust, creamy sauce, these springy soba noodles were perfect for a mega slurp! Much attention will be paid to the sauce for its frothiness seems to enhance its fragrance by adding a bit of ‘fluffiness’ in it. Mixed together with the golden raw yolk, this bowl of umami pack rich soba carbonara was just indescribably heavenly. And I think I tasted some intriguing matcha flavouring in the sauce as well, constituting to an even more exciting bowl. ¥1060.

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DSC_0651Simple dessert but very beautifully plated, these Kuromaru matcha rolls くろまる抹茶 were made so photogenic with the artistic splashing of the sugar syrup in the background. Most importantly, these captivating black sponge, so fluffy and soft, is filled with a substantial amount of smooth matcha cream that will end your meal perfectly. And if you fancy, you could pair it with the lightly sweetened chestnut cream by the side! ¥790. 

This is definitely a good spot for a brief stopover before you continue with your leisure walk in the arashiyama area! What’s more, armed with different flavours, the Kuromaru rolls are up for take away at the counter at a much lower price of ¥1200!

Verdict: An excellent cafe

DSC_0667And this, my favourite, is one of the many must-visit areas in the Arashiyama region – the meandering mystical bamboo grove!

Honke Owariya 本家尾張屋 – Soba with more than 500 years of history

Honke Owariya 本家尾張屋

Takashimaya Kyoto, near Gion Shijo metro

honke sobaWhat could perhaps be the oldest soba restaurant on planet Earth, Honke Owariya 本家尾張屋 has an unbelievable history of more than 500 years! If you are interested in its cleverly succinctly summarised history, then dairycream would provide a wholesome review of this place. (It was also thanks to her that I managed to avoid the main restaurant which was cigarette friendly, and landed up in its more modern and accessible branch at Takashimaya, now this will definitely be 禁煙!)

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DSC_0566The simple menu over here is divided into mainly two distinct sections, the ala carte 単品 section and set セット which comes with a bowl of rice on top of your soba and radish appetisers at the side. The tempura soba set for slightly above 1000円 was refreshingly delicious as it is soaked in the cold, light but fragrant shoyu sauce while the tempura batter was fried to the perfect crisp.

That may have looked ordinarily delectable and I was suspecting a signature specialty or some sort to be present in the menu and indeed S and I were not disappointed.

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Wakuden 和久傳 – Outstandingly pleasant and affordable michelin Kaiseki Lunch, ¥2700 for the first few

Wakuden 和久傳

Isetan Level 10, right above Kyoto 京都 JR main station

wakudenDeviating from their usual elusive style, Wakuden 和久傳 may be perhaps the most accessible Japanese Michelin restaurant in the whole of Japan, conveniently located on the 10th floor of Isetan departmental store above Kyoto station! I would expect that their ‘no mobile phone’ signage to pose as a nightmare to all food photographers but after witnessing everyone (including the Japanese) else busy snapping shots of their food away, I took out my DSLR with great relief. As cheap as ¥2700, Wakuden 和久傳 does indeed serve one of the cheapest Kaiseki Lunch meals for a Michelin restaurant, but only limited to the first few daily. But even if you were to miss the queue by a little, fret not as I could confidently assure you that the other affordable lunch sets would also be spot on. Not wanting to spend too much, I’ve gotten the ¥4000 lunch set.

DSC_0603Cold smoked bonito and broad beans. Fresh chunky bonito pieces were served with chopped mint leaves as appetiser to whet the appetite.

DSC_0605 DSC_0606And the lovely waitress would come over to pour a complimentary shot of sake into the neatly carved bamboo ‘shot glass’. Smelling really strong and tasting slightly sweet, I concluded that this must be a higher grade sake that doesn’t just reek of alcohol functional groups. The second cold dish was the vinegared wild greens that tasted fibrous and has a slight sticky consistency; well pickled to a comfortable sour tang.

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DSC_0609This sizzling hotplate was one of the stars for this afternoon lunch. The prickly ash added to it, while is a little numbing to the tongue, actually cuts beautifully through the intensely flavoured pieces of pork. Definitely not prepared simply by just simmering, these pork pieces, armed with razor thin layers of intercalating fats seemed to be roasted first before the marinating fragrance penetrates into the meat.

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Fukujuen 福寿園 – Matcha Specialty restaurant, with the outstanding Matcha Creme Brulee

Fukujuen 福寿園

Near Shijo 四条 Metro

DSC_0591And so I got to the land of Kyoto after an enjoyable ride on the seamless 2h shinkansen from Tokyo (Yes, it’s my very first time to this ancient city even though it’s the 6th time to Japan). The biggest dichotomy between both cities – their ridiculously vast contrast in modernity. While Tokyo seems to be the city of the future, Kyoto seems to have been arrested in time since the meiji period. Everywhere you go, the quaint lovely old towns are so well-preserved and they are literally found a stone thrown away from the city centre. Forgo the trains as the best mode of transport I reckon would be your legs, that led me to walk/march 5-7km daily soaking myself in the sunny yet breezy weather.

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And together with its long history, the origin of incorporating Matcha into Japanese desserts could perhaps be found nowhere else but here. A testament to Kyoto-ians love for matcha could be found even at the metro stations, just before you tap your card in as you would see Matcha pop-up stalls selling pretty upmarket Matcha desserts. The search this time was to an ancient Matcha dessert place that is yet still able to keep itself current and modern – Fukujuen 福寿園. Located conveniently in the heart of Kyoto along the busier streets, this place only opens till 7pm and there were only the two of us when we arrived at 6 (I guess that should be dinner timing).

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DSC_0600Not wanting to stuff ourselves before dinner, we got the Matcha chiffon cake that is one of the fluffiest cakes that I’ve ever had, emanating a light but distinct matcha fragrance upon every biteEmbellished with light matcha cream and some playful colours, I actually thought a darker and more bitter matcha cream would make this even MORE spectacular. ¥1188. Continue reading

One of the most pleasant shinkansen rides 

  To have the best shinkansen experience, it really depends on the line you are travelling on and the environment accompanied with it! The tokaido sen from tokyo to kyoto would be i believe one of the harder to beat rides as you meander past fuji in a section of the ride!    

And  definitely a good bento set will make it even more wholesome… Till then!