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

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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