January 13, 2018
I head for Kyoto in the afternoon; it's only about a 35-minute train ride. Last night, Mr. Makoro invited Kiyotaka and me to a kaiseki lunch in Downtown Osaka. From there, we'd be able to walk to the train station. I didn't know he'd treat us to lunch, that was so kind of him, really.
And this place near the ANA Crowne Plaza was excellent! We were given our own little room, and the staff were just the most polite and professional servers for which you could ever hope. Kaiseki is basically Japan's version of fine dining, with only the freshest, most seasonal ingredients used and following a general format of: appetizer, sashimi, slow-cooked meat with vegetable, soup, grilled meat, rice, dessert. And like tasting menus in Europe and the US, you can get a varying number of courses.
This clear soup was excellent with the noodles, broccoli, carrots and snapper. It's so great being three courses into this fantastic meal and not feeling weighed down from any excess grease, oil or fat.
Clear soup w/snapper:
The next dish was a unique one: egg custard with salmon sashimi, onion and scallion. I wasn't too crazy about this dish because I found it a little bland. And the runny consistency left me wanting maybe a starch to hold it together while I finished it...crispy noodles or something.
Egg custard w/salmon & onion:
We were served wonderful tempura next. It consisted of snapper, shrimp, crab leg and broccoli rabe blossoms. The contents tasted great, but the batter wasn't the lightest I'd ever had, though it carried no excess grease.
Tempura w/sea salt:
The dessert was as simple and perfect as could be: a large, chilled strawberry. I don't know how readily available strawberries are in the winter in Japan, but it was fantastic, regardless!
Strawberry on ice:
This soup starter was very good. It was on the sour side and very clean, a perfect way to set up the palate for all the goodies coming next.
Sashimi was served next. The salmon, snapper and yellowtail were delish, as were the black fungus, seabeans and pickles.
The last savory course was miso soup with pickled cucumber, nori (seaweed) and radish, along with fried rice with carrot. This was a very good vegetarian offering, the rice didn't taste fried at all it was so light and lean.
Miso soup w/pickled veggies, fried rice w/carrot:
After arriving in Kyoto, I walked around this huge department store, Setan, adjacent to Kyoto Station. I saw my hotel as the train rolled in. I knew it wouldn't be a long walk there, so I decided to grab an early dinner since I was already near a bunch of restaurants. I settled on a tonkatsu joint and was happy I did.
I know, I know, I order fried chicken way too often. But, hey, at least I've got a good personal database going. This appetizer tasted like it was already partially cooked, the batter was heavy and a big greasy.
After checking in and relaxing for a while, I headed out and took a walk to see if I could find anything good for dinner. As usual, by 9:30 PM, even on a Saturday, most everything was closing down for the night. Luckily, there was a ramen joint open a little later than everyone else, so my decision was an easy one. I placed my order with their vending machine, and I was off to the races!
Genten Nishite Choten Ramen
Here I go, again, with the fried chicken. This app was good, but it was a bit heavy on the salt, and with soup coming up, sodium is in no shortage.
Well, this dish was all over the place with so many components, but it all seemed to work. I've this newfound respect for pickled vegetables since starting this FEAST; they always seem to cut any richness in a dish immediately, making the dish more palatable. This turned out to be the main course.
Pickled veggies, grilled sardine w/cod roe, fried perch filet, duck cube, black beans:
These dumplings were good, though nothing about them seemed to stand out.
The ramen here really was excellent. The broth was very light and not overly salted. The noodles looked like angel hair, so maybe this joint gets them pre-made from a distributor. What really stood out here was the delicious slices of pork. They were tender and juicy. The scallion and black fungus did their usual jobs by providing extra texture to the dish. The soup really hit the spot on a cold, damp night.
Apparently, there's a difference between ordering tonkatsu loin or filet, the former being the slightly more expensive option. But I'm not 100% sure as I was just going by the English menu this joint happened to have. Anyhow, the pork wasn't as good as what I'd had in Tokyo a few days ago, but it was still very tasty. The panko breading was nice and light, but the meat just wasn't as tender as it could've been. Still, though, I'm sure I would've thought this meal was out of this world had I not had the same dishes recently that were almost perfect. A very nice touch was the use of tiny clams in the miso soup.
January 13, 2018