Sunday, April 13, 2014

a culinary exploration of kyoto

Dani and I've been to Kyoto many times and have seen pretty much all the tourist attractions here. Instead of doing the same route over and over we were going to go exploring! I don't know why but I've never put much thought into Kyoto cuisine even though I make it a point to eat regional food whenever I travel. So first stop of the day was at a restaurant called Manshige which serves kyo-ryori (kyoto cuisine) at an affordable price. In kyo-ryori emphasis is placed on fresh seasonal ingredients, delicate flavors and beautiful presentation.

this set cost 1850 yen before tax
I had ordered something completely different and didn't realize until I had already eaten some of the above dishes so instead of getting meat or tempura in the set I originally wanted I got a more expensive set that included a whole lot of veggies. Honestly I wasn't a big fan of this meal because there were so many raw or pickled vegetables that were used and all of it was cold. I can't appreciate the delicate flavors of Japanese cuisine, to me it just tastes bland. Dani on the other hand loved it! But for me I need to have some meat and I left this place still feeling hungry. Tofu just isn't gonna cut it. The prices here don't break the bank so its a nice place to try something different and unique.

After lunch we headed to the Philosopher's Path, a pretty stone path adjacent to a canal that is lined with hundreds of cherry trees. The first and only time I saw this place, it was in the middle of winter so the sight wasn't as lovely as what we saw today. Of course by the time we came to visit cherry blossom season was coming to an end so a lot of trees had turned green but some trees were still crowned with pink blossoms!

the coy maiden shyly peeks out of a curtain of cherry blossoms
Oh man does anyone get the reference with this picture? All my Asian friends should recognize this quintessential girl pose of peeking out behind a tree, wall, rock, etc. Hahaha. I highly recommend coming here when shops are still open so anytime before 4/5pm because along the path are a bunch of cute cafes and shops for you to explore. If we hadn't eaten lunch already we would have sat down at one of those cute cafes instead we got ice cream...

my cherry blossom ice cream was homemade and I got it for 200 yen (50 yen discount) - delicious!
After trying and failing to find Nishiki Market, we ended up taking a ton of purikura (photo booth pictures). When we say a ton we meant it...spent a couple hours doing this! Haha

oink oink
Since we still had some time to kill before dinner we thought it would be a great idea to eat more ice cream...don't judge us... We came across this amazing cafe that had a hundred different ice cream parfaits so how could we resist?!? You could come here and buy a giant ice cream parfait that comes up to your hip for $500! We didn't get that one but there were so many delicious flavors to choose from that we decided to share to maximize the tastiness!

left: mango and caramel parfait, right: milk tea & apple pie parfait

These parfaits don't run cheap costing around 800-930 yen for each one. I would never spend that kind of cash on a parfait in America but I swear being in Japan you start getting into this mindset where anything less than a 1000 yen (the first paper money denomination) is considered cheap.

To continue our day of nonstop eating we went to Mame-cha, a restaurant that specializes in obanzai, the traditional home style cooking of Kyoto. Obanzai is made up of many small dishes that are usually pretty simple to prepare. Mame-cha was very hard to find and we had to GPS our way there. It turns out that it is located in Ishibei-koji, a lane I have been trying to find for ages that is lined with beautifully preserved buildings. Need to come back because I couldn't see anything in the dark.

It was very hard to find the restaurant because all the buildings looked similar and the only distinction one could see were tiny name plaques on the walls, which you couldn't see until you were literally standing in front of the entrance. There are also no menus outside, because its such a classy place, so we couldn't tell the prices of the food before entering and when we saw how posh the outside look we got kind of scared that this place might be out of our price range. Turns out the prices weren't too extravagant so I guess don't let looks deceive you.

love the inside all wood and sliding screen doors but sitting on the floor is super uncomfortable!
mame-cha's meat and potato stew - 550 yen
grilled salted chicken with yuzu pepper - 800 yen
That is all I ordered because for those two dishes it was already over $10! Kind of too pricey for my blood. Good thing we were given an appetizer and some green tea with a sweet for free. Also since we had been eating nonstop all day we weren't really hungry so this really hit the spot. I definitely enjoyed this meal more than lunch because there was meat! The atmosphere of the restaurant was really relaxing and intimate with the mood lighting, perfect for couples!

The Details
Manshige Restaurant
Hours: 11:00am-10:00pm
Telephone: 075-343-3920
Price: Lunch 1000-2000 yen
Access: In Porta, the underground shopping center, in front of Kyoto Train Station

Philosopher's Path
Access: Ginkakuji-michi Bus Stop
From Kyoto Station can take Bus Lines #5, #17 or #100

Karafuneya Coffee Sanjo Head Office
39 Daikokumachi, Kawaramachi Sanjo-dori Kudaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
Hours: 9:00am-1:00am
Telephone: 075-254-8774

463-16 Shimokawaracho Shimokawaradori Yasakatoriimae Sagaru, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0825, Japan
Hours: 5:00pm-11:30pm
Telephone: 075-532-2788
Price: expect to pay from 500-1300 yen for each dish. Only 2-3 dishes are over 1000 yen. Most of them are around 800 yen or so.

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