Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Japan #18 – Western inspired concoctions?

In Japan I found many meals which appeared to be catering specifically to western tastes – some sort of western inspired concoctions?

...I introduce you to the phenomenon of the hamburg steak!

Hamburg steak bento box

Hamburger steak plate

Hamburg steak and rice omelet plate

Plate hamburger steak with melted cheese

Phenomenon of Italian-Japanese fusion pasta dishes

Phenomenon of serving just a bit of everything on a plate

Rainbow koala plate with a bit of everything - panna cotta, beef, sausages, rice...veges

Special plate

Big! big! big! STAR

Summer spicy toast sand!

Anti-gravity burger anyone?

Please note: all photos were taken of the posters/plastic food displays at the front of restaurants. I was not game enough to try anything.

Japan #17 – Arashiyama


We generally managed the hot and humid weather in Japan by doing a mix of outdoor and indoor activities. We would spend some of the day outdoors doing some sightseeing/checking out local attractions for a few hours and then take refuge in a cool air conditioned place like museums, shops, restaurants and cafes. 

This day was probably the warmest and one of the most humid days that we experienced in Japan. We spent the day in the Arashiyama area and walked through the Bamboo groves and around Okochi Sanso, a beautiful garden filled with many pine trees, cherry trees and maple trees, and there were some nice views up on the hills over Kyoto. From the outset we told each other that it was going to be really hot today, so at any time, if anyone of us felt like it was getting too much, just say so, and we’ll turn back and find somewhere cool to hang out. I felt proud that day because no one surrendered to the heat, throughout our walk around the garden we’d ask each other how we were going but no one wanted to be the first person to give up to the heat, so we trucked on up around hills and winding pathways, it was a very beautiful and scenic walk but damn it was hot. When we made it to the end of the garden and found the tea room, we were rewarded with a cool green tea and little treat. 

We found a huge spider at our table with way to many legs. Does anyone know what it is?

After our walked around the Okochi Sanso we made our way to the city centre and had lunch at a great little soba noodle place.

After lunch we wondered down the road and stumbled across a music box museum – The Kyoto Arashiyama Orgel Museum. It was quite small and around $10 AUS entry for an experience that would last approximately half an hour we were told. Half of us decided to check it out while the others relaxed in the café downstairs. 

I decided to check out the music box museum and I was glad that I did because it was truly amazing to see and hear antique music boxes on display dating back to the 19th century. There was a small but fascinating collection of music boxes and it was also a treat to hear a real old gramophone. 

Monday, August 30, 2010

Japan #16 – Kyoto

We spent around 4 days in Kyoto.
I had marked down a few food related places that I wanted to check out in Kyoto – the Daimaru department store food floor and Nishiki food market. One my first day in Kyoto while just wandering around the streets near our hostel, I stumbled across these places without any intention of going there yet…
Nishiki food market
I was walking through a shopping arcade and then turned the corner into this lane that was lined with many little stalls, it was some sort of food market and I looked up at the signs and found that I had somehow wondered into the Nishiki Market. Nishiki Market is a narrow, shopping street, lined by more than one hundred shops selling various kinds of fresh and processed foods including many Kyoto specialties, such as pickles, Japanese sweets, dried food, sushi, and fresh seafood and vegetables are sold. Known as "Kyoto's Kitchen", Nishiki Market has a history of several centuries, and many stores have been operated by the same families for generations. I was amazed at all the different produce for sale, I wish that I could have purchased some of the food stuffs but I would not have been able to get it through customs in Australia.
Daimaru Food Floor
A foodies paradise in Japan are the food floors of Department stores (just imagine the ground floor food section of David Jones and times by 50). There are little food counters everywhere with vendors yelling out trying to sell their products.
Daimaru is one of the biggest food floors in Kyoto with a wide range of Western delicacies, pastries and chocolates, as well as many of Kyoto's specialty foods such as tofu, fu (wheat gluten), yuba (tofu skin), and beautiful vegetables, both fresh and pickled. There was also a wine department, a fish market and bakeries.
Map of Daimaru food floor
Mumokuteki Café
A real find in Kyoto was finding a 100% vegetarian café which was above a clothing store. My fellow travellers were pescetarians (vegetarians who eat seafood) so we always ate at places which catered for vegetarians. We saw a sign out the front which said there was no animal products used, no milk and no eggs either. 
Ninja Restaurant
A trip to Japan would not feel complete without checking out a novelty restaurant. In Kyoto we had dinner at a Ninja restaurant (http://www.ninja-kyoto.com/). During dinner a Ninja came out and performed some magic tricks for us, basically a few card tricks and juggling. Simple tricks but it was still very entertaining and he juggled with swords which isn’t an easy thing to do… so respect. 
Edible ninja weapons

The food was average to say the least but I guess this is what you have to expect at a novelty restaurant, it’s more about the experience/entertainment rather than the food.
The highlight of my meal was having really cute frog icecream for desert.
Ganko Takasegawa-Nijoen
Karen’s Japanese friend Eriko took us to one of the best Japanese restaurants in Kyoto – Ganko Takasegawa-Nijoen. The restaurant had a beautiful Japanese garden. 

Massive plastic food display!

The Japanese garden surrounding the restaurant

It was a traditional Japanese dining experience we had to take our shoes off and put them in lockers.
Dinner is served...between 6 people we consumed 9 dishes
Deserts all containing tofu
Tofu cheesecake
Tofu donuts
Tofu icecream
Inoda Coffee
One thing that we found in Japan was the lack of good coffee around. There were heaps of franchises around like Starbucks and Doutour, and a lot of places don’t even have a proper expresso machine. Karen’s friend Eriko recommended that we check out Inoda Coffee which serves the best coffee in Kyoto. Eriko told us that she has a friend who lives in Osaka who would travel to Kyoto to buy Inoda coffee beans. 

The coffee was A+

I guess you can tell that the coffee is good when a guy who drives a lamborghini has a drink here, he’s obviously got taste!