Japan has always been on my bucket list, so I was super excited to finally go this year. We concentrated on Tokyo & Kyoto but I’d love to go back and visit a few other regions as well. There was so much good food everywhere you turn. It’s really hard to have a bad meal in Japan. Even their conbini (convenience stores) has a great selection of ready to eat foods. I’ll be sharing with you guys a few highlights of the meals we ate as well as the sweet vs savoury snacks/street foods in upcoming posts. First up – Kyoto!
The Kyoto station area was our home base for one week, so we usually had at least one meal in the area either before leaving or coming back from a day of adventure. There are a lot of restaurants connected to the station, in the connecting department stores and in the vicinity. One of the first meals we had in the connecting Isetan Department store was this set meal at Tonkatsu Wako. I got the the katsu-don, fried pork cutlet with egg. Usually it’s on top of the rice, but this was served separately and came with a potato salad, miso soup and some cabbage. It was the perfect first meal to warm us up since it was still chilly when we arrived.
If you’re in the mood for omurice (omlette rice) instead, try the restaurant Molette. I had this awesome creamy egg omelette over mushroom rice with gravy sauce on another day. Just walk around and you’ll find all the food options displayed in the windows of the restaurants. Many will also have an English menu with pictures.
Another notable mention in the JR Kyoto station’s CUBE shopping mall was Nishiki Warai, an okonomiyaki restaurant. There was always a line! I tried beef tongue for the first time there and it was delicious! Not tough at all like I expected.
We tried a different kind of okonomiyaki there called waraiyaki which is fluffier than regular okonomiyaki and had a thin omelette wrapped around. As you can see, there are a ton of options in JR Kyoto Station. I highly recommend walking around the restaurants in the connecting department store as there’s so much variety and everything we ate was tasty and at a reasonable price.
Across the street from JR Kyoto, there are also many dining options at the restaurant floor of Yodobashi, an electronics store. There’s really food options everywhere! We tried a restaurant there specializing in eel rice and chirashi in cute little buckets. Eel or Unagi, is one of my favorite foods and I’m glad I got to try it ‘3 ways’. This set meal was meant to be eaten first with just eel over rice, second with the various side toppings they give you such as scallions, pickle, etc., and third with a hot broth mixed in. I loved this way of eating as you get a bit of variety.
When we were out exploring, we usually ate when we got hungry and came across a good looking restaurant. Gion Mametora was one of the few restaurants we made a reservation for since I had seen photos of adorable “mame-zushi” and absolutely wanted to try it myself. They do online reservations, which makes it easy for tourists. This particular type of sushi was made smaller than regular sushi, supposedly meant for geisha and maiko taking smaller bites. We got the set menu so it also came with a bamboo shoot appetizer, drink and dessert.
Soba + Tempura
Outside of Kyoto, we made a day trip out to Nara to visit the deer (who are kind of violent when they want you to feed them!) and the nearby temples. On the way to one of the temples, we came upon Soba Kitahara, a soba noodle restaurant with a bear statue in the front. Definitely best food choice on a whim. I got the warm soba noodle set with tempura but they also have cold options as well. Their noodles had the right bite and the tempura was light and crunchy. If you’re in the area, do make a visit!
In our second week, we headed to Tokyo. Stay tuned for the next food recap post!