I’ve spent the last three days in Kyoto, which is surely one of the most spectacular places in the world. From the meticulously tended gardens of Ginkaku-ji to the sophisticated architecture of Eikan-do, the delectable pleasures of the Nishiki market and the jewel-like storefronts of Ninen-Zaka and Sannen-zaka, this city simply takes your breath away. And that's even before you start to eat.
It seems criminal to cram everything into one blog post, but photos say much more than my prose. I loved the delicate and elegant tempura at Yoshikawa, the very personification of refinement. A perfect piece of eggplant melded seamlessly with the airy batter, while Japanese pumpkin asserted itself with an earthy flavor and texture. Kugomi, a fiddlehead fern, was about the most perfect piece of tempura I've ever had, its slight bitterness and vegetal character seeming tailor-made for this preparation. The tempura at Ten-you suffered only in comparison to the sublime Yoshikawa, but there were some excellent offerings, such as the unusual presentation of shrimp legs and the meltingly succulent anago, complete with the spine. I sampled nishin-soba, a Kyoto specialty involving dried and marinated herring, at Misoka-an Kawamichiya, a soba house that has been in business for almost 300 years; and at Aunbo, a refined and innovative eight-course menu included an amazing mackerel sashimi and several delicious variations of Kyoto tofu, as well as my new favorite spring mountain vegetable, fukinoto.
In a coincidence almost beyond belief, I ran into Anne-Claude Leflaive at Aritsugu, the legendary knife store in the Nishiki market that has supplied Kyoto’s chefs since 1560. How random is that? I don’t think she bought anything, but I, having absolutely no self-control, walked out with a shiny new carbon-steel, handcrafted deba, engraved with my name on the blade.
Aunbo, Higashiyama-Yasaka Torii mae, 525-2900
Misoka-an Kawamichiya, Fuyacho-dori Sanjo, 221-2525
Ten-you, Gokomachi Sanjo Sagaru, 212-7778
Yoshikawa, Tominokoji-dori Oike Kudaru, 221-5544