Our Kyoto experience was probably one of my most favourite destinations. The two days we spent there was enchanting and full of inspirations. It's where old and new Japan perfectly co-exits. It is quite evident by just looking at modern Kyoto station, the old charms of Gion and then mixture of bustling streets and quiet alleyways of Downtown Kyoto. The past and present are united.
Surrounding those areas are the period piece feel of the beautiful Arashiyama area, the stunning temples and scenic mountains surrounding Kyoto. But within this prefecture also lies an abundance of great food and culture.
Here's some of the places we visited on our trip:
This is a must visit when you're Kyoto. It's a long shotengai filled with so much fresh and amazing produce from fish to Kyoto veggies and fruits. There are knives shops, dried fish, tofu, shops with loads of spices from shichimi to yuzu spice. There's also soft serve shops! I also came across a lot of pickled stuff, mochi based treats, unagi specialty stores, yakitori and kushiage shops. The list goes on!
Nishikikoji-dori, Nakagyo-ku (between Teramachi and Takakura)
Varies, 9am-5pm, varies for individual stalls.
This izakaya-looking ramenya is owned by parent company Ippudo. Gogyo does Kogashi or burnt ramen. Ladles of lard tossed into a fiery wok and the leftovers are poured onto the broth giving the broth the wok hei element. It is then seasoned with either miso or shoyu.
Try their famous kogashi miso ramen with extra chashu (¥1130), which came with thick egg noodles, slices of tender chashu, naruto, nori, half soft-boiled egg and some greens. The chashu here is fatty and tasty. Noodles are cooked perfectly but the broth here is the star. The broth consistency is close to medium thick range scale, which was rich, bold and had a lot of smoky goodness. Their Kogashi shoyu ramen (¥880) is almost the same except the broth has more subtle flavours while still containing a lot of smokiness. We also ordered gyoza! A perfect balance of pork and ginger flavours with an amazing caramelised crust formed on one side of the dumpling.
For lunch, you can upgrade to a larger size ramen for free!
452 Jumonji-cho, Yanaginobaba Dori, Takoyakushi-sagaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
Opening Hours: 11:30 am – 3:00 pm, 6:00 pm – 12:00 am (Mon-Fri); 11:30 am – 4:00 pm, 5:00 pm – 12:00 am (Sat); 11:30 am – 4:00 pm, 5:00 – 11:00 pm (Sun)
Arashiyama sweets and treats
You must visit the Arashiyama area and explore its old town charms and the bamboo groves of course! You can also shop for beautiful premium bowls, chopsticks, plates etc. But you cannot miss the food this place has to offer especially sweets and snacks like yomogi mochi mitarashi dango, yatsuhashi, and of course soft serves like my ever-favourite Cremia soft cream!
Street Snacks outside Fushimi Inari
One of Kyotos many wonders is the Fushimi Inari Shrines at it's thousands of of tori gates! On your way or after visiting the shrines, stop by the area near the entrance to indulge on some snacks like taiyaki, karaage and kushiyaki-style snacks.
In the heart of the Gion area is where you'll find the modern gallery-looking cafe Arabica %. Located near the Yasaka pagoda is Kyoto's famed trendy and chic coffee shop that boasts a stunning slayer espresso machine and baristas with next level latte art skills. Their green beans are sourced from Australia's Latorredutch Coffee Traders and roasted in-house. We came here twice and had their blend, which had sweet and dark chocolate notes. Milk was textured well and temperature was not too hot. This is a must visit for coffee lovers.
87-5 Hoshinocho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto
Opening hours: 8am to 6pm
Giro Giro Hitoshina or just simply Giro Giro has been dubbed punk kaiseki by food critics. This is due to their modern take on traditional Kyoto kaiseki style of cuisine. The menu changes to suit and optimize seasonal produce.
The place is situated between Takasegawa canal and Kamogawa River. It's an ex-warehouse converted into an intimate bar seating restaurant. One of the fun things about Giro Giro is that is has an open kitchen right in front of you and you get to watch the chefs prepare this pieces of art. The experience cost roughly ¥4,000 for an 8-course meal, includes drinks at the time.
Here's a list of what we had:
1. Fresh turnip carrot and soy milk.
Deepfried sardines, daikon with sweet miso, sea cucumber with vinegar, Tuna with mayo, fish with mushroom sauce
2. Soup, Japanese sea bream wrapped in cabbage, mushroom in a pottage, turnip.
3. Japanese shiitake, crab in tamago, ginger, Crab roe puree
4. Flathead fish sashimi rolled with nori, Soymilk and soy sauce, Pickled mustard.
5. Beef wagyu, mashed potato, blossoms, rice bubbles, white miso & yuzu soup.
6. Scallops, seasoned veggies and vinegar jelly, hints of wasabi.
7. Red miso soup, pickles (young radish & ginger), Yam rice with fried lotus root), Roasted rice tea
8. Dessert: Hot milk, sake, mint, kintam (Japanese orange), sorbet (Creamy with sharp liquor and tangerine notes).
Giro Giro Hitoshina
420-7 Nanba-cho, Nishi-kiyamachi-dori Matsubara-sagaru, Shimogyo-ku
Opening hours (7 days): 5:30p.m.-11 p.m.
Other Kyoto Eats
Unlike here in Sydney, Yayoi in Japan is more casual. The Yayoi on Shijo-dori near Nishiki Market is open 24 hours. Yayoi has our breakfast was sorted everyday. You can get succulent quality meals for no more than ¥1,000 like tonkatsu or karaage chicken set.
716-1-2 Nishinotoin-cho Sijyodori Shiogyo-ku, Kyoto 600-8327, Kyoto Prefecture
Open 24 hours
A kyoto or any Japan food adventure is not complete without trying out kawaii snacks like cute animal-themed doughnuts from Floresta. They don't just look cute but they actually taste great too!
Japan has of the best stocked convenient stores I have come across. Places like Lawsons and Family Mart has shelves and sections dedicated to sushi, oden, bento and more.