June 1, 2019

Kyoto 2019 day 2: Karhu's hangout

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It was supposed to be perfect.  I had planned our day's itinerary so that we would end up around Gion (祗園) during early evening to try to catch any geisha (芸者) shuffling down Hanamikoji-dori (花見小路通り) on their way to dinner appointments.  Then we would have dinner nearby at a restaurant serving traditional kyo-ryori (京料理).

But due to our late start this morning and the need for my friends to check-in to the hotel - and our insistence to use public transport - we missed the golden hour to stroll down what would have been undoubtedly a tourist-filled lane.  So we ended up just strolling around the restaurant before getting seated in an upstairs dining room at the Sueyoshicho (末吉町) branch of Yagenbori (やげんぼり).

As we were removing our shoes at the genkan (玄関), I noticed a copy of Karhu@77 - the book featuring the works of Clifton Karhu published by my friends the Tolmans - was prominently displayed.  As we entered our private dining room, I saw that a Karhu print of the exterior of the restaurant hung on a wall.  And the cardboard coasters we got for our cold drinks - a different one for each of us - also featured drawings which are reminiscent of Karhu's annual calendars.

With that backdrop, it was inevitable that I would order up the restaurant's special bottling of Karhu Tokubetsu Junmai (佳風カーフ  特別純米) made by Hakurei Brewery (ハクレイ酒造).  This was sweet on the attack but a drier finish.

I had pre-ordered the Yuki (雪) set menu in the hope that this would give my friends their first taste of kyo-ryori.

Starter:  duck breast with summer vegetables (前付: 鴨ロース  夏野菜) - with mashed potatoes.

Sashimi (お作り) : - a selection of 4 different types of seafood was served tonight.
Kisslip cuttlefish (紋甲烏賊)

Japanese tuna (本鮪) - whenever I'm in Japan, I sometimes end up breaking my "no bluefin" rule because when nobody asks me about my dietary preferences, I try not to insist and offend the chef.

Striped jack (縞鰺)

Wild sea bream (天然鯛)

Bowl: abalone dumpling (椀物:鮑真薯) - the dumpling was very, very fluffy... with a texture not unlike that of marshmallow.  Small bits of diced abalone were encased inside.

Grilled dish (焼物) : two different items were offered for tasting.
Shamo chicken (軍鶏) - I guess it's yakitori (焼き鳥)... not bad.

Grilled rosy seabass / blackthroated seaperch (喉黒塩焼) - one of the popular and premium fish.

Fried dish: sweetfish tempura (揚物:鮎天ぷら) - no surprise that this was on the menu... since it is the season for this.  I was very happy that my friend was stepping out of her comfort zone by eating most of it - bones, fins, and all...

Simmered Kyoto vegetables (京野菜の炊合) - the taro had a very smooth texture, and we also had winter melon, lotus root, green beans, and pumpkin.  Strips of yuzu (柚子) rind on top ensured a lovely fragrance.

Pike conger with egg (鱧の卵とじ) - as I explained to my friends, we would probably run into pike conger (鱧) a lot over the next few days... as fancy restaurants tend to feature the same seasonal ingredients on their menus.  The pike conger was likely grilled as I could taste a little smokiness.  We've also got some burdock (牛蒡), mitsuba (三つ葉), and the sweet broth also came with smokiness.

Clay pot rice: young ginger and sea bream (釜めし:鯛と新生姜ご飯) - as expected our rice came in a big clay pot, and the flavors were elegant while the fragrance of young ginger were pretty nice.  Needless to say there was no way for the 5 of us to finish the rice, so the restaurant packed it into separate bento (弁当) boxes for us.

Pickles (香の物)

Red miso soup (赤出汁)


I went downstairs and ended up speaking with the chef as I remarked about the Karhu artwork. Apparently Mr. Karhu used to frequent the restaurant chain, and I was told that he sat outside the restaurant while he painted.  This was a pretty nice discovery, and I look forward to visiting the other locations of this chain.

After returning to the Rihga Royal Hotel Kyoto, MorgChop and I decided to catch up over a drink at Bar Granada.  While we convinced my friend to try out the local Ki No Bi (季の美) Gin, I, of course, took a girlie drink...

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