Friday, September 22, 2017

Rainy Day in Kyoto

This day's weather forecast was rain.  Tuesday, the 12th.  We had lunch reservations at Ajiro, one of the few Japanese Michelin starred restaurants which are completely vegan.  You'll find several which are vegetarian, but these use Dashi in their cooking.  Ajiro was started by a former chef of one of the temples that we saw in the large complex (46!) of temples just north of the restaurant.  We didn't have time to visit them, but Connie snuck a peek.  Temple food, Shojin-ryori, like we had in Koya-san last year.  But temple food is really an insulting term.  It has come out of Buddhist tradition, with no meat, fish, fowl, dairy. Alcohol is allowed but only because it also is vegan. We acquired our reservation about two months in advance, and apparently it wasn't difficult to procure given the relative lack of interest in such cuisine in Japan. Thank Okuda-san again, for her help. Kaiseki cuisine, on the other hand, with its use of chicken, fish, and all sorts of meats, is highly sought after. 

Speaking of alcohol, we found this "supermarket" on the Subway side of Kyoto Station in the B1F level, between Porta and Asty.  Two small rooms qualifies it as "super."  One room filled with wine and other fine beverages from all over the world, including many higher end American wines, such as Opus One and Harlan!  Those were in locked glass cabinets, but seeming not to be temperature controlled...  Anyway, they didn't have much in the way of Japanese whisky's, but I spied Oban 14 up there (you might be able to see it in the pic below) up on the top shelf.  And it was only ¥6000, about the price at Costco.  

The rain does hamper us a tiny bit on our short walk (about 500 meters) from Hanazono station to the restaurant.  But it wasn't pouring, fortunately. 

I have ordered two different courses for the four of us, two ¥6000 courses and two ¥8000 courses.  Only the ¥8000 and ¥10000 courses have a Yuba course included, which I wanted.  I thought that ¥10000 was a bit much for lunch too.  They have a ¥3000 bento box course which is likely very similar to the ryori we were served at Koya-san, but I wanted something a bit more special. When we're seated, I forgot that there were two different course selections and we weren't seated properly.  I told our waitress that it really didn't matter and that we'd all share anyway.  I was surprised when all four of us were able to eat the Yuba to our hearts content.  I'll get to that in a bit.

Here we're seated 2 by 2.  Our waitress pours soy milk into an electrically heated square vat, I think with the proper temperature to prevent scalding, since home techniques use a double boiler. 

I ask how long to harvest our Yuba, and the waitress tells me to be patient, and I say I'm hungry.  That yields a chuckle.

Here is a delicious Avocado (al dente -- young-- a bit firm for us) with a salad inside.  Connie and Sam are the lucky 8k guys and they get a flower stem from which they stripped the murasaki colored petals onto their salad below. It almost was mayonaissy.

Here is a mochi like dumpling of namafu, in hot vegetable broth, very delicious. Somewhat chewy. Wondering how there isn't animal in this?

Peanut tofu, topped with seasonal vegetables.  You see goma doufu a lot but Peanut tofu is something special, and it tastes great!  You're thinking, part 2 of the Tofu marathon!  But this is not a Doufu place, I assure you.

Deep fried Potato strips highlighted this course.  Goodies that I cannot remember were in the real citrus fruit ramekin and the ceramic Kaki bowl.

So, after a while this what we get.  Yuba that we harvest directly from the heated soy milk.  Patience rewarded. We all get our little quadrants so we don't quarrel!

Next is an Udon dish, with noodles made from beans, with a texture like chewy soba.  Really really nice and likely my favorite dish of the meal.  There is a hunk of white "cheese" in the middle with the texture of melted mozzarella along with some nori, myoga and wasabi.  You're supposed to mix it all up like abura soba, though this was not greasy.

Sweet corn with mochi, seasoned with a shoyu based sauce.  Garnished with a plant which had a very aromatic flavor (maybe too pungent).  Sprinkled with a few edamame.

Tempura course of vegetables. I loved this.  I think that only two of us got this.  But we shared.  Dashi or salt, we all used the salt.  Spritzed with Sudachi.

The lesser courses got Ochazuke, sprinkled with nori and the crunchy things (seasoned rice cracker nuggets).  The tsukemono was great, but I thought the rice was overdone, and this felt more like Okayu.  

We traded back and forth; the "better" course got miso shiru and seasonal mushroom rice. I really liked this rice with a firmer texture and more flavor.

A simple dessert of peeled very ripe grapes and Japanese Nashi for four of us.

Here is our Yuba vessel at the end.  Crusty at the bottom; we got our money's worth on the soy milk! Ate it all.

More dessert, frozen!

Then this strange thing. Clearly my least enjoyed part of the meal.  A savory warabi mochi like thing covered with soy powder (sort of like kinako) wrapped in a leaf and then roasted to add leaf flavor to the warabi.

Served with strong slimy macha. Not sure about this course.

Ahhh, regular ocha!

Great meal!  So we hoofed it back to Hanazono, and then to Kyoto Station to rest.  Connie and I decide to get some real ramen (for the first time in the trip, T's in Tokyo not included!).  I search Tabelog and find this place a block outside the Station with great scores.  We get there about 5:30 (5:00 opening) and we see this.

Given the small size of the place inside, I figure an hour wait.  Connie can't take it, so we go to a second place, with an ok score on Tabelog, in the Ramen street on 10F in Isetan.  We both didn't like it.  The broth was substandard Assari, but the pork was very good. The noodles, despite my favorite thick curly shape, were also a bit too soft. The kakuni on rice side order was good, but the rice was overdone. Egg also a bit overdone. For the benefit of the future visitor, pass on this place, Bannaishokudo.

Kakigori at Porta minutes before closing.

Mine with cream on top with a scoop of macha ice cream.


  1. Ajiro meal looks amazing. That yuba must have been good the soy milk all gone. Still it seem strange to eat the crust on top if that is what it is. Great visuals. Too bad about the ramen. It doesn't look that great in the pics.