My Favourite Ramen @ Hanamaruken(花丸轩) Dotonbori Osaka on 21May2013

pork soft bones ramen at hanamaru dotonbori osaka

pork soft bones ramen at hanamaruken dotonbori osaka

was posting my recent ramen experience at toyama black (富山ブラック) by menya iroha at ramen village (拉麺小路) at level 10 kyoto station, and got motivated to look up my dotonbori photos during my may2013 trip with my sister.

we visited this stall, hanamaruken ramen (花丸轩) at dotonbori osaka on 21.5.2013. it is my favourite & only ramen that i really want to eat. 🙂

hanamaru dotonbori osaka

hanamaruken dotonbori osaka

hanamaru dotonbori osaka

the kitchen – hanamaruken dotonbori osaka

pork soft bones ramen at hanamaru dotonbori osaka

pork soft bones ramen at hanamaruken dotonbori osaka

they served the ramen with a 10″ (maybe 12″) long pork soft bones which had been cooked & flavoured for don’t know how many hours the taste & texture was just sublime! 🙂 of course there were the scallion, nori (seaweed), & you can get your own water, pickled ginger & 1 hard-boiled egg for every bowl of ramen you ordered.

see the youtube video of the wondeful bowl of ramen here.

being the carnivore i am, 2 slices of thin chashu are ok for me but a 10″ long pork soft bones infused with all the supreme flavours was about my only motivation to devour 1 large bowl of carbs…but of course it was about taste & texture contrast, so carbs was quite welcome together with the pork. 🙂

i will take this w/o fail everytime i am in osaka. other food can wait…haha. 🙂

c.h.e.f andy

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Kurama (鞍马) & Kibune (贵船) Hike on 20May2013

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Kurama and Kibune are small towns in the hills north of Kyoto & excellent for a short day hike. It is just 30mins ride on the Eizan line from Demachiyagi Station, and about 1 hr all-in starting from (say) Gojo. 🙂 the hill is only 266m and the hike distance is about 2.6km and can be comfortably completed in 1.5hrs (though in our case we took 2 full hrs). 🙂

we started late and decided to take an early lunch along Kawaramachi so we got a 600yen subway pass & took the subway to Shinyakusomae station and walked down Kawaramachi. we found a cheap eat Yayoiken (see  Great Affordable Eats @ Kyoto) and took a 690yen bento lunch each.

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we then took the Tozai line to Keihan Sanjo station and changed to Keihan line to Demachiyanagi station & hop on the Eizan line for a 30mins journey to Kurama. 🙂 the train carriage had a few rows of seats facing out the windows. we could see momiji (maple trees) right by the window as the train passed. one needed only imagine how it would be like during autumn koyo (falling leaves) time. At Kurama station there was a poster of the Eizan train driving through the myriad of autumn colours. 🙂

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we started the hike from Kurama side.

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there was a 200yen entry fee (爱山费) at Niomen (仁王门) head of the trail from Kurama side. we did not take the cable car which was just a very short ride & cost 100yen.

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the entire hike was largely shaded even though it was a hot day. we were armed with the usual bottled tea from the vending machine, liquids were something important to have.

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the hike was really pleasant with some steeper slopes and stairs, though it was a bit tiring for my sis.

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there were lots of maple of course (but we already knew that the best time for visiting Japan were during autumn and sakura, so we could only imagine the autumn colours but it was expected and ok). there were lots of giant cedar trees.

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we reached Kuramadera, the main temple.

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we reached the top. there was clear direction signs with distances to Kurama & Kibune. 🙂

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the stretch of cedar woods (with rows & rows ramrod straight cedar trees) was impressive. 🙂

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we reached Kibune about 3.11pm (Japan Time – camera is set to Singapore time), about 2 hrs after we started. 🙂

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we climbed up to Kibune Jingu (贵船神社). surprise surprise they had free wifi…useful if unusual. 🙂

Kibune is also popular for its kawadoko dining, where you sit on some floormat platforms secured over the flowing river beneath and watch the rapids & falls. some say the temperature can be up to 5degC cooler than ambient.  there is also the  nagashi-sōmen (流しそうめん flowing noodles) where you try to catch somen flowing really quickly down a bamboo pipe & dip in sauces like you eat cold soba. 🙂

while we were walking along Kibune river side where all these restaurants were located, there were hardly any customers. perhaps this was not the season & the costs was quite high.

anyway we walked along the Kibune road by the river and came upon a bus station where we paid 160yen each and got to Kibuneguchi station to catch the Eizan train back to Kyoto. 🙂

c.h.e.f andy

Southeast Kyoto Tour of Tofukuji, Uji & Fushimi Inari on 17 & 18May2013

Fushimi Inari -1000 torii gates 鸟居

Fushimi Inari -1000 torii gates 鸟居

arrived Kansai Airport 6am on 17.5.2013.

there was no queue at immigration and no queue at JR (Japan Rail) office, and we managed to get the 4000yen “Haruka & Icoca RETURN” which comprised RETURN tickets by Haruka Express between Kansai Airport & Kyoto & an Icoca card with 1500yen store-value and 500yen refundable deposit. 🙂

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we bought some burger & salad & got on the 7.27am Haruka Express No 4 for a 90mins journey and arrived Kyoto station at 9am. 🙂

Umeda Sky building at Osaka 173m 40 floors built in 1993

Umeda Sky building at Osaka 173m 40 floors built in 1993

passing Osaka on Haruka Express we saw Umeda Sky building, 1 of Osaka’s 2 famous tall buildings. 🙂

370yen kitsune soba

370yen kitsune soba

there was a soba shop at the station so we shared a 290yen soba + 90yen kitsune (a Japanese fried tofu). 🙂 then we took the Karasuma subway line 1-stop to Gojo.

our hotel Citadines Gojo was located a few steps (like 20m) from Gojo station – so access wise for arrival & departure, it was really convenient. 🙂 for comparison, Karasuma Shijo hotel would be more convenient as it was similarly located at the doorstep of Shijo station on Karasuma subway line, and you can also walk to Daimaru, Takashimaya, Nishiki market, Teramachi, Kawaramachi, Kamogawa etc. however if your plan is to get the subway 600yen Subway Card (for unlimited travel on Karasuma line & Tozai line) anyway as we did for 2 days, then it makes little difference. 🙂

seemed that Citadines Japan credit card machine did not allow for card guarantee. I made the front desk call my Singapore credit card hotline, and was told that the transaction showed up as a wrong security number entry. I then asked the front desk to charge my card instead of just doing a card guarantee, and this time the card transaction went through. this was really strange experience but well we were not in a hurry & it was happily settled. 🙂

it was too early to check in Citadines so we left our luggage & set off for the Everytrail Southeast Kyoto tour of Tokufuji (东福寺), Fushimi Inari (伏見稲荷) & Uji (宇治). 🙂

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torii gate at road junction on way to Byodo-in 平等院 temple in Uji (宇治)

we made our way first to Tokufuji (东福寺) 140yen by JR Nara line from Kyoto stations. next we went to Uji (宇治) 230yen by JR Nara line. 🙂

there was a bit more to see at Uji than Tofukuji. still I did not take good photos at both places. also the Pheonix Hall at Byodo-in was under renovation. we did walk through Byodo-in’s garden & museum, and also saw the Ujigami shrine & Uji shrine. the weather was hot & we were a bit tired & decided to skip Fushimi Inari & return to Kyoto.

On way back to JR Uji station, we found & shared a nice 1580yen set at a 中华料理. & later in the evening after checking in to our hotel room, we walked to Shijo & Kawaramachi & found a nice little family styled izakaya 居酒屋 called 百练near the junction of Shijo & Kawaramachi where we had nice beef teishoku & pork shabu shabu. all this were recorded in the post Great Affordable Eats @ Kyoto.

On Day 2, we slept late but were all ready for our most wonderful teppanyaki course lunch at Gozanbo (五山望) at 15flr of Hotel Granvia at Kyoto Station. I had arranged this with the head chef Yoshio Doi-san & he had kindly made arrangements even though he was on home leave then.

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we had some time before lunch so I brought my sis to the 8th floor Ramen Village at Daimaru building at Kyoto Station west side. On the 9th floor, you can look down at Kyoto Station (above left photo).

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skybridge linking the west & east buildings at Kyoto Station

There was also a skybridge linking the west & east buildings at Kyoto Station (some might have missed this) that could be accessed from the 8th floor Ramen Village & you could get a great view of Kyoto Tower (above centre photo). On our way to Gozanbo, we took a photo from the 3M level connecting passage just above Kyoto Station central exit (above right photo).

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Fushimi Inari (伏見稲荷)

we set off to Fushimi Inari (伏見稲荷) 140yen by JR Nara line to Inari 稲荷 station. The first torii gate entrance was right by the station. we each grabbed a tea from a grocery, ready for the 2 hr walk. 🙂

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each torii gate was donated by a corporation or individual

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each of the 1000s torii gate was donated by a corporation or individual & their names were written on the side viewed downhill direction – that kind of acted as our direction guide…haha. 🙂

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Fushimi Inari picture map

Mount Inari is 233m high & the whole walk took 2hrs.

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at the top of Fushimi Inari @ 一峰

somewhat long way up but anyhow we made it to the top @ 一峰.

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kannon (观音) at the bottom near exit of Fushimi Inari

on the way down at the bottom near the exit, we found this kannon (观音) and took some photos.

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bbq quail @ Inari

my sis wanted to eat bbq quail – she was fearless (of bird flu) when it came to food adventures..haha. 🙂

we took a short walk to see the streets in Inari, crossing the JR Nara railway line & arriving at Keihan Inari station.

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here we took Keihan line to  Keihan sanjo (三条) station and walked over the bridge for a view of Kamogawa (鸭川).

then we walked down Kawaramachi and had a great kuroge wagyu shabu shabu & sukiyaki dinner at kashin 花心. 🙂

c.h.e.f andy

Kyoto & Osaka Trip with Sister @17-22May2013

my Kyoto trip(17-22may2013) planning was somewhat disrupted by the Hong Kong trip (10-13may2013).

anyhow I had booked earlier in Feb2013 a Jetstar promotion fare to Osaka for 2pax for just S$545. 🙂 when planning the trip I also searched for a cheap hotel, and booked a 5-nights stay for 48,510yen (about S$600 or S$120/night) at Citadines Gojo Kyoto.

my wife told me recently JR (Japan Rail) had introduced new tourist friendly & great value “Haruka & Icoca” card. this costs just 3000yen for 1-way by Haruka Express from Kansai Airport to any of Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe etc and 4000yen RETURN and include a Icoca store-value card with 1500yen store value PLUS 500yen deposit which you can get full refund. this means in my case I only pay 1000yen by Haruka Express between Kansia Airport & Kyoto 🙂 & the current fare for non-reserved seat is 2770yen 1-way.

previously you could only purchase a JR West 1day pass for 2000yen (or 3days or 5days if you plan to do lots of travelling) and you could only buy a 1day pass once. so I used to get a 1day pass on arrival to Kyoto on a 90mins journey on Haruka Express, and pay the full fare returning from Kyoto to Kansai Airport.

with airfare, hotel & train connections taken care off, next was to have some plan of the sights we were visiting, and to check the best & cheapest subway/train connections & timing to get to the sights etc

we wanted to have mostly walking/hiking outings & lots of eating of course, and so I planned to cover-

  1. southeastern tour of Kyoto including Tofukuji, Fushimi Inari & Uji
  2. walk from Heian Jingu through Maruyama Park to Kiyomizu
  3. hike from Kurama to Kibune
  4. day trip to Nara & Osaka – this was later changed to a day trip to Osaka visiting a few places I selected, namely Tenmangu (天满宫), Osaka Castle(大阪城), Sitennoji (四天王寺), and walking the shopping streets of Tenjinbashi suji, Sinsaibashi, Dotobori & Namba.

c.h.e.f andy

Great Affordable Eats @ Kyoto 17-21May2013

super-value Japanese beef (国产牛) teishoku (set) at 900yen

super-value beef teishoku (set) at 900yen

not every meal has to be kuroge wagyu, teppanyaki course or expensive sashimi. there are lots of great value meals to be had in Kyoto, Tokyo or anywhere in Japan. 🙂

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on the first night of our arrival on 17.5.2013 we chanced upon a very interesting eat at Teramachi/Kawaramachi corner just opposite Takashimaya called 百练 (it is at level 2 of a small building). It  was kind of a family-style izakaya 居酒屋- we were the only non-Japanese around. we visited again at dinner on 21.5.2013, and we were still the only non-Japanese around..haha. 🙂

I ordered this super-value beef teishoku (set). I asked for medium rare & it was nicely done & tasty. It came with the gohan aka rice set including pickles & miso soup.  the beef was served with some pasta (which were ok but irrelevant) – all these for just 900yen. 🙂

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pork shabu shabu for 1500yen

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my sis ordered a pork shabu shabu for 1500yen. It was NOT kurobuta but it was really good, very sweet & tasty. 🙂

thick-cut bacon with asparagus for 500yen

thick-cut bacon with asparagus for 500yen

I saw that our neighbour, a Japanese couple, ordered what looked like ham & asparagus dish, so when we went back 2 nights later, I managed(despite the lack of communications) to get the chef to do up this dish – which was a thick-cut bacon & asparagus for 500yen – it was very good! 🙂

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on arriving on 17.5.2013, we visited Tofukuji then Uji. 🙂 on the way back to Uji JR station about 3+pm, we decided to share a set as a late & light lunch, & was lucky to pick out this rather nice 1580yen set at a 中华料理. the tempura was good, and so was the sashimi & the 2 side dishes – one was just egg, the other was rather more elaborate, and nice too! 🙂

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690yen set @ Yayoiken-kakuni (belly pork), saba, potato croquette, tofu, egg & vege etc

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690yen set @ Yayoiken-kakuni (belly pork), saba, potato croquette, tofu, egg & vege etc

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on 20.5.2013, before setting off for our hike from Kurama (鞍马) to Kibune (贵船), we were looking for a place for early lunch and found this joint Yayoiken @ Kawaramachi. 🙂

the meal was just 690yen, and was quite good too, with kakuni (belly pork), saba, potato korokke (croquette), tofu, egg & vege etc 🙂 maybe Singapore should consider this meal ticket machine system common in Japan. it’s very labour efficient & staff have no need to manage cash too. 🙂

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mini chirasi don set with 5 delightful side dishes for 1190yen

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returning from the hike, we took the train to Keihan Shijo & walked across Kamogawa (鸭川) to Kawaramachi (河源町) side. we found this restaurant on the 7flr of OIOI building along Kawaramachi across the road from Takashimaya.

this fabulous mini chirasi don set with 5 delightful side dishes was just 1190yen & they provide a very tasty soup which you later add to the rice like ochazuke. the mini chirasi don came with amaebi, crabmeat, ikura, 2 pieces hotate, maguro, tamago. the 5 delightful side dishes were ikan bilis, braised beef, tamago & tofu PLUS a  red bean/jelly dessert. 🙂

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we had another set which was somewhat less good (by comparison) also for 1190yen. it was a salmon tekkadon(鉄火丼) – this was quite good – with 4 side dishes.

so good food were aplenty in Kyoto & at very affordable prices too 🙂

c.h.e.f andy

Kuroge Wagyu Shabu Shabu & Sukiyaki @ 花心 河原町店 Kashin Kawaramachi Kyoto on 18May2013

kuroge wagyu 黑毛和牛放题 (all you can eat) shabu shabu & sukiyaki

kuroge wagyu 黑毛和牛放题 (all you can eat) shabu shabu & sukiyaki

after a very pleasant afternoon & surprisingly shaded walk at Fushimi Inari, we took the Keihan line from Fushimi Inari station to Sanjo station, and walked back along Kawaramachi towards Shijo.

we wanted to have some good shabu shabu & saw that 花心 Kashin was offering 2980 yen Japanese beef + pork & 3980 yen kuroge wagyu 黑毛和牛放题 (all you can eat).

we had some problems (the usual lost in translation) at the 9flr restaurant when we showed the waitress the brochure we picked up at ground floor which said it was kuroge wagyu (all you can eat) whereas the restaurant menu showed kuroge wagyu + pork (all you can eat). we were just there for the kuroge & did not want to have pork to fill up our stomach..haha. 🙂 anyway we settled in for what they had on the menu rather than spend time miscommunicating. 🙂

1/2 shabu shabu (chicken broth) & 1/2 sukiyaki

1/2 shabu shabu (chicken broth) & 1/2 sukiyaki

there was another hiccup. we were asked to choose 2 from 4 different soup base, and we chose chicken broth & sukiyaki. this was a departure from the usual shabu shabu which was just kunbu water no soup base to talk about..anyway we did not get the usual shabu shabu sauce (sesame & shoyu) and the waiter informed us that the soup base we selected did not include any sauce. he brought the 2 sauces with a sign showing 100yen. We said we were not told otherwise we would have picked the kunbu with the sauce..anyway this time their turn to give in & they let us have the sauce free (or in Japan they say “service”)..as it turned out the restaurant was right & we did not really need the sauces. 🙂

tofu appetizer

tofu appetizer

dinner started (again) with a tofu starter with wasabi & sauce. it was nice so no complaints. 🙂

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there was a tube of minced pork with the vegetable basket. it was good! we did not put any additional orders for this or the vegetables as we just wanted to eat kuroge wagyu!

kuroge wagyu 黑毛和牛放题 (all you can eat) shabu shabu & sukiyaki

kuroge wagyu 黑毛和牛放题 (all you can eat) shabu shabu & sukiyaki

& the long awaited kuroge (top photo & above) – they were good! not as good as the thick-cut kagoshima wagyu konabe at Mikuni, but it was a sweet, flavourful beef. 🙂

it was a double-decker box & we soon asked for a second. this was however replaced by pork. the pork was not too bad too, but it really spoiled my appetite. fortunately our third & fourth orders of the double-decker box were all kuroge wagyu. satisfaction! 🙂 I thought I might get tired of the beef but in fact I enjoyed the last box the most, perhaps it was better cut than the first box & in any case I had gotten over the disappointment of the “interfering” pork. 🙂

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the photos above were the shabu-ed (it means 涮 which I think by definition means 7 or 8 swipes in boiling water) beef – sukiyaki with raw egg & shabu shabu. the sukiyaki beef was best taken together with a small spoonful of sukiyaki sauce. the shabu-ed beef was good on its own & by-the-way the chicken broth was very tasty.

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the set actually included selection of dessert. we picked a mochi ice cream (vanilla inside mochi skin – quite good), and an almond tofu (杏仁豆腐). I absolutely enjoyed the dinner- though I should avoid having buffets.

view of Kawaramachi Kyoto from 花心 Kaisin on 9Flr

view of Kawaramachi Kyoto from 花心 Kaisin on 9Flr

& the view of Kawaramachi from 花心 Kaisin was good too!

c.h.e.f andy

Teppanyaki Course Lunch @ Gozanbo Hotel Granvia Kyoto Station on 18May2013

teppan Japanese beef (国产牛) tenderloin

teppan Japanese beef (国产牛) tenderloin

Gozanbo 五山望 @ HOTEL GRANVIA KYOTO remains my best non-kaiseki teppanyaki course lunch restaurant in Japan since we first had our teppan lunch there in 2008 while staying at Granvia. 🙂

The view is excellent of course looking out over Kyoto Tower & cityscape and at the surrounding mountains. the service is always impeccable & the courses & plating (like the creamy soup, appetizer & teppan fish dishes) have good european influence. the teppan beef of course is totally great Japanese taste. 🙂

every time we visited Kyoto I made sure we had a lunch at Gozanbo. my wife & daughter did recently & I had lunch there with my sister yesterday. 🙂 we had the 400o yen & 6000 yen set.

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I just loved the garlic. really “shiok”! I tried it at home quite successfully once with butter & sea salt. I think I am going to do this for my friends next dinner, together with wagyu steak. 🙂 always like their bread roll (like a baguette) toasted on the teppan.

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our starter was a tofu dish with wasabi & some sauce – nice!

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the 6000 yen set came with poached anago (conger eel) topped with an “ice cream”of blue cheese. I love blue cheese! this was pretty & taste was good, plating was like any French restaurant – so looked nice tasted good. but I not sure about this – think the usual grilled sushi or sashimi anago would be much better taste experience. 🙂

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the 4000 yen set came with a seabass sashimi with some sauce & leek garnishing. this was very nice – maybe I just like sashimi FULLSTOP!

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we both had a creamy white bean soup with tomato foam (this tasted really good!) and a nice refreshing yasai(野菜) salad.

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the 4000 yen set came with a teppan tai (sea bream)…the young chef did this really well – the fish, the skin & the french beans. 🙂

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the 6000 yen set came with a teppan prawn & asparagus & topped with an onsen egg – very much like modern european fine dining. the egg added a great combination of texture to a very tasty dish! 🙂

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here you see the young chef at work on our teppan Japanese beef. the head chef Doi-san whom we knew was away on home vacation, but anyway he made arrangements for our prior lunch booking. 🙂

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teppan kuroge wagyu 黑毛和牛

according to the menu, the 4000 yen set came with 80g  japanese beef tenderloin (国产牛) and the 6000 yen set had specially selected 和牛 (which should be kuroge 黑毛和牛) but a smaller 60g portion; BUT translation had always been notorious! the smaller beef from the 6000 yen set did not taste anything like kuroge wagyu. it was indeed more tender but the larger beef from the 4000 yen set seemed more marbled and tasty!

whatever – both were good but considering the price 6000 yen vs 4000 yen and the quality of the end result, I would say the 4000 yen was extremely good value (previously this was priced at 3500 yen however that was the time when the yen was 100yen to S$1.6 to S$1.7, but it is 100 yen to S$1.235 now!).

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the chef served us both with kamameshi (釜飯) instead of plain rice for the 4000 yen set. I was never quite a fan of this. it did come with 4 tasty pieces of bonito and was quite nice really. 🙂

cake & sorbet dessert

cake & sorbet dessert

we had a nice cake & sorbet for dessert and ended lunch with an all satisfying brewed coffee (good!). usually we would adjourn to an area for after-meal coffee (remember Gozanbo offers great views of Kyoto city!) but this time they said it was full. when I paid the bill I saw that the dessert area was in fact completely empty so perhaps they did not want to open up the section – fair enough I guess! if they closed the section, they need not open it just for me.

c.h.e.f andy