Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Shierii Kurabu... Sherry Club

A little obscure perhaps but when one tires of drinking sake (is that possible?) there is a small sherry bar near the south exit of the Yasaka Jinja (shrine) that serves around 90 different varieties. If you are a local you will be handed a printed sherry "guide map" from which you select your poison. Scratch your name in the space provided and tick off whatever you sample so you have a record for next time  - don't worry  the gorgeous Michiko will file it away for you and whip it out next time you drop in. (and yes - she does speak a little English and is well versed in the language of Jerez having spent some time studying with local providores last year). 

If you are new to the world of Sherry try a sample flight  - a fino or manzanilla to start, next perhaps an oloroso then, if you are up to the cheese or dessert stage of the evening, go straight to the other end of the spectrum - a rich, sticky Pedro Ximenez. The tapas is decent - some of it pretty good, stick to the simple plates such as Jamon (sliced from the leg to order), Spanish cheese, croquettes, gambas al ajillo (garlic prawns) and you won't be disappointed - last visit we enjoyed pork belly with lentils and it rocked, the lentils soaked in savoury, reduced, porky juices. I haven't tried the paella but it looks and smells fantastic. 
They also do a pretty good Sangria and serve beer. 

 Even though I have perched myself up at the bar on more than a handful of occasions I have, more than once and in the dark,  walked right by the tiny lane way that leads to the bar so pay careful attention.  Find the south exit of Yasaka jinja and continue to walk south about 3 minutes - all the time looking on your left (east) for...  well basically a doorway that is not a doorway but the start of a tiny cobbled lane which is enclosed for the first few meters - enter and within a few seconds you will be out the other side and the Sherry Club is a white building on your right. (www.sherry-club.com  - there's a big sister store in Tokyo's Ginza district also). 

There are several traditional Japanese restaurants along the same lane further east and a lovely place for a wander even if you don't eat.  Back out the way you came  - and towards Higashioji dori just a few minutes is a great little restaurant called Kappo Bar Doi (kappobardoi.com) worth seeking out -I will post about that later but it is run by a friendly young husband/wife team serving up interesting experimental Japanese/euro dishes and some excellent Japanese wine.  Also not far away is one of my favourite French/Japanese restaurants - Kezako - which I will also get around to posting about one day. 

Thanks again to my friends Myong Hee, Kikuko and Mayumi for seeing me off with a few quiet sherries just before I returned to OZ - I miss you but will be back soon. Meet you at Sherry Club! xx

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Katsukura かつくら

What's not to like about deep-fried, crumbed pork? 

Katsukura is a Japanese "chain" restaurant with good quality Tonkatsu in various grades, cuts and weights of succulent, sweet pork. I usually go for the "rosu" which is the sirloin but the "hire" or filet/fillet is also very good - and you can order some of each for variation. 

These pics are from the outlet  above Kyoto Station but I prefer the Sanjo dori store (just east of Teramachi). Order your choice of main and receive as much rice, tea, miso soup and cabbage as you can take - all for about 1500 yen.  Their seafood croquettes are bloody good too if you are not a fan of the swine. And of course there are other fried goodies including ebi furai (crumbed fried prawns) and a decent chawan mushi (steamed savoury custard) and a few other bits and pieces. 

Grind your own sesame (great for keeping kids amused) then add some tonkatsu sauce (2 strengths are on the table for mixing to suit your own tastes) and dip away. The yuzu dressing ( also on the table as is a hot, spicy mustard) is perfect on the finely shredded cabbage (which helps digest fried foods) and the pickles are also worth a nibble. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Heavenly Hayashi はやし

A couple of weeks ago I enjoyed a wonderful Kaiseki lunch at Restaurant Hayashi with my friend Michael aka the "Kyoto Foodie" who had been wanting to check it out. I had not heard of the place before and am most grateful to Michael for sharing it with me. 

The flavours were fresh, clean and spot on  - the type of food that feels as good for you when it hits your belly as it tastes when it passes your lips.  Some of the dishes were quite unique in their particular balance of flavours and in execution - and, I might note,  in a very good way. I can't wait to get back there for dinner and see what they conjure.  And yes - I plan to be back in Kyoto in the not too distant future..

The lunch was around 5000 yen - so pretty reasonable considering the quality of the food and the work involved. The junior chef we looked to for more information on his master's cuisine was not the most forthcoming, possibly feeling either a little shy or annoyed by two westerners - even though my dining companion's Japanese is excellent, so details are sketchy (and to add to the mystery I didn't write anything down as I was a little too in the moment so hopefully if you are reading this MB you can fill in any gaps??) but the menu went something like this.... 

Fresh warabi (bracken), wasabi greens and crisp udo to start - simple but sensational
A trio of daikon tied with kombu/ rolled, twisted yuba/ and preserved roe with yuzu with broad bean and chestnut
Handmade mochi in a clear soup with baby turnip
Perfect Sashimi including an unusual addition of fresh yuba
Lilybulb dumpling filled with duck meat in a thickened broth with fresh ginger
Tempura of minced prawn and uni, vegetable kakiage and chrysanthemum leaf
Simmered yuba in thickened broth with kinome
Ochazuke (with dashi not tea) and lots of fragrant shredded shiso and great pickles
We ended the meal with a traditional Japanese sweet and matcha but unfortunately I was not permitted to take photos when other guests entered the room... 

I don't have the address but if you want to hunt it down here are the instructions on how to get there - find the Kawaramachi/Imadegawa intersection (in Kyoto) and from the south east corner head south a minute or so to the next street on your left. Turn left and follow the short street a few moments east and turn the corner with it as it heads south. On your right a few buildings down is the restaurant. The number is 075 213 4409 but to my knowledge no english is spoken.