15th May 2019: a vegan Buddhist breakfast, Kyoto temples, a yudofu lunch, and a monumental kaiseki dinner

This was a day of tofu, walking, temples and kaiseki.

Buddhist Breakfast

We were staying at an apartment rather than an actual hotel in Kyoto, so they offered to arrange a Buddhist breakfast to be delivered every morning, and we took the option.

This was an excellent idea!

We got these beautiful trays filled with mysterious parcels of deliciousness and intriguing textures.

Since it was prepared at Izusen, a restaurant within a Buddhist temple complex, it was vegan. It felt very special to have this feast for breakfast, with this incredibly varied arrangement of textures and flavours, many of which I had not tried before: marinated mushrooms, steamed vegetables, starch cakes, sweet beans, seaweed salad, pickles, miso soup…

And it was also a perfect start to a long day of walking and sightseeing.

It was also really an experience to eat it on a low table, with the low chairs, over a tatami. Truly atmospheric!

Temple mania

We visited the Ginkakuji temple, walked the Philosopher’s path (2km) and then the Nanzenji temple.

This was all really beautiful and meditative (I think, in a way, I enjoyed the path more than the temples). But we were so tired on the last temple, we sat in a bench and just contemplated life for 20 minutes or so whilst sipping water from our bottle and trying to convince our legs to move 😂

Okutan Nanzenji – ゆどうふ 奥丹 南禅寺店

Fortunately for us we spotted what looked like a restaurant (although if you weren’t attuned to what “food place” looks like in Japan, you could easily miss it). I mean, look at the Street View image:

It could just have been any building to Western eyes. But not to ours! 👀

Once we managed to negotiate our way to a table, we were served a truly delicious tofu based feast! Again, not surprising, given we were right in the temples area, but I was equally surprised by the creativity and variety of this cuisine.

The core of this menu was the boiled tofu, or yudofu. It was floating in a clay pot on top of a structure with a flame burner underneath to keep it boiling, steamy and dramatic, which of course I enjoyed!

To eat it, you took a piece with your chopsticks, brought it to your plate and added as much seasoning as you wanted: seaweed flakes, spring onions, dipping sauce… whatever you fancied.

I want to dedicate some special space to the sesame tofu, on the bottom right corner in the picture below. This tofu was DELICIOUS: soft, full of sesame flavour, slightly salty, slightly sweet, and I’ve also been wanting to try it again since then, quite unsuccessfully, why is this not a trend in London? bah!

There was also this piece of tofu which had a sticky miso based sauce on top.

And some tempura of really fresh and deliciously crunchy vegetables…

All in all, an extremely satisfying lunch. We definitely felt “recomposed” after it, and able to tackle some more touristing.

After a bit more of walking and sight seeing, we came back to the apartment, and had coffee there using our Cafflano coffee maker, and rested for a bit—all much needed if we wanted to keep awake during dinner!

Gokomachi Tagawa

For our last night in Kyoto, Devvers had booked another restaurant for kaiseki dinner. It turned out to be truly memorable.

Each dish was de-li-ci-ous and there were things that I had never imagined could be eaten, like the fish bone!

Turns out that deep frying a fish bone can turn it into a delicious brittle snack

We also enjoyed seeing the chefs prepare the food in front of us; there are a lot of skills required to prepare and arrange all the elements in each dish!

The chef is from Mie prefecture, and his cooking aims to reflect the natural ingredients of that region.

Special mention for the crockery and cutlery 😍

The hospitality at this place was superb. They offered to make some rice balls for guests to take home, to avoid food waste. So this was probably the most luxurious take-away!

They also went out of their way to help us safely return to our hotel—as in, they literally went out of the restaurant, ran to the busy road and chased a taxi for us. We were beyond impressed 😲

Then at the hotel, we drank some of the sake we had bought (no point in carrying additional weight to Tokyo!), ate the luxurious snack and indulged in the joyous (and delirious) exercise which is watching Japanese TV, in Japanese, without subtitles or understanding what is going on at all 😂

From memory, we watched:

  • The end of some sumo championships
  • A cooking program with animated characters in which an old lady explained how to make simple, practical dishes such as “spaghetti” with a strong Japanese twist, I mean, she sprinkled small fishes like the ones we had eaten in our dinner on top of the spaghetti 🤪
  • Another practical program in which a grandma or ma (not quite sure) demonstrated how no garment was beyond the point of no return. With the aid of chemicals, chemicals and more chemicals, everything can be turned white again! (to the surprise of the grandson or son, who watches the whole process with the mouth open)
  • I also am not sure if this was the same program, but there was a segment on how to prepare and freeze food for maximum simplicity of usage afterwards and to date I still use some of the ideas I learned!
  • Finally there was the program in which the parents learn about what their son really does at work (he’s some sort of gym chain manager and also runs team bonding exercises for companies? Or he’s shown running the exercise for his company?), and the parents are really proud of him, AND they go and visit him BY SURPRISE! But everyone is super proud and grateful of everything, so they bow lots.

And with that note of absurdity we went to bed, ready to pack and leave to Tokyo the next day.

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