Thursday, June 2, 2011

Day 9 (Mon. 5/23)- Off to Kyoto, Day #2...

Having been non-stop our first week here, and being so comfortable in our hotel, I actually slept in until 7am (normal time had been 3-4am), which felt great. Darin slept in until 10am. Although we had plans to go to Saga-Arashiyama and walk through its bamboo groves, it was rainy, wet, and I was happy to see that Darin was able to sleep past 5:30am. The bamboo groves can wait until next time...

We finally started getting ready up and decided we really needed to try the Belgian Waffle shop at Kyoto station called Manneken (before we had lunch). Since we always take the train from Kyoto, it would've been right on our way.

I originally asked for a banana flavored one (by recommendation), but it was a seasonal flavor and wouldn't be available until June (darn). The employee told me that the "plain" flavor was their biggest seller, so I decided to try that one. I was a bit skeptical about it- why choose "plain" flavor when there was maple, almond, chocolate, and others? Regardless, I did order the plain flavor, and Darin ordered the filled belgian waffle with "rare cheese" (huh?). My waffle was warm and fresh, and after one bite, I could see why it was heir #1 flavor. It was divine. DIVINE. The outside had a bit of crisp to it (like waffles should), covered in melted butter, and the inside was warm, fluffy, and the perfect amount of sweetness. I gave Darin a bite, but I really just wanted to keep it all for myself! Darin's filled waffle was cold, and the "rare cheese" (we still don't know what was so rare about it) had a mousse/cheesecake-like texture with bits of raspberry mixed in. While his was still good, we both agreed the plain flavor was better.

The "plain" flavor Manneken waffle

Darin's filled belgian waffle with "rare cheese"

This was the sign posted near Manneken with the "rare cheese" filling

As we were wandering Kyoto station eating our waffles, we saw a kimono sample exhibit. It looked like the museum was promoting a soon-to-come kimono exhibit at the train station- smart idea as there are tons of people going in/out of Kyoto station. I was mesmerized by the beauty of the kimonos

This kimono was labeled "concert"

We also noticed that the major department store called Isetan was attached to the Kyoto station as well

Since space is such a luxury in Japan, it is common for department stores to have 11-14 floors including 2 basement floor. Everything is built up in Japan (whereas it is built wide in the US)

After looking and reading about the kimono exhibit, we were both ready for some lunch. I had heard that the restaurant called Katsukura had terrific tonkatsu (Japanese deep-fried pork cutlets), and Darin wanted to try it. Again, I had no idea how to get it, so after we ate our waffles and was walking out of Kyoto station, I randomly asked this gentleman if he knew where I could find the restaurant, he said he knew! He said he was actually going to go in that same general direction and that we could go with him on the Kyoto City Bus and he'd tell us which bus stop to get off at. He was so nice and hospitable, and had a ton of energy. He smiled and said, ikimasho! (Let's go!)
We were so happy! We hopped on the bus, and when he signaled to us that we needed to get off at the next stop, we noticed he was getting off too. I know he said he was getting off at another station, so I asked him if this stop was our station or his station. He said that he didn't want us to get lost, so he wanted to walk off the stop and point us to the restaurant. We got off with him, walked up one block, and he pointed us down the street to the restaurant storefront. He was so kind and helpful, and Darin and I were touched by his hospitality.

Here is what the Katsukura sign looks like

Katsukura is known to have outstanding tonkatsu, and was listed in several guidebooks as a recommended tonkatsu hot spot, and I was also referred to it by several people on the Japan forum I frequented.

As usual, this restaurant also displayed their specials outside

We walked in...

.. and sat down to order. We both viewed he English menu, and ordered the tonkatsu (breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet). I ordered the 80g for ¥1,130 ($14) and Darin ordered the thick-cut for ¥1,330 ($16)

Each lunch set came with otsukemono (Japanese picked vegetables), rice, miso soup, and a side of cabbage (which is very common with tonkatsu). While we waited for our entrees, our waitress came over and gave us a bowl of sesame seeds and pestle (bat-shaped bat). We had no idea what to do with this, and our waitress told us that we should use the pestle and "grind" the sesame seeds. Doing this created this heavenly sesame seed oil and scent- both Darin and I were salivating.

Our waitress said that once we released the oils/flavor from the sesame seeds, we should put the tonkatsu sauce and mix it in with the freshly ground seeds.

On our table were a series of pots with a wooden "keytag" to what the pots held inside.

From Left to Right: "Yuzu Dressing" (yuzu is an Asian citrus fruit, and this dressing is to be poured onto the pile of thinly sliced cabbage for flavor), Spicy tonkatsu sauce, and Regular tonkatsu sauce

It also had a pot of otsukemono (Japanese pickled vegetables)

Darin, sitting patiently even though I was pretty sure he was about to just eat the seeds

Our meals are here!

Here is my 80g portion

Do you see how crispy crunchy this looks? Amazing.

My miso soup

Our bowl of rice to share

Once we finished eating, we were off to visit another famous temple called Kinkakuji (also known as the "Golden Temple"). When we reached there via bus, Darin spotted a soft-serve place on the temple grounds and had to get some

This restaurant also served some odango (sweetened rice balls), and I had mine covered with black sesame seed sauce. The rice balls itself are not very sweet and have a chewy texture.


The temple grounds is huge!

We walked through the gate...

... got our picture taken...

... and paid for our entrance to the temple

Kinkakuji was breathtaking. The top 2 floors are covered in gold leaf, and it was built overlooking a pond. Despite rain, there were many people there visiting the temple.

Not only was the temple beautiful, but the area surrounding it was beautiful as well

The temple grounds were huge, and we passed by other smaller temples and residences

A waterfall we passed

We spent 1-1.5 hours visiting the temple grounds and taking picture of the nature surrounding it. Once we got to the end of the "course", there were lots of small souvenir shops

We walked a huge flight of stairs to get back to the entrance of the temple

From there, we went to Nishiki Market, which is also known as "Kyoto's Kitchen". It was easy to identify by its sign

It's a covered long strip lined with shops and eateries with the most interesting food. Definite place for foodies.

I saw a ton of fresh fruit, fish, meats, packaged candies and treats. Many of which I didn't know, but they were fun to picture

Here is some freshly made, warm osenbei (Japanese rice crackers)

Lots of fresh fish

Fresh squid

Fresh sashimi on a stick

Mini sugar candies- I remember eating this as a child

Taco tamago- these are small baby octopuses with a soy sauce marinade on it. I'll try almost anything once, but this would be hard to stomach for me

We also saw this really cute handkerchief/wallet/towel boutique

Strawberries for ¥670 ($8)? Holy cow

Look at these fat cute Japanese eggplants

We passed by a snack store, and Darin was so excited to find a Japanese version of Doritos called "Don Tacos"

We were pretty exhausted by then, so we decide to head back to Kyoto station area to look for dinner. I was really craving pasta, so we decided to eat a quick dinner at Pronto located in Kyoto station. It was really cute inside, but I really detested that I could smell smoke in the restaurant. Oh well- I figured I'd eat quickly since I wanted to get back to the hotel anyways.
I asked our waitress which meal was their most popular, and she pointed to this one- Tomato sauce spaghetti with eggplant and bacon. Interesting combination, but ok, I'll try it

Darin decided to go safe and try the Fish & Chips

Here is my meal (pretty good portion)

Here is Darin's meal

We both thought it was good, but nothing fantastic. Then again, we were looking for something quick and easy so this foot the bill just fine.

We hopped on a bus near the Kyoto station and took it back to the Hyatt Regency Kyoto hotel. Long day, but fun! Tomorrow we are off to Hiroshima!

· Lunch: Katsu Kura
o Katsu Kura ¥2,115 total
· Dinner: Pronto
o Pronto ¥690, ¥680


jacqui + erik said...

soooo happy you went to manneken! man...SO GOOD. we'll be going back there for sure lol...we got the ones with the filling like darin did, but now i want to get the plain flavor like you!!! you're right, i would have never picked "plain" flavor hahaha...doesn't sound as good! but i will when we go back. and possibly banana too if they have them in august.

that guy who helped you guys was so sweet!!! i love japan's hospitality. seriously so amazing and kind :) and that tonkatsu looked SO. GOOD. ahhhh i cannot wait any longer! hahaha...and i LOVE anything black sesame seed flavored, so i really want that odango too hahaha

we didnt get to go to the nishiki market last time, so i'm really looking forward to it this time. erik and i are both foodies! haha (as if you couldn't tell by this point from all my drooling over your blogs haha) and when erik saw the fresh sashimi on a stick he said, "OH MAN I GOTTA HAVE THAT!" lol ;D

and we LOVED pronto (but hated the smoke smell like you, too). but, we got a different kind of spaghetti than you (and i had no idea they had fish & chips! lol). we got the mozzerella one and it had a lot of delicious cheese on it haha...sounds weird to miss "italian food" in japan, but i miss that dish!

keep up the great work in your updates! they are so fun to read (and informative!) :)

Fire Usagi said...

You should have tried the octopus with the quail egg in it's head, it was delicious :) and if you like seafood, no different than sushi.


Sara said...

Fire Usagi- You tried it? I was tempted to, but just couldn't do it... now I know I should have!

Anonymous said...

Hey MrsDRock, Khyron82 here! Enjoyed reading your posts over at TripAdvisor and your blog entries here! I'm still a go for being part of a Godzilla Tour this coming August (Google "G-Tour 2"), and the information you posted will come-in handy when we hit Tokyo and Kyoto.

One question I've got about the Katsu Kura restaurant you visited in this particular blog entry: Was this the original Katsu Kura shop that started the franchise? I know there is suppose to be a Katsu Kura located in Kyoto Station itself, so I was wondering if that had recently closed or relocated (our Tour is scheduled to have lunch in Kyoto Station, so I was looking forward to trying that place out).

Sara said...

Hi, Khyron82- Thanks for posting. Unfortunately, I do not know if this Katsukura location we went to is the original or not. It definitely wasn't the Kyoto station location- it was in a building on its own. I did a brief search on the internet, and I do believe there is a Katsukura restaurant in Kyoto station (wish we knew that!) Good luck on your Godzilla Tour!

Anonymous said...

Hey, it's Khyron82 again! I checked back through the JR Kyoto Station main website, and there is a Katsukura restaurant located in the basement shopping mall called "The Cube"... Which was below the Isetan Department store you were in.

On the bright side, by going to a location away from JR Station, perhaps you two got a much more fulfilling Kyoto lunch experience. ;)

KikiBelle said...

temple grounds are stunning...but the pic of the odango made me gaga a little