“Quintessential Kyoto”: A Story I Wrote on Kyoto’s Michelin-starred Restaurants and the Like for Destinasian Magazine
I was very happy with this one which appears in the current (October/November) print issue, as I took all the photos (bar the Kyoto graphic) as well as doing the text.
Click here to see the full story in PDF format: Kyoto (1) including pics.
The story introduces celebrity chefs Kunio Tokuoka of Kitcho and Yoshihiro Murata of Kikunoi and I also recommend some favourite restaurants chosen by the ‘restaurant reviewer of the Louis Vuitton Kyoto Nara City Guide’. That’s me, btw. If you can’t be bothered with all those troublesome photos (my art!) here is a link to the Destinasian web version. Hope you like it.
Years ago it was that my dear brother Steve attempted to explain to me, a Japan neophyte, the concept of ‘shibui’. Imagine, he said, reaching for his antiquated dictionary of such Japanese things, ‘the just-so curve of a pagoda’. I said I thought I could imagine that. We both nodded sagely. But secretly I think neither of us were convinced. I suspect ‘shibui’ is something you can only understand with time. I was in Kurodani Temple today, photographing Buddhas. You can’t move for them there. It is near my house, but, by chance, I drove up in my car. And so, finally, I came to understand ‘shibui’. In just-so curves, a bit of chance, and a surfeit of Buddhas.
One of Tofukuji’s sub-temples.
Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and all that. Hockney was a Bradford lad too, don’t you know. This was intended as part of a series of temple images where I play with perspective in an attempt to get that Zazen meditation feel. The series currently stands at… two.
Above, in the Takaragaike Tunnel, clearly auditioning for the next David Lynch movie.
Below, back at JH motors. Looks like she was born in this vehicle…
2011 or 1975?
Found this when going through some old photos. Some of my friends will like this, I know. It is near Stonehenge, btw.
I just bought this glass plate this weekend. I am guessing it is kiriko cut glass, from the Taisho Period (1912-1926), but if anyone knows better/more, I’d love to hear from you. サイズ：φ24.5cm/4.5cm/45mm 素材：ガラス There was something similar on sale here, but I prefer this design. It’s got a kinda masonic-bird-Art Deco thing going on. I also like that the round parts aren’t perfectly round, and the glass has bubbles in it, and the dark brownish-purple colour is shibui (sorry, my photos don’t really do it justice). Anybody know where it might be from? I know there is a difference between Edo, Otaru and Satsuma kiriko, other than the obvious geographical one (I once learned, but have forgotten). Thanks!
Recognise this fellow? I had to smile at the ‘talent’ reference, given the Japanese image of a ‘tarento’: young, shallow, fame-seeking, disposable, often (but not exclusively) female media fodder. A Yorkshire version sounds particularly scary. Hopefully I don’t fit those categories. I certainly don’t fit the first one.
This is my profile in the current issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller. You can find my article on page 190 of the print magazine, should you care for a read or, if you prefer, you can check it out on the Web here. Sasha gets in on the act too, as the editors chose her pic, wolfing down Kyohei Ramen, to accompany the Web version. You can see that at her Foodelica blogsite here. The other photos there, from the magazine version, are also by me, FYI.
This was my presentation for the Pecha Kucha Night Kyoto Vol 2, held at Urban Guild here in Kyoto on the evening of January 16th, 2011. It was pretty well received I think. The PKN format is to speak about 20 images for 20 seconds each. Here are the 20 ‘slides’ of my Power Point presentation. Sans my pithy commentary (fortunately?). Please feel free to comment. Please note there is a Pecha Kucha Night INSPIRE JAPAN benefit for the Earthquake and Tsunami victims, in Kyoto, Saturday April 16th, details are here, and elsewhere globally, details here
I was sitting in May Kaidee’s restaurant, waiting for my Spicy Banana
Flower Salad, and an uncharitable thought sprang to mind.
What annoys me most about Khaosan Road?
I started compiling a mental list of grievances. As it took a while for the food to arrive, I managed to
come up with quite a list.
All the old stalwarts were there: Israelis haggling with street-vendors over the price of pinneaple chunks on a stick; Farang women with arses that it would take several days to sail
a barge around getting their hair braided; an assortment of tattooed
Slav, Brit and North European men with shaved heads who study Muy Thai
by day and drink Chang beer from the bottle on the street by night,
accompanied by their stupefyingly bored miniature Thai girlfriends;
the old Thai bloke who has been trying to sell me the same hammock
Full Moon Partygoers of any ilk; Italian tour groups
featuring women in high heels and men in sunglasses (at night and by
day); Italian Full Moon Partygoers; anyone eating in the Khaosan Rd
branch of McDonalds; Aussie backpackers who think they are the next Dr
Livingston/Sir Edmund Hilary/Scott of the Antarctic/Carlos Casteneda
because they once smoked a load of ganja and floated down a river in
Laos in a tractor inner tube; women in tribal costume flogging pointy multi-coloured tribal hats, and tribal dresses, and tribal artefacts, even though they were born and raised less than a few kms away across the river in Thonburi;
Restaurants with signs only in Hebrew; my compatriots who sunbathe and
drink beer until their faces begin to resemble that big red spot on
Jupiter and then buy, and don, the aforementioned pointy, multi-colored tribal hats sold by
the aforementioned ladies. Chain-smoking French hippies with unruly children, Birkenstock replicas, and Beatles T-shirts with cut-off sleeves; Thai dudes with dreadlocks, bad personal hygiene, and prison tattoos strumming ‘No Woman No Cry’ on out-of-tune guitars to an audience of enraptured foreign women; anyone in a ‘Sex Instructor: Students Wanted’ T-shirt; middle-aged white men with Taoist tattoos, beads, and roll-your-own cigarettes denouncing and lavishing praise upon an assortment of ashrams; the ‘Where you go? Tuk-tuk! Boom Boom! Body masaaaaaa..!’ guy who stands in the same place every night, and offers the same greeting, every night…
My list went on. Perhaps you too have your own KSR-related peeves?
Please send them along and I shall compile a definitive list. Don’t be too nasty. Just a bit.
And, here for your reading pleasure, is the grand winner in my own personal ‘What Annoys You Most About Khaosarn Road?’ contest…
Vegans with laptops.
I didn’t know fish had…
I dropped in here for 35 baht ‘thin’ noodles. Good broth.
It’s a popular spot down near the Robinson department store on what used to be called New Road. By no stretch of the imagination could you call it sophisticated cuisine, but it hits the spot after a long day walking in a hot and dusty Bangkok.
Almost next door this lady was selling something that smelled fantastic in a Soi-side streetstall. I couldn’t read the Chinese characters completely, though I think ‘egg’ was in there.
Very popular spot also down near the Robinson Department store, featured in the Fodor guide to the city, thus frequented by well-heeled Farang tourists and locals.
The duck wasn’t bad, but I know what the Japanese evaluation would be: ‘Kusuri no Aji‘, ‘It tastes like medicine’. There is something in there – one person suggested it is turmeric – that is found in Japanese kampoyaku medicine, for sure.
I had lunch at the lovely Praya Palazzo, a former 17th-century Italo-Thai palace right on the Chao Phraya river.
The ubiquitous Pad Thai, not at all bad this. At the place frequented by lots of Japanese backpackers on the Soi that runs East-West and parallel with Khaosan (the street with the Viengtai Hotel on it). Look for the sign that advertises food in Japanese and publicizes the waiter’s magic tricks.Cooking my dinner. Everything flambéed here!
Cauliflower and Shrimp stir-fry, next-door to the Japanese-favoured place, alas as not as good as it looked. Way too much garlic.
These stir-fried vegetables at the same place were, however, great. Note the ubiquitous Tuk-Tuk, which in Thai means ‘Cheap-Cheap’. They aren’t.
Writing this in Chennai, India, having spent the last week in Bangkok working on a magazine story.
I have been a regular visitor to May Kaydee’s vegetarian restaurant whenever in the Khaosan Road area of BKK for some years now. My first Thai food this trip was their ‘Thai-style Veggie Spring Rolls’, seen here.
Here’s my fave cook at May Kaidee’s. Always teasing me for taking photographs of my food instead of just eating it.
My favourite is Yum Hou Plee, the Banana Flower Salad . She looked me straight in the eye, and said “I will make it hot for you”. A bit scary, that.
It was on the upper limits of my chili tolerance levels, but still damn tasty.
By the way, there are a couple of May Kaidee’s, one just down the street from where I go, and where you will indeed find the eponymous lady sometimes. But I prefer the smaller ‘original’ place. It looks like this:
And this (below). It is inexpensive, and thus popular with the backpacker fraternity. Earwigging on the next table’s (oft loopy) conversations is all part of the fun. this trip that included a spotty British youth trying to chat up a girl from Winnipeg with tall tales of Prince Harry’s friends lavish druggy lifestyle, and three earnest but slightly confused Germans wondering about the use of swastikas in Thai temple architecture.
To get there head to the east end of Khaosan Road (not the Police Station end), and look across the street and you’ll see the Air Asia office. Both MK’s are in the alleyway that runs North-South behind the airline office. The one I like is opposite the ‘At Home’ Guest House. Easy to find.
松籟庵の外観 Shoraian is a beautiful old tofu restaurant set in woodland in Arashiyama, Kyoto, overlooking the Oigawa River.
There’s tofu, then there’s tofu. Once you’ve sampled the good stuff, all else pales. Kyoto is bean curd central. In particular Sagano-Arashiyama in the West of the city, and the Nanzenji temple district in the East are famed. I live a short walk from Nanzenji, but the tofu here I sampled at Shoraian, one of my favourite Kyoto restaurants.
あわび豆腐＠松籟庵 This is tofu with abalone or awabidofu. Of late abalone is becoming one of my preferred tastes. Not sure why. Perhaps it is thanks to this dish, which was superb.
秋なす Eggplants aka Nasu were probably the first blue-purple things I ever ate. They are best in the autumn in Japan. A famed Japanese adage says you should never give the best ones to your wife in case she becomes too accustomed to the finer things in life. Personally I would be more than happy to give Sasha the best eggplants.
帆立 Scallops or Hotategai, a favourite of mine. Ate them once up in Aomori Prefecture in a very rough and rustic bowl of Ramen. Looked ropey, tasted fantastic. The place was called Shirakaba Ramen, the Silver Birch noodle shop, if you ever find yourself hungry on the windswept Western coast of the Shimokita Hanto peninsula.
黄瓜のつけもの Pickled cucumbers. With a little togarashi pepper to add some bite to the crunch.
カキ Oysters, first eaten in Japan aboard boats on the river that runs through Hiroshima, so they say. Hiroshima is still famed for them, as is Kumihama in Northern Kyoto prefecture. Best in winter. An old friend of mine, Yoshito, runs a Sake brewery in Kumihama, and I remember a great outdoor party he threw many years ago when he ordered a huge consignment of fresh oysters from his fisherman friend, which he steamed in sake sakamushi-style in a giant cauldron.
たくあんずけ Pickled daikon radish, or Takuanzuke. This is home-pickled, and that colour is natural. Not many japanese people know it, but Takuan isnamed after a monk of the same name who lived in the Takagamine district of North-west Kyoto.