mint jelly at kikunoi
While I do have a few more posts to come from my recent trip to Western Australia, I thought I’d switch continents and post about an even more recent trip to Kyoto, Japan. Over the past few years, Japan has become S’s and my favourite holiday destination. We love the obsessiveness and passion that pervades the country’s food culture. We love the devotion to seasonal produce, hand-crafted ingredients, and the rituals that surround eating well. We also love the beautiful products that the Japanese love to serve food and drinks in. These range from imperfect pieces of mismatched ceramics to vintage Baccarat glasses. We love the whole aesthetic that surrounds the ever (slowly) evolving culinary scene there.
I’ve been to Kyoto before. Once as a backpacker the summer before my freshman year in unviversity, and last year on a work trip. The first time I spent a few days visiting primarily temples and cultural sites. Neither my palate nor my pocketbook was developed enough to really explore the city’s gustatory offerings. Last year, I visited for an overnighter. And while I ate well, checked out a few shops and discovered an awesome cake shop, I was in town for less than 24 hours–which meant that I really didn’t see the place. Before this trip, S had never been to Kyoto, which was fabulous. Fabulous because I love watching her discover great things, be they wonderful cities we can get lost in together, books that I love, seminal music by great bands, or movies that have changed the world. Suffice it to say, we had a wonderful time. I had put quite a bit of thought into where we should eat and what shops/places we would visit. Unfortunately, there really isn’t a lot of great travel literature on Kyoto in English–at least the kind of stuff that I was looking for. There are pages upon pages about the temples and castles in and around Kyoto, but almost nothing (in English) on the city’s best restaurants, coolest shops, and other noteworthy culinary artisans. Fortunately, the concierge at the surprisingly sexy Hyatt Regency was very helpful. In addition, S and I picked up a few “souvenir” books and some city magazines. And while these were all in Japanese, they had great pictures and good maps, so I was able to work out a pretty good itinerary of what looked like some great places to visit. The below list is of the places we especially liked. (As always, cultural highlights are left out–simply because, well, there are many better sources for these, and that’s not what you or my other readers come here for.) For all the restaurants, you should ask your concierge to book for you and to print out maps and directions.