Since ancient times, Kyoto was renowned for its tofu. It is said that the quality of its soft spring water allowed Kyoto to produce the best tofu in the country, perhaps the world. It was a given then that I must try a tofu restaurant during my day’s visit in the picturesque Kyoto. I picked one of the best, a restaurant specializing in tofu kaiseki located in the midst of a forest next to a river for the ultimate Kyoto-ish experience.
The restaurant itself had the most scenic and tranquil location ever. It was in the touristy district of Arashiyama in the western outskirts of Kyoto. To actually get to the restaurant, I traveled down a path alongside the river, then up a small path into the forest. A wooden Kanji-only sign next to a fenced, gravel path was all that marked the way to the restaurant. Walking down this path into a quiet, peaceful wooded area and the small restaurant building slowly revealed itself through the foliage.
After taking off my shoes, the kimono dressed waitress directed me to a window table with a view of the river. The seating were all floor only, although chairs could be requested. I was just shell shocked at where I was. I just couldn’t imagine a more perfect setting for the ultimate Kyoto dining experience.
A view of the interior.
Cold tofu with Umeshu (Plum Wine). The first appetizer set the standard of what was to come. The tofu was smooth, clean, and refreshing. A pinch of salt accompanied the dish but I didn’t felt I needed it. It was just that good and so fresh.
Assortment of Seasonal Appetizers. The star of this beautifully presented dish was the prawn. The shell was split butterfly style so I could access the meat without a lot of mess. It was grilled perfectly and tasted amazingly fresh.
Tofu with Awabi (Abalone). Unlike the smooth tofu from before, the texture was more creamy, almost buttery. The small piece of abalone elevated this simple dish to a delicacy and blended well with the tofu.
Deep fried yuba skin and shrimp. Crispy and light, it was paired with a pinch of matcha salt which actually tasted like green tea.
White Miso Gratin. I was pleasantly surprised by this dish, am I still in a tofu restaurant in Kyoto or am I in a French restaurant in Tokyo now? Borrowing a page from a French classic, the mixture of cheese and miso custard worked amazingly well together. The vegetables and shellfish (?) blended well with the custard and added a much needed bite into the dish. This was absolutely sublime and I savored every bite.
Tofu with Hot Water. True to Kyoto’s standard, the tofu was impossibly smooth and silky. It was suggested that I enjoy it in some soy based broth, which I did.
Ohmi beef. The only non vegetarian friendly dish, it was lightly grilled so the quality of the beef could speak for itself. The quality was right up there with Wagyu beef and the flavor from the fat content jumped out at me and melted in my mouth. I wasn’t expecting beef of this quality in a tofu specialist restaurant, this was simply divine.
Deep Fried Tofu, Rice, and Pickles. Of course a multi-course tofu meal wouldn’t be completed without fried tofu. It was generously topped with bonito flakes and scallions and bathed in soy sauce. The delicately fried, crispy shell encapsulated the smooth, silky interior. Rice was fluffy and freshly made.
Tofu Ice-Cream with Cinnamon Rice Cake. A proper way to end the tofu kaiseki, the homemade ice cream had a uniquely soft texture. The taste was accentuated by the cinnamon rice cake and sauce which added some contrasting sweetness to the creamy dessert. So good.
This was one of the most memorable dining experience I’ve ever had, one that would burnt into my memory for decades to come. The scenic location, traditional decor, delicate service, the attention of detail on the food, everything was just incredible. Reservations are mandatory.
JAPAN™ Ratings: The average food and service quality in Japan far surpass the same we have in Vancouver, it is only appropriate that they should be rated on a different scale.