While heading back to Osaka from Okayama, we took a longer train (no idea why, I think it stopped at more stops?) and the journey was not what we expected. So we had to forego our Yakiniku M reservation. We were sleepy and weren’t sure what to do as the plan was pretty fluid. So looking at this map, we realised that our shinkansen would pass by Shin-Kobe station. I recalled a quick Google on kobe beef places, and found one that was right at the station. We didn’t get to see Kobe per se as it was already dark and Shin-Kobe isn’t that near the city centre. But we pampered ourselves with a Kobe beef meal and had a great time watching the chef handle the exquisite pieces of meat.
I had an itinerary done prior to the trip but left it fluid with only the key purchased items locked down. Each day I just reviewed where I went / what I had eaten (or not, which was more important), and made sure if it’s somewhere I really wanted to visit, that I’d cut and paste it later in the itinerary. Apart from the Kameoka hot spring and Universal Studios, which were purchased in advance, we could pretty much do anything, anytime. Which was great. It seemed to work with both of us. Good job for our first trip together (*pats Immanuel’s back).
Wakkoku @ Shin-Kobe station
We opted for one normal (A4) beef sirloin set, and a A4 sirloin set at Wakkoku after the chef explained the grades of the beef on the menu. The chef recommended sirloin which was fine with me. Tenderloins, though a feast to the eyes when looking at the teppanyaki table, aren’t my favourite parts of the beef. Perhaps the A5 would’ve been very different because of the fat content. My gripe with tenderloins is that they are usually dry. But now thinking of it, it probably would not have been dry at all, eh?
Our set meals came with a smoked salmon plate, soup (just mine), salad, and coffee. But really, who needs all that when there’s beef waiting for you?
Japanese marbled fatty beef is something we HAD to try on this trip, but decided that isn’t the best thing for us. Immanuel and I both had the super jelat feel after all our Japanese beef meals at Wakkoku (Shin-Kobe), Yakiniku M (Osaka), and Gyu-kaku (Singapore). I much prefer good chargrilled beef, the kind with the criss-cross patterns. Immanuel likes beef most ways, and loves our meal at Mortons. I’m not too into the slow-roasted beef that’s cut after the whole thing is cooked. I really like the criss-cross marks and the charred taste. With salt. Salt will do. Or miso.
Our Airbnb in Kyoto was such a beautiful surprise. Yes, we had photos and managed to preview it, but being there was just so much better. We loved the simplicity of the decor and the ‘cocoon’ just added that special touch.
It also helped that the toilet and bath area was really clean. It didn’t have one of those hi-tech Japanese toilet bowls but it did heat up which helped a lot in the morning.
Trash was an issue however, and it seems that the kyoto-ians take their trash and recycling very seriously. No garbage outside the house, recycling has to be done diligently, and general trash bins seemed to elude us. But our pleasant experience more than made up for this and we unanimously agreed that Kyoto is our favourite.
As I was browsing Sean’s (our airbnb owner) list of recommendations, I was so pleasantly surprised to see that Honke Owariya is his wife’s family restaurant. We met briefly as she left the building that day – she’s really elegant and pretty. It must be the soba.
I’ll miss you Owariya. Cue dramatic Japanese music…
After doing some research online, I found this place for kaiseki. It’s not the usual tatami sit-down kaiseki which costs a bomb but it was perfect for us. Pretty informal and not too elaborate, it made for a good introductory kaiseki as we did not stay at a ryokan. Ours was the ¥7000++ lunch kaiseki (reduced) set. It was more than enough for us. I observed that for all customers, they packed the leftover rice dish and made rice balls for takeaway. We had it late at night and it was still delicious.
The most senior chef there went out for some fresh air as we exited and gamely obliged our request for a photo. Such beautiful dishes.
They had an English menu that we could take home too.
The Japanese menu, along with the Kyoto daikon which they showed us. I love how they take pride in their ingredients. Even a humble radish can take centre-stage in a dish.
I’d definitely recommend Roan Kikunoi to those visiting Kyoto for the first time and are intimidated by the intricacies of a full kaiseki.
Elephant Factory Coffee
After youtubing a travelog, we found this place. It was a gem. There were many magazines that we could browse and it was a perfect time for Immanuel and I to discuss what we envisioned our new home to be.
I listened to Cherlynn and made sure we went to Yoshinoya. It was beef bowl heaven. Good food doesn’t always have to be expensive. We had a grilled beef rib bowl and a sukiyaki. And tonjiru. Love.
We also made a trip to this yakitori place which had pretty good reviews on trip advisor.
We got to talk to two American men who were in Japan for a while before heading to Singapore for 2 days. They were visiting a good friend of theirs who owns a couple of restaurants in Singapore, one of which is at MBS. *WHOH* They must’ve been some culinary experts. After hearing that we were on our honeymoon, they ordered a second drink for us each. How sweet and cool.
One of them asked for the best chicken rice in Singapore. How could I explain that the one at Bedok South is really value for money and that the late LKY used to patronise them? And how could I explain that the N2 one near my place had the BEST, THICK, REAL, chicken rice chilli and sauce that complemented the chicken, AND had such a generous serving of rice? And how could I explain that the Potong Pasir coffeeshop’s chicken rice was the most fragrant, plump, savoury rice that I ever had for chicken rice and that it had such a lovely brown hue?
So I typed on his phone: Boon Tong Kee.
I hope that was good enough and that his restaurant-owning friend had an even better recommendation.
Glad that we managed to make a trip to Ichiran in Kyoto because the Osaka branches had queues that were way too long for us (in the cold, you know!)
It did wonders for my sinus, but ramen is really not something that I would rave about. I thought the broth was yummy, and noodles were AWESOME because I could choose extra firm. But it wasn’t something that I’d HAVE TO eat again. One really great thing about it was that the extra firm noodles reminded me of the Crawford Lane Hill Street Tai Hwa Ba Chor Mee that I absolutely love. Strange comparison but the moment I sunk my teeth into the firm noodles, I immediately had the same sensation as when eating the mee kia from that stall.
Hotel Kanra Kyoto
“Who needs [insert random hotel name], when you have KANRA?”
This was a recurring line for us in Japan. Hotel Kanra must have been one of the tops of our trip. The minimalistic yet traditional decor just totally stole our hearts and kept it under lock and key forever.
Granted, Kanra was newly renovated when we stayed – just two months old, but if they can actually keep up with this standard, we’d likely make multiple trips back to Kyoto JUST FOR THIS.
Kyoto had so many beautifully designed buildings that I just had to snap.
Streets & skies
Yup, trust the tropical city-dweller to keep snapping photos of roadside trees and sky views.
So glad we went to Kyoto for the first leg of our honeymoon. We’d definitely be back soon! Lord, please provide ❤