I love Kyoto - there's so much history and culture of Japan in this one city. It's the perfect combination of traditional and modern all wrapped up in one place. I would even call it the quintessential Japanese city. Absolutely fantastic and a definite must-see for any trip to Japan!
The stores and temples near Gion (also known as the Geisha district)
So much history, beauty and amazing architecture
The world famous Zen Rock Garden and Kinkaku-ji (Golden Temple)
Now onto the food...
Shabu Shabu on Pontocho (famous food street)
Japanese breakfast at the Kyoto Hotel (the tofu in the soup was really good!!)
I have no idea what this was - but it was the closest food for what felt like miles in Kyoto (they don't call Kyoto the walking city for nothing). The balls were gummy,chewy and really gross - not our thing at all.
The cheapest lunch/dinner/takeout we found in Japan! Something like 380 yen at some takeout store in the middle of Kyoto. It was great value for money - the food was good, they made it fresh to order and it was super cheap - it really didn't get any better than that.
Our Japan Trip Planner recommended this restaurant near Ginkaku-ji and the Philosopher's Path because it is a very famous Udon place. We got the hot Udon with vegetables. The taste of the Udon was definitely not something we were used to since the taste was milder than what we would have expected (most likely because the Udon we usually eat is a lot more strongly flavoured). The broth was very strong and the sesame seeds (which I thought were normal sesame seeds but turned out to be like smoky sesame seeds) actually added a different flavour to the noodles. The entire meal felt like a whole cacophony of subtle flavours that I couldn't quite appreciated so I didn't particularly enjoy the noodles.
The Melon Bun Snack!
Due to my brother's obsession with melon buns (see Ito & Gotemba Blog Entry), we proceeded to pretty much try every single bakery's melon buns (that we could find in Kyoto). This one we got at the Suzuya store in a subway station in Kyoto. Not as delicious as the one we tried in Mishima, but it was a melon bun and my brother was happy. (Someone needs to start making melon buns in Toronto - seriously - not the pineapple ones - the real melon flavour buns)
Japanese stone grilling
There have been rave reviews of Issian Pontocho in all the guide books that we looked at (Frommers, Lonely Planet, etc), so we decided to try to find it in the confusing Pontocho area and after much wandering and questioning of the locals, we found it in a side street off the main street.
Everyone in the restaurant spoke English and it was such a relief to hear English being spoken again (especially since most people in Japan didn't really have a solid grasp of the language).
The food was ok...we sat there waiting for the waiter, but after a while our hunger got the better of us and we started to cook it for ourselves. The sauces weren't as good as the ones we usually get in Korean Barbecue. I wasn't particularly impressed with Issian and didn't quite see what all the hype was about (I like KBBQ in Toronto much better) and when we left, we had the smoky smell of bbq clinging to our clothes (the ventilation in the restaurant was pretty bad).
Loved the cultural part of Kyoto - but we had a struggle finding really good food to write home about. Hopefully it'll be better the next time we go!