I LOVE TOFU.
As soon as I heard about the tofu set menu served at Junsei 顺正 just outside of Nanzen-ji Temple, there’s no doubt that I was going to give a go.
It started to drizzle as we rode on our electronic bikes to the temple (I guess it can’t all be perfect). Just so it happens, Kyoto is a great city to explore on your bike. The traffic is light, people (well, most of them anyway) are relaxed, rule following road users. I didn’t want to give up on my little bike trip just for a few drizzles, so I stopped halfway and bought a 300 yan (£1.50) bucket hat and biked on.
When we reached Junsei, they let us park the bikes outside next to the souvenir shop, and at the end of a beautiful garden was the restaurant. We quickly settled down on our table looking out to the garden and pond, that’s when the rain really started to pour.
A special brew for the place itself is always interesting to try.
We had booked in advance for the Unsui cuisine set. The main star of the menu was of course the tofu, and the concept is based on the Zen understanding of a natural flow.
Sipping sake inside while watching people queuing for seats in the rain was, well, a true guilty pleasure.
Soon the appetisers came, a collective of seasonal goodness: sashimi, chicken liver pate, sesame tofu, veggies in sesame sauce, soya milk yuzu drink, tofu skin nigiri. Each dish stimulated the palate in a different way, but with tofu/soybean being the common thread that pulled everything together.
Now this next dish, I’m not sure how it’s called. But they were mochi rice balls with pork fillings, braised in this extremely thick stock, with eel, shiitake mushrooms, and long beans. Just the right thing to have when it’s cold and wet outside.
Next up was the yudofu (tofu). Cooked simply in dashi kombu stock, with a few slices of yuzu skin. Then dipped in light soy sauce sprinkled with spring onions. The tofu is tender, fresh, sweet, and you can taste the soybean from the perfect combination of tofu and soy sauce. It is how tofu should be. I swear nobody who’s tried the real tofu there would say it’s bland and tasteless anymore.
Next was the grilled tofu. Strong and smoky in flavour, it felt like the cheeky little brother of the previous dish.
Next, fish and veggie stew. Simple and refreshing again.
On the way out it was still drizzling. The one good thing about that was, all the amazing colourful fishes surface from the pond, and you can never get tired of looking at them. There’s always a bigger/redder/goldener one.
Being at the front door of Nanzen-ji 南禅寺, it didn’t seem right not to go in and pay a visit. And now I’m so glad that we did.
This temple is not as crowded(especially being on a rainy day) as all the other places. But the architecture and nature environment is one of the best I’ve seen. And the rain, kind of made it better and more romantic altogether.
And kimono ladies walking in the rain, isn’t that the most beautiful picture in the world?
After Nanzen-ji, the rain became a little stormy. We rode the bikes back to the hotel, and each had a extra warm shower. Dinner was skipped because all the tofu at lunch proofed to be rather filling for the rest of the day.
Somewhere between 12-1am, our tummies started to grumble. Luckily, anywhere in Asia, you are always spoiled by the choice of delicious food after midnight. (some only start serving around those hours)
We went to a random bar/restaurant nearby the hotel, ordered a few rounds of sake under the influence of other diners and the mellow but tempting mood of the place.
Late night treats have the tendency to be a little more sinful than you usual diet.
So we had some chicken wings, deep fried yam balls. First time ever for me, horse meat sashimi… and Oden stew of your choice (we chose egg, radish, tofu, fish cake).
I think London should definitely benefit with more places like this.