INODA Coffee (Honten), Kyoto

Located a stone’s throw away from our hotel is a local breakfast institution – INODA Coffee. On a chilly morning we made our way there for a hearty meal and some good coffee.

The queue was acceptable and we got ourselves seated within 20mins wait.

The main hall where we were seated had large full length window allowing natural daylight to brighten up the place. We don’t usually take heavy breakfast but went ahead to order an Egg sandwich and Beef cutlet sandwich. Japanese egg sandwich is one of my favourite item and I would make it myself at home occasionally to savour the rich mayonnaise. As for the other sandwich, we had to try it as its uniquely Jap creation. Katsu sando is one of the most popular sandwiches in Japan.

The soft bread and the moist egg mayo combination was heavenly. Each bite felt so satsifying.

As for the beef cutlet sandwich, the cutlet had a nice crispy crust but it felt kinda oily (especially since I’m having it at breakfast). Nonetheless it was a good experience as I read that there are premium restaurants in Japan serving Wagyu katsu sando and it’s crazy expensive.

The other selling point of this cafe was their Viennese coffee which infuses coffee with whipped cream making it velvety smooth and rich. Not forgetting to also try their Original Blend coffee. I used to have an impression that coffee in Japan are largely pretty acidic (many years ago and I drank mostly from hotel breakfast meals). Perhaps its because I didn’t find a good cafe back then. However it was noticeable that there are significantly more quality coffee places nowadays in major cities that we visited – although this particular one has been around since 1940.

With a well-fed tummy we were energised to start out day exploring the outskirt of Kyoto.

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Kichi Kichi Omurice, Kyoto

My visit to Kichi Kichi Omurice was pretty accidental. I usually try to plan my meals such that I get to eat a variety of food on a trip. For this one, I had in mind a few must-eat places and was trying to fill the gap of the remaining slots when I thought of eating Omurice (omelette made with fried rice) in Japan. There used to be quite a number of eateries serving omurice in Singapore a couple of years ago but has since dwindled to only a handful. I even decided to cook it myself at home in order to curb my craving for the fluffy and semi-flowy omelette.

When I searched for omurice in Kyoto, Kichi Kichi was the restaurant that popped up. It was on then I realised that this place was said to serve “the most awesome omurice in Kyoto”. Apparently the Chef had a famous Youtube video showing his signature presentation style, which I shall keep it a secret for now.

Reservations at this restaurant is accepted via an online website, which was a surprise (since most of the Jap establishments don’t provide online reservations). The place is small and intimate as they only seat 8 people per session and each session is for 1 hour seating. If I recall correctly, the evening slot has a total of about 4 sessions from 5pm to last seating at 8pm.

When we arrived shortly before 8pm, there were a few other folks waiting outside. A staff came out to confirm our names for the reservation and proceeded to take our orders. Menu was printed on a single page with 10 items on the list including salad, soup, mains of chicken/beef stew and the star item – Omurice (available in full or half size).

Once we enter place, you would see the open kitchen with 8 bar seats and a large table (which could seat about 4-6 pax?) tucked at the back of the eatery. Obviously most diners would want a counter seat where we could witness the Chef himself preparing our Omurice.

In fact we were treated to the magical moment where he performed his trademark Omurice presentation more than once when he served other diners next to us. Knowing that guests are here to watch him perform, there was a certain level of showmanship and animated gestures while he went about preparing the fried rice up till plating of the omelette.

From adding the oil to the wok, to naming the ingredients that goes into the fried rice as he add them into the heated wok to the tossing of the fried rice and plating the rice into a mould to get the perfect shape. Guests certainly have our eyes set on him.

After he finished preparing the fried rice which is used as the base, Chef then went on to prepare individual portion of the omelette. We saw how he delicately used his wrist strength to flick the pan such that the semi-flowy omelette wraps itself up into a perfect roll before placing it on the fried rice. Anticipation rises the moment he flashed his sharp knife. He ensures that guests have their cameras or video recording ready before he makes a slit on the omelette which then blanket itself perfectly over the mount of fried rice. Check out my instagram for the video #yummydelightsg_kichikichiomurice.

Chef then added the finishing touch by pouring the demi-glace sauce and sprinkled some chopped parsley. He even presents the dish to each guest and ends with a pose for us to snap some photos.

Other than the Omurice, we also tried the Beef Stew. The beef was soft and the stew gravy was rich and tasty. While I wouldn’t recommend choosing this over the fried rice, I think having this as an additional dish certainly add some “meat” to the meal. Personally I felt that the ingredients in the fried rice was not too substantial.

It was an unique dining experience in Kyoto to try Jap-style Western meal in a cosy and welcoming environment. My respect to the Chef for having to repeat this dish so many times a day and has been doing so for many years! It’s a one-of-a-kind Omurice which is hard for me to forget.

Photos Taken Earlier:

After our lunch in Arashiyama we took time to explore the mountainous areas (which is a lot less touristy as its further away from the shopping street). It involves a short hike up to a viewpoint with not many people to jostle with for this expansive picturesque view.

Along the river, you’ll see many visitors hired a boat ride to take in the foliage views on both sides of the riverbanks.

We stopped by the Togetsu bridge area and wanted to grab a %Arabica coffee but gave up upon seeing the long queue. It was even longer than our wait during Sakura season.

Time is precious as we were keen to make our way to Nanzenjifor our first Autumn Night Illumination viewing.  One of the temple compound Tenjuan opens at 6pm and we were surprised to see a long queue even before they open their doors!

Fortunately the queue moved quickly once they start letting guests in and we got into the compound after a 20 mins wait in the line. Being a noob I initially imagined that we would be let into a huge garden for a walk. Turned out that we had to take off our shoes, enter a wooden building, walked on the tatami/wooden plank floor before we arrive at a room whereby we saw this amazing sight!

The red Autumn leaves looked fiery under the illumination and complemented by the rock garden landscape, this view was magnificent.

After being awestruck by the sight, we then proceeded to another part of the building and saw another garden. This time round, the area where we stood to admire the view was a patio.

It was a mesmerising experience to see Autumn foliage at night and I actually prefer Autumn night illumination over Sakura night illumination.

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Shoraian 松籁庵, Kyoto

Shoraian is a restaurant that we shortlisted for our earlier trip to Kyoto in April but couldn’t secure a table due to a short lead time. When we decided to revisit Kyoto again, this was the first restaurant booking that went into our itinerary.

Located in Arashiyama area but tucked away in the mountain (away from the main shopping streets), the only way to get there is to hike along a small secluded trail uphill until you see the signage. This place reminds me of the scene off a typical Chinese martial arts novel – Imagine you are a swordsman in ancient China and you are trying to find the martial arts master who lives in mountain or bamboo forest to no avail. Tired and hungry, you eyes lit up when you chanced upon an inn for you to have some comforting food and rest your feet.

We stepped into the dining hall and were immediately wowed by the fabulous views of Arashiyama and the emerald green coloured Katsura river.

Being tofu-lovers, we were keen to try Kyoto‘s tofu which is one of the famous specialty food around. After our wonderful experience in April where we managed to secure a booking at another tofu restaurant – Tousuiro, we were certain that we wanted to enjoy another Tofu feast in Kyoto.

Shoraian is a Tofu Kaiseki cuisine speciality restaurant that serves only set menu. The set course choice ranged from the modest 7-course to the luxurious 11-course option.

We started our meal with appetizers of Cold tofu with snow salt and Plum wine (Ume Shu). Followed by Assorted specialties plate that comprised of an assortment of small bites such as Salmon with apple, Rice pops, marinated vegetables, purple yam etc. I had fun plucking the grains of rice pops off the stem. They were nicely plated and I love the cute maple leave rice cake (i think) used to indicate the current season.

Special item is a layered tofu skin (Yuba), something which I’m excited to try. Silky smooth tofu skin soaked in the savory dashi tasted really refreshing.

Up next was the Kyo-ryori seasonal selection which came with a special postcard. The seasonal postcard was given to guests as a memento to remember their visit and this dish. Sitting pretty on a dried leave were beautifully arranged mixed vegetables including eggplant, pumpkin etc. I guess the vegetables must have been chosen deliberately to showcase their vibrant colours.

Soybeans were once again featured in the next 2 dishes: Toyuba Tempura served with matcha salt and Tofu Gratin with namafu (steamed wheat gluten). While the toyuba tempura is not exactly something new as it’s similar to what we Chinese eat, the Tofu Gratin is an innovative jap-western creation.

The one dish that left a lasting impression when we had our tofu feast last year was finally making a grand appearance – the Boiled tofu (yudofu). Same as our previous experience at the other restaurant, this dish was refillable. The wide spread use of tofu in Kyoto is possibly linked to the adoption of Buddhism as the religion of the masses in the ancient days. Soybean became an important source of proteins in the religion’s vegetarian diet.

In the modern era, most of the “Tofu feasts” served in the restaurants now are not pure vegetarian meals (unless you visit Japanese Buddhist vegetarian cuisine restaurants). Most people are more receptive to having a Tofu-kaiseki which includes some meat dishes which makes it a well-balanced meal. Hence for the next 2 courses we had 1 meat dish of Mini-steak of wagyu beef and 1 tofu cuisine of Agedashi Tofu.

Rounding up the course with Rice and pickles. But the highlight was the fried silver fish that adds a crunchy texture to the fluffy and supple Japanese rice.

We ended our 1.5 hour meal with desserts of Tofu Ice Cream served with yatsuhashi and black honey sauce and Tofu pudding topped with gold flakes.

Earlier photos taken:

Woke up early to make a trip to Tofukuji, a temple whose compound is particularly famous for its spectacular Autumn colours. The place opens at 8.30am, we got there at around 9am to beat the crowd.

In a bid to better manage the crowd that packs the temple during Autumn season to admire the blazing red foliage, the temple was said to have banned photography on the wooden bridges that have the best photo angles of the maple trees and the temple.

I was delighted to see that the staff had exercised some flexibility and allowed visitors to take photos from the bridge when the human traffic situation was still manageable.

By the time we finished our tour of the temple and on our way to the train station, we were stunned by the hordes of visitors flowing towards the temple. In fact, this was the scene after a train that departed from Kyoto left the Tofukuji station. We were glad that we were on the opposite side of the platform =)

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Tempura Komefuku 天ぷら海鮮 米福, Kyoto

After checking in to our hotel, we went to a nearby eatery for some late night supper. I shortlisted restaurant Tempura Komefuku as they specialises in Tempura – perfect companion to a few glasses of ice cold beer.  The place boasts 40 different types of light and crispy tempura all fried in rice-bran oil.

Upon seated the staff brought out grated Japanese daikon radish (to be added to ‘ten-tsuyu‘ – dipping sauce for tempura) and appetizer dish promptly.

As we only aim to have a light dinner, we ordered a 5-piece skewered tempura platter (omakase) and a Salmon ochazuke. From the light colour of the batter, I am pretty sure that they use fresh oil and the temperature was well-controlled to achieve the light golden colour. The batter was also very light and crispy, which made it easy on the stomach – no oiliness feeling.

We head back to rest after a satisfying meal and prepare to rise early the next day to begin our Momiji Matsuri (Autumn leaves viewing) adventure.

It was nice to revisit the ancient capital of Japan as we were a lot more relaxed since we were relatively familiar with this compact town after our last visit in April earlier this year.

Earlier Photos Taken:

Chanced upon the Donguri Republic store at Nagoya Station. This is a place where Ghibli fans can go crazy over the wide range of merchandises available.

Over at Kyoto Station, there is also something that excited me. I read about a machine that allows customers to print their own photo on Kit Kat boxes and I had to check it out~ We decided to come back again when we have photos of Kyoto autumn foliage scene that we could print and bring back as souvenir. I will post about the steps and the final product in another post.

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Furaibo 風来坊, Nagoya

Furaibo is said to be one of the famous chain restaurants that serves up one of Nagoya’s most famous specialty food: tebasaki – deep fried chicken wings seasoned in a peppery soy-based sauce and coated with sesame seeds.

I seriously underestimated their popularity, thinking that since it is a chain restaurant it should be easy to dine there….In fact this was our 2nd attempt visiting a Furaibo outlet – 1st was for dinner at another outlet (a huge one actually) but they were fully booked for the WHOLE EVENING…

We only spent 1 night in Nagoya area so we had to squeeze in a late lunch to try this specialty food before we head over to Kyoto. We dragged our luggage in Nagoya Station Building and found this rather tiny outlet. Queued for 30 mins – despite the fact that we were the first in the queue at an odd non-peak timing…before there were available counterseats for us.

So what’s so special about these fried chicken wings? First, the wings probably came from a specific species of chicken that has rather lean wings – they have little meat. Secondly, they were fried to a crisp finish and lightly coated with a savoury sauce, seasoned with salt and pepper, topped off with a dash of white sesame seeds.

Personally I found it less “sticky” and less “gluey” than the Korean type of soy sauce fried chicken as the version here was more dry and crisp.

Other than the wing tips, we also tried the Furaibo Bowl which comprised of the meatier chicken cutlet sitting over a bed of rice underneath.

Overall the wings made perfect beer snacks and we saw several lone travellers pop-in for a quick meal or folks coming by to order takeaways. But the key question – would this have made in into the “Must-Eat Food” in Nagoya? I doubt so

Other Photos Taken Earlier:

Took an overnight flight from BKK to Nagoya, got some rest onboard the JAL flight.

Breakfast was served before arrival and I was happy with the Japanese breakfast options. Though comparatively I felt that ANA food was better than JAL’s…

After checking into our hotel (in Toyota city), we headed to our first sightseeing spot for the Autumn Foliage season – Korankei Gorge. This place is known across Japan as a place to go and see autumn leaves – the good thing is it’s still not too crowded with overseas visitors. Partly cos it is quite inaccessible due to limited transport options and the long travelling time to the outskirts of Nagoya.

I was certainly wowed and impressed by the vibrant colours as it’s my first Momiji Matsuri (autumn leaves viewing) experience.

The gorge was covered with largely blazing red leaves interspersed with some green ones, with a flowing river adorned with a red bridge linking both sides of the riverbed.

The festival feel was strong as there was an area dedicated to serving street food and filled with many vendors. I tried this local snack – Goheimochi Grilled rice cake with sweet miso sauce which was freshly grilled upon order. Yum…

Also tried this huge sized Yakiguri (roasted chestnuts). The flesh is more yellow in coloured and it’s more moist than the ones we get in Singapore. I initially had plans to stay at the gorge till sunset where there is night illumination. Unfortunately we were too tired by late afternoon and decided to return to our hotel (which requires a 45 mins mini-bus ride that runs on limited schedule of 1 bus per hour…).

On our 2nd day, we made our way to another outskirt area – Obara. This place requires 1-hour bus ride from Toyota city (even further than Korankei). Actually this was the key reason why we planned a short stay in Nagoya. However this place was outshone by the impressive Korankei that we visited the day before instead. Obara’s key feature was their  Winter cherry blossom (Shikizakura) viewing. This species of cherry tree bloom once in Spring and again between Oct to Dec. I think when the Sakura blossom are at its peak, the mountain should look a lot more pinkish that what we saw.

Visitors get to see a blend of Sakura and Autumn foliage.

The weather was somewhat better than the day we visited Korankei. Could you believe that the photo below was taken at a capark lot meant for coaches?! Don’t even need to hike into the woods or mountain.

It was not the perfect leaves but I managed to piece this in less than 5 mins. Look at the  different shades of colours, from yellow to orange to red. =)

We set our sights on Obara but left impressed with Korankei instead. Nagoya (or rather Toyota city where we stayed in) is probably not as touristy as other major cities of Japan. While we enjoyed our off-the-beaten-path gems that we uncovered, the cons were the lack of information in English on websites, the folks here seems to be less conversant in English (compared to Tokyo/Kyoto) and transportation via public buses to the attraction sights can be very limited and therefore super packed. But for the fabulous views at Korankei, I would say it’s definitely worth it!!!! I think Korankei has set such a high benchmark for Autumn foliage viewing that it was hard to find another location that could beat them.

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Dim Sum Haus

It has been quite a long while since we ventured out further for new lunch places. Glad Downtown Line 3 is finally in operation and that provided much convenience for us to explore other eateries along that line. We made our way to Dim Sum Haus located within a short walking distance from Jalan Besar MRT station.

I saw an article on the newspaper featuring one of their specialty dish – Crispy Mee Sua Kueh with Chinese Sausage, that prompted me to give them a visit. The ones we had on the day of the visit looked slightly brown instead of golden colour. The “kuehs” were made with strands of mee sua packed together and then fried to form a crispy outer layer. It’s not apparent at first glance but once you take a bite you will soon realised that under the slightly charred brown surface is a firm yet springy body.

The other signature item was Steamed Charcoal Chicken & Shrimp Dumpling. Unlike the conventional yellow coloured skin, their dumplings were made using a charcoal skin. But what I liked about this dish was the juicy and chewy filling, the dollop of shrimp roe topping added more textures to this item.

Tried a few other more classic Hong Kong dim sum dishes such as the Egg Tarts, Steamed Rice Roll and Har Gau.

This place is a great alternative to the other famous Dim Sum place (Swee Choon) in the area for lunch since the other one does not operate in the day.

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The Coffee Academics, Singapore

I’ve always wanted to visit The Coffee Academics at Orchard Road but didn’t have the chance to since I’ve dreaded going out on weekends – the only time whereby I could possibly visit the cafe to try their coffee. However a spoilt iPad was the reason for us to make a trip to town to get it fixed. This turned out to be a rare opportunity for me to drop by the chic cafe for a late lunch.

Once we reached the cafe, I was reminded of why I dreaded going out on weekends… there was a long queue to get into the cafe… Under normal circumstances, I probably wouldn’t be too bothered and would wait patiently for my table…However for someone who hasn’t had her lunch at 4pm, meant that one would likely see a HANGRY (Hungry+Angry) woman in the queue, waiting impatiently for her table and was feeling upset with folks who had finished their drinks but still hang around to catch-up with one another…

It was almost an hour later before I finally get to eat my lunch cum dinner… On hindsight, I should have ate somewhere else and just come here for drinks as having a full meal here added up to be quite costly…

The drinks were the main selling point of this cafe, where we were spoilt for choice on what to order. We went with a Manuka latte and a Piccolo in a Cone. Although one can easily say that the coffee in a cone is just a snazzy gimmick for the instagram fame, I must say the coffee here is really rich and smooth.

For foodwise, we tried the Le Smoked Salmon and Umami Pasta. I liked the crispiness of the rosti at the base topped with a flowy sous vide egg, although the portion was a tad too small.

The pasta had good flavours just like its namesake, but it was way too spicy. I would appreciate the flavours better if not for layer of chilli oil at the base of the plate…

In honesty, after spending about $70 on 2 drinks and 2 mains, we left the place still feeling slightly hungry… I saw that they had some pretty attractive dessert but we decided to go somewhere more value-for-money instead.

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