Saturday, August 15, 2009

Restaurant # 9: Ujigawa Ryokan

This was our last day in Kyoto, the ladies were scheduled to dress up as tourist Maiko, and me and Walid had a free day to explore Uji at our leisure without the ladies weighing us down (sorry Dala and Maya!)
We took the train to Uji and the first thing we did was try a soft Matcha icecream cone.

This picture does it little justice as it tasted magnificent!! Matcha flavored soft icecream with matcha powder sprinkled on top. The ice cream cone was from a tea shop a few meters from the entrance of the Byodo-in, Uji's most famous attraction.

Here you can see the central building dubbed the pheonoix hall. It was converted to a "Pure land" buddhist temple in 1052 after being a villa of a leading Fujiwara courtier. (excuse my history babbling, I know this is a food blog, but history is my other passion! Along with sports and travel ;) )

Back to the subject of food. Ujigawa Ryokan was in the street leading to the Byodo-in and was right by the river. An ideal place to rest and have a meal.
The above meal was a Bento style, compartmentalized and beautifuly organized meal.
Its compartments, clockwise from top left, Sushi and rice stuffed sweet tasting deep fried tofu skin (delicious), Prawn and vegetable Tempura, Sashimi, and some various specialties including crac, rolled eel, sweet potato, fish cakes, egg omlette, little skewered matcha flavored rice balls, among a few others.

Some green tea soba with dried, salted mackerel.
The meal was filling and allowed us to sample quite a few local delicacies. The price was 2,100 JPY (23 USD) per person.

After this meal it was time for dessert, and the actual reason that I could not pass up on visiting Uji was not the beautiful Byodo-in, rather it was the dessert at Nakamura Tokichi cafe that I had seen in Paul's travel blog before visiting Japan.
This dessert seemed spectacular, and I wasn't ready to pass up on it!
The actual link to Nakamura Tokichi Cafe is:

We ordered the above, which was Matcha milk, with delicious rice flour balls, azuki bean paste, and gelatinous cubes, apparently made from the root of a local plant. Curiously, some salty pickles accompanied this dessert as a side-dish.

Now don't let the simple appearance of this dessert mislead you. I can not say enough good things about how awesome it was, you will savour every moment eating this! Now this dessert is in no way unique to Tokichi cafe, in fact the trio of bean paste, matcha ice cream, and rice flour balls is ubiquitous in the Kyoto area, there are a few subtle differences however. First is the Matcha jelly, as mentioned before, made from the extract of a certain local plant's roots, and second is the Matcha ice cream itself, this dessert is usually served as crushed ice with Matcha syrup rather than western style icecream.
If ever you pass by Uji don't pass this dessert up!

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