Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Temples? Shrines? Phooey! What's for Dinner?

When the Ajimi Team travels, it travels on its stomach. Thus, when it honeymooned last week it chose to take the Shinkansen south to Kyoto, home of the best food in Japan in addition to what it understands are some thousand years of religious, cultural, architectural, imperial and literary history completely unrelated to food. The epicurean part of the journey began with the decision of what to eat on the 2.25 hour ride on the Nozomi Super Express. We have read a lot about eki bento, the boxed lunches on sale at stations throughout Japan, but we have yet to find any truly delicious ekiben at Ueno or Tokyo stations, the main points of departure for the Shinkansen. We did get some rather nice pork buns at Tokyo Station, some senbei and mixed nuts, all washed down with some One Cup sake purchased from the food cart on the train. (Not the best of nihonshu, at least this was a step up from our first Shinkansen booze on a trip last year to Yamagata. On that journey, the only nihonshu available from the cart was flavored with fugu fins and tasted exactly like what you would expect tepid, fishy booze to taste like. That was, however, our first encounter with the self-heating sake can, an admirable bit of technology that makes one appreciate anew living in a land where they devote a ridiculous amount of attention to infinitesimally small details).

But we swallowed our disappointment for we were resting up for the main event: five days and four nights of eating and drinking in Kyoto. Neither snow, nor cold, nor vanishing guidebook restaurant recommendations could prevent us from having several outstanding meals with a few sublime snacks thrown in for punctuation. Yes, we trod the path of culture and history but after all that treading it was the meals that restored our spirits. We accumulated more photos of small plates of kyo ryori than of any temple, or of each other, for that matter. And the bento we prepared for the ride back to Tokyo was lovely.

(Photo: The Ajimi Team at the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum, Fushimi, Kyoto)

VS

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