Our 3 night December trip to Kyoto included an 8 hour flight into Narita with a 2 hour layover, another 1.5 hour flight to Osaka, then an hour bus ride to Kyoto Station.
We arrived tired and hungry, so after checking into our hotel at about 10:30 pm, we headed to Dai Ichi Ramen which is a short walk from Kyoto Station and stood in line. We were seated after a 20 minute wait, not bad for that time of night, I believe they remain open until 2:00 am, so this a good late night option. Their shoyu ramen was excellent, deep tasting soup and chewy noodles cooked just right. Our son enjoyed it so much he ate two bowls.
Lunch our first day was at Kaneyo, a small 100 year old unagi shop with a nice rock wall and fishpond just outside the back of the dining area. Their unagi don is wonderful, the eel having a nice char broiled flavor. Many people were having what looked like an egg omelet unagi don which they are apparently famous for. Note to non-smokers, there are ash trays on every table and many of the businessmen smoke during their meal including our son who said he was stoked to be able to do that (wife was not pleased though).
Dinner that evening was at Gontaro Restaurant just off Shijo dori on a cold, rainy night. Their Gontaro nabe hot pot was perfect for the weather, filled with chicken, live shrimp, tofu, fishcake, chinese cabbage and udon it went well with beer and hot sake. Son loved to be able to drink in Japan as he is still underage in the U.S.
Our second lunch was at the well known soba shop Owari-ya. Very nice combo meal of oyako donburi with hot soba, tasty and reasonable, a very popular restaurant. I was amazed at our son's appetite, he said everything was delicious. About 2 hours after lunch, while walking the Philosopher's Path in the eastern hills, he had curry and rice with his coffee at one on the small shops along the pathway.
Dinner that evening was our best one of the trip. Obanzai ryori (homestyle cooking) at Manzara Honten in the Gion district. We sat at the counter admiring the large bowls of prepared food lined up on the counter top. Their eggplant was excellent as was the okara with vegetables and the simmered pumpkin. We enjoyed the broiled butterfish, a huge grilled shioyaki saba and a plate of crispy fish bones. We finished off with salmon ochazuke and for me an order of grilled beef, all washed down with cold beer. A definite keeper for us, perhaps we'll try their Pontocho branch next time.
One shop we really enjoyed was Funahashi-ya, a 100 year old rice cracker shop on Sanjo, just before the Kamo River, in it's fourth generation. Delicious varieties of different arare, all fresh and well made, we easily spent $80 buying snacks to bring home with us.
Next morning we boarded the shinkansen back to Tokyo, buying eki bentos for the journey and watching the snow fall. All too short a time in this wonderful city, leaving a long list of places to try on our next visit. Our son said he is ruined for Japanese food after this trip, especially what he termed the "fake" Japanese food they have in Colorado. Tokyo report to follow.