Review: Anmitsu Mihashi, Ueno Head Branch / あんみつみはし、上野本店

Matcha anmitsu
Matcha anmitsu

Japan is famous for sushi. And breaking out of my previous aversion for fish, I had been sampling the cheap and tasty offerings at Heiroko Sushi Okachimachi branch.

One thing Japan is not famous for is desserts. And although I have enjoyed countless desserts in Japan, I can kind of see why. Continue reading “Review: Anmitsu Mihashi, Ueno Head Branch / あんみつみはし、上野本店”

The Uji Saga Part 1: Sakura and Salty Slime

I’ve turned into a local. I curse the tourists staring gormlessly at signs/maps and blocking my way. Rather impatient of me, especially as I can’t read the signs, and probably can’t read the map either (A geography degree didn’t teach me that!)

At the beginning of April, Kyoto was swarming with tourists who had come to see the sakura (cherry blossoms). If you don’t know already, sakura is a national obsession in Japan (find out just how much here). It is fetishized in all kinds of alarming ways as you can see here.

Because cats, pink and sakura make for a triple of cuteness!

On an unseasonably cold Saturday, we set off to Uji, a small town to the south-east of Kyoto. Famous for special Japanese tea, it’s also famous for cherry blossoms and today was the creatively named “Sakura Matsuri” or “Cherry Blossom Festival.”

Turns out, the freezing weather meant the cherry blossoms were a little slow to wake up. We shivered our way around Byodoin, a temple enshrined on the 10円 coin.

It’s actually quite a pretty temple, but the greyness and my photography skills have combined into this…

Set very grandly by a pond, the Phoenix Hall (as depicted above) was originally built in 998 andearns its name from its supposed phoenix-like shape and the two phoenixes adorning the roof. The entrance fee of 600円 includes the museum, which displays all kinds of artefacts from the temple, including a spectacular room filled with 52  Bodhisattvas, now classed as a National Treasure.

We then had a coffee to warm up and witnessed a man publicly masturbate (Uji Saga Part 2), which just confirms my theory that cherry blossoms have erotic associations.

We then headed to the island where all the (Universal-rated) action was.

It was pleasing to see that Kyoto City Police were making a welcoming and friendly presence, with giant mascots bouncing around.

The police terrorise children!
The Kyoto Police doing their thing

Aside from all the sakura viewing, there were lots of stalls selling second-hand crockery and food. Calle and I bought this delicious dango (literally means dumpling but it’s an extraordinarily broad term – see the dango that blogger friend Cocomino bought). Not usually a fan of anko (sweet azuki bean paste), this deep-fried treat mellowed the flavour and provided a wonderful contrast between the crunchy doughnut-like exterior and smooth filling. I could have easily eaten six, and shall continue to fantasise about it.

Deep-fried and delicious!
Deep-fried and delicious!


The place: Seike Yuba
The food: tofu skin AKA yuba

Salty and slimy…

Lunch transported me back into a Dickensian world. I was Oliver Twist, wanting to ask for more revolting slop because we were so starved.

We decided to try yuba, tofu skin. We ordered the a lunch set including a yuba rice bowl, soup and some pickles for 980円. Compared to the other sky-high tourist  prices around, it didn’t seem bad.

That’s until we saw the pitiful size of it and actually ate some of it. An incredibly slimy mass was dumped on top of rice, with a few spring onion slices and a little ginger on top. The results: slimy rice porridge which tasted of nothing but salt. The soup could have been water and we were given so few pickles that they were barely worth bothering with, except they had the strongest flavour of anything on the table.

Overall 1/5
Better tasting food  Food which has a taste can be found almost anywhere else. Only go if you want to pay above-average prices for workhouse gruel.

Food quality 1/5 – I’m sure it’s decent enough quality – just try tasting it!

Value for money 0/5 – It was gross. It was small. Enough said.

Atmosphere  2.5/5 – Nothing special – impersonal counter seating and some stark-looking tables. It was busy though.

Service 2/5 – No real service. Food was unceremoniously dumped in front of us when it was ready!


I showed the pictures to a Japanese friend of mine, who was equally disgusted and horrified by this bizarre combination.

The Versatile Blogger Award

The Versatile Blogger Award is a community-nominated award.

I have been nominated by Susie of Susartandfood and I am a very happy blogger! Thank you, Susie! Everyone, please check out her blog for fun posts and great recipes! 🙂

The rules:

In a post on your blog, nominate 7 fellow bloggers for The Versatile Blogger Award.
In the same post, add the Versatile Blogger Award.
In the same post, thank the blogger who nominated you in a post with a link back to their blog.
In the same post, share 7 completely random pieces of information about yourself.
In the same post, include this set of rules.
Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination by posting a comment on each of their blogs.

The seven blogs I nominate are:

1) Domestic Diva, M.D.
One of my favourite blogs which I’ve only found recently. Megs is hilarious – I really mean hilarious – and there are some great recipes to be found too!

2) Life in Kawagoe
Just as it says, it’s a window into one family’s life in Kawagoe. Simply written and with beautiful photos, it’ll please anyone with an interest in Japan.

3) Sifting and Sowing
Recommendations and recipes? This is top quality food writing – check it out!

4) Byron and his backpacks
Follow Byron on his journeys and life teaching in Asia. Insightful and humorous accounts that I definitely can relate to. See his post “Jumping through hoops” for a great rant of bureaucracy!

5) Tricia A. Mitchell
One woman on an enviable massive trip round Asia or “Asian sabbatical”, as she calls it. Fantastic locations, beautiful photos.

6) Waterfalls and Caribous 
A travel blog focussed on South Korea. Engaging writing/photos, and lots of food posts too!

7) Photosbotos
“One amazing photo every day!” Says it all. I follow just for the eye candy but there’s plenty of technical info provided for keen photographers.

Seven random pieces of information about me:

1) I love spiders. I used to feed ants to the spiders on the climbing frame. I named one “Hermione” and would check on her every day. Until she disappeared. Sometimes, if I found a spider in the house, I would put it in my bedroom. I also became fascinated by the superstition that if you spun a money spider around your head three times, you would become rich. I decided it would be better to keep them in my hair for extra luck. I stopped doing this when it occurred to me that I might accidentally squash a spider.

A Japanese beauty...with only 7 legs :-/

2) I live in Japan and I don’t like nori (seaweed used in sushi). I keep trying by you can see the results. This is primarily a food blog so I’m really ashamed.

Nori turns my stomach!

3) I was a hero among local police. When I was 10, my parents put me in a karate class because I was a wimpy kid who got bullied (unsurprisingly, see #4). They wanted to toughen me up and also to improve my coordination. (I was, and still am, infamously clumsy. The scars on my legs are a testament to how many times I’ve fallen over.)

I did  eventually get better at karate and I even made it to black belt, but my parents were afraid that I’d never be able to use it should a situation ever arise. But a situation did arise. My mum’s friend was assaulted and racially abused her by two thugs. She was bravely following them down the street to make sure the police came and arrested them. Unfortunately, they decided to walk past our house and, although we live in a very “white” area, my dad happens to be a 6ft2 half -West Indian – so they picked the wrong house to be racist outside of.

As it happens, my dad is possibly the most non-violent, passive, mild-mannered man you could ever hope to meet. So my mum yelled out to my younger siblings: “Quick! Quick! Get your sister!” I was fifteen at the time, dressed in a skimpy nightie and purple slippers. Unabashed, I ran out into the street. Things started to get tense and one guy lunged at my mum’s friend. Before I even thought about it, I blocked him and punched him in the face.

I was so fast that no-one, not even him, saw what happened. Because the next thing he did was to turn to my dad and say “I’m gonna have you for assault!”

To which, I promptly responded: “What?! You’re gonna have a fifteen year old girl in purple fluffy slippers for assaulting you?!”

He blinked in surprise.

The thug got 6 months in prison for this assault and another 1.5 years for beating up an Indian man in a local hotel.

Turns out the guy lost half a tooth but he wouldn’t say how he lost it. The police had great amusement at his expense and I apparently became somewhat of a hero amongst them.

I would like to say that that was the whole story and I really was a complete hero, but actually, I slipped on my way back into the house, tore my ankle tendons in half and incapacitated myself for two weeks.

On another note, I have accidentally broken my karate instructor’s nose, my dad’s ribs and my brother’s finger. Training a clumsy person in martial arts can be a bad idea.

Pretending to karate kick my friend Jerry (nr. Mt Fuji, August 2009)

4) I was a goody two-shoes child who never threw a tantrum, looked forward to going to bed and always did my homework. At age 9, I precociously asked my mum what the best university was and she told me that it was Cambridge University.  “Well, I want to go there to study maths and drama,” I informed her.

I did go there, but I didn’t study maths or drama. I also got less good at doing my homework.

I appreciate that I am neither pale, ginger or freckled, but I think this image screams goody two-shoes.

5) I once posed naked for a university kickboxing calendar. I kept trying to kick whilst covering my crotch with a glove. My coordination just wasn’t up to the task so those photos were scrapped :-/ The calendar bizarrely used both males and females from the club, so I’m not sure what market it was aimed at….except maybe martial artist bisexuals. We didn’t find too many of them.

6) I’m allergic to everything. You know those pills that you might sometimes take during hayfever season? I have to take 1 – 2 every day just to live a semi-normal life. I’m paranoid that most people secretly think of me as “The Tissue Girl.”

7) I can fit my whole fist into my mouth. Everyone has a party trick so I guess I just wanted to have one too. I’ve stopped doing it now, not only because it’s quite disgusting, but also because it attracts unwanted comments about the size of my mouth. Never good.

Halloween Music and a Banquet on Two Boats

Mountains of meat

I’ve been a little quiet on here recently due to  working a lot, a visit to Taipei (post coming soon), starting a new job and entertaining a friend from the UK. Gomennasai.

Last week was crazy on several levels. It was an “only in Japan” week. Imagine accidentally ending up at an exclusive yacht party…

As most weeks do, my week began on Monday – in fact, painfully early on Monday as I was still in Taipei. Calle and I caught the 4:30am bus to Taoyuan Airport, took our wonderful 6:55am flight and arrived in Japan a little before 11am. Needless to say I was shattered. I travelled in a zombie-like state in the train, mindlessly playing Angry Birds on Calle’s Iphone (I’m a bit slow on the craze but I have no desire to visit the theme park).

By the time, I had made it back to Kyoto, I had less than an hour until I had to go back to Osaka for my last day at an elementary school. This was one of my jobs where I was paid just to play with children in English. As a result, I have had to develop non-existent football skills and I’ve had to (re)learn to run fast. Because when playing tag, I am always the tagger. Cries of “Phoebe-sensei wa onii!” still echo in my ears.

On my arrival, I was surprised to find a leaving party had been organised. A little manga version of myself adorned the wall and I was presented with a beautiful leaving card, “signed” by all the children and adorned with photos of our time together.

Phoebe sensei

I was really quite moved by the presentation. The children said they wanted to dance. They had been practising, I was told.

Given the level of organisation so far, my expectations were fairly high. Then the kids shoved on a Halloween CD. A happy American voice boomed out “time for Halloween!” Some kids proceeded to wobble and a few kids just stood, twitching their arms and laughing. Then the animal masks came out.

So with a Halloween party track echoing in the room, I proceeded to watch a trippy display of a dancing lion and elephant and some kids rolling about on the floor.

Then one boy demanded a change of music, ripped off his jumper, revealing half his body in the process, and attempted  to breakdance by spinning round and round on his back.

Halloween, Lion and Breakdancing Party

This was all highly entertaining. The last time we had a party event, the kids ate salty crackers with a mixture of tuna-mayo sauce from a squirty bottle, whipped cream and chocolate sauce. I had to participate and the bizarre combinations still turn my stomach.

Tired as I was, I returned to Kyoto in a party mood and I was looking forward to a boat party on Lake Biwa on Friday. My landlord, an incredibly fit 82-year old, had invited us to this “boat party”. It all sounded run and rather informal. We’ll be drinking he told us. I envisioned a small boat with a few retired people, sipping sake and playing go or hanafuda, or some other traditional games.

I was wrong.

Warning sign #1) When we turned up at my landlord’s house, he and his wife were dressed very smartly indeed.

Warning sign #2) Conversation en route: “I was the president of the Biwako Yacht Club. Tonight is a party for 130 years.”

Oh wow.

Our landlord was greeted with great deference as we approached two rather swanky-looking yachts.

Bianca on the left, Michigan on the right
The Michigan

We were played on board by a band of three gaijin (foreigners) and I waved very happily to the clown, who had a massive balloon hat…which I subseuqently managed to wear.

Clowning around

The phrase “sticking out like a sore thumb” comes to mind. Not only were we the most casually dressed, but aside from the musicians and a professor from New Zealand, we were the only foreigners around. I noticed eyes slide towards and casually flicker elsewhere as if they weren’t looking really. But I didn’t need to fix my smile. I was already  far too excited by everything and ran around pointing and photographing everything.

And Pheebz Eatz. So eat I did.

There was no buffet; there was a banquet. At least four rooms across the boat were filled with food. Every kind of meat was laid out in mouthwatering mountains. It was definitely a statement: the vast quantity of meat and relative small amount of fish proved that the Biwako Yacht Club has money to throw about. The food was exquisite.

Banuqet 1
Sushi - only a little though!
Lamb - a rarity in Japan. Good luck ever finding it on a menu or in a supermarket!

And by now, you probably realise I love beef. So this was practically erotic for me.


They also had plenty of desserts, including a divine chocolate fountain and these super-cute cones, filled with cream and topped with a raspberry and blueberry.

Cute cone desserts
Macha cake

The evening ended with fireworks and a bizarre conversation with a retired salary man, which resulted in a Frapanese – a mix of French and Japanese. It was wonderful – not only was I able to communicate with someone but I could practise two languages at once.

Of course, it was also wonderful because I was at the most exclusive party in town. And I was full of beef.

Why France and Japan should never collaborate

I am convinced that France and Japan should never collaborate… when it comes to cuisine.

Fortunately, I think things might be going my way. Japan has now overtaken France as the country with the most three-star Michelin restaurants. This is bound to generate some (un)healthy rivalry. Chefs across both countries must be whipping up a storm of nationalism-infused dishes, harking back to traditional dishes and giving them that modern twist, which makes critics melt over them. Whatever does happen, I’m hoping it might reduce the number of places that think they’re serving French cuisine in Japan.

Disturbingly, it was at the Kansai French-Japanese Institute where I was traumatised by a Japanese rendition of French cuisine. Perhaps more disturbingly, French people actually frequent this place and its restaurant. In fact, as we entered the building a Frenchman called out bonjour to us as we passed him. (If only he’d known I was British – the greeting may have been more along the lines of “Cameron, shut eeeet!” and “Join ze Euro!”)

The traumatic event involved this:

Worst confit de canard ever

That is a ~1500円 confit de canard. It’s a sorry excuse for confit de canard (duck confit). I am more than familiar with the French way of cooking meat (ie. as little as possible) but confit is a preservation process and the meat should therefore be cooked. When a duck is well cooked, it falls off the bone. Let’s refer to theoracle Wikipedia on exactly how a confit de canard should be done: “The meat is slowly poached at least until cooked, or until meltingly tender, generally four to ten hours.” All recipes online for this dish mention how the meat should be tender.

Then why was I struggling to tear it off the bone?

I left in a very bad mood, partially because I should have known better. What was I doing eating French in Japan? I wouldn’t eat sushi in France! Yet I’m still drawn to international cuisine….

Coming up on the blog:

A Quest for Bread: The Japanese Bakery Saga

A Tale of Two Indians: The Good and the Ugly

And….does this look good? In-depth deliciousness will be posted here soon!

The Divine Waffle Ice Cream Deal

The REAL Japanese Food

A lot of people have an idea of Japanese food being the haven of health. Pictures of sushi abound, accompanied by simple bowls of rice and delicately arranged mushrooms. Don’t get me wrong – you’ll find plenty of all of that in Japan. But I want to show you what the everyday eateries are actually serving. As you’ll see, there’s just as much junk and rubbish on sale as you’d find in the UK or the US.

This documentation process took place, once again, in Osaka – on the day when Calle and I bumped into all kinds of characters. Our day trip started with food because, by the time we arrived,  I was starving and needed lunch.

Unfortunately, we headed straight to Tempozan Marketplace, the “shopping and dining arcade” next to the aquarium, which is actually just a place where parents entertain their kids at weekends, presumably by feeding them lots of “kid-friendly” food ie. junk.

In our desperation, we settled for Ganko, where I could get a steak lunch deal for just 750円. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t the tastiest steak in the world but we were in one of those places where you’re only ever going to get quantity, not quality.

Steak, sizzling

The restaurant staff were very obliging and changed the tempura set to veg-only for Calle.

Vegetable tempura

It was probably one of the blandest tempura I’d ever tried, but you can’t go too far wrong with something deep-fried in batter.

And yes, deep-fried. It’s very, very popular in Japan. Tempura is everywhere. As is deep-fried chicken and pork. If it can be deep-fried, it will be deep-fried. The Scots would be proud.

My Lonely Planet was treacherous that day. Within this “shopping and dining arcade” is a “faux Edo-period food court where you can sample all of Osaka’s culinary specialities.” I guess that’s true. But really it’s more accurately described as an indoor, grotty, fake, old-style street with lots of fast-food stands.

It may not look too bad, but remember that this is an enclosed indoor area, with lots of little stalls frying stuff and the unpleasant smells of stale food permeating everything. Plus you will be confronted with things that look like this:


The above is an omu-rice – rice wrapped in an omelette, topped with ketchup. Aside from the gross amount of ketchup, I just can’t get over the colour combination. It looks like an operation. And look at these ones – they’re spilling their guts:

Spilling their guts

The next dish on the “menu” is the common curry rice (カレーライス).

Curry rice

Sometimes served with reformed chicken or pork, deep fried in breadcrumbs, it always involves a plate swimming in a “curry” sauce, which is made by mixing a curry block with water. And it’s sweet, and probably not very spicy. There are chains upon chains serving this, and even little coffee shops will do a minuscule lunch menu with this on it.

Medley incl. ketchup, mayo and pineapple!

Yes, that is a hamburger and fried egg, soaking in some kind of unidentifiable brown sauce, covered in ketchup and mayonnaise, served with a classic combination of rice, chips, salad and a pineapple slice. All of this is very typical of the food that lines the streets in Japan, except perhaps the pineapple slice, but I like the extra-quirky edge it gives that dish. Very original indeed.

Osakan speciality

I don’t quite know what this….or maybe I don’t want to know what this is. All I know is that it’s covered in a sweet sauce, with mayonnaise and mustard on top. I assume it’s a kind of okonomiyaki (a cabbage pancake), layered with pork and noodles and all the usual trimmings.

Next on my hit list are the places that appeal to the Japanese imagination of Western food. Take a look at “Vie de France”, attempting to appeal to the traditional French bakery. And then take a look at what they’re selling in the window…

French Life....starts here......
Frankfurter encased in plasticky, sweet bread, with ketchup (or sorry, is that la sauce tomate?)

Calle also discovered that Sweden actually has a million multi-coloured ice-cream flavours. He obviously hasn’t been getting out enough back at home.

The multi-coloured ice-cream land of Sweden

As for our dinner, we decided to try an Osakan izakaya.

The place: Torihime Oriental Re-Mix
The food: Standard izakaya (tapas style eating), with an emphasis on chicken (torihime translates as “Chicken Princess” which doesn’t sound quite so grand in English!)

The context: We needed food, we wanted izakaya atmosphere and we didn’t want a chain. That left us with little choice as we were stuck around the Umeda station area. But then our eyes were drawn to a very popular little place. We had to queue to get seated.

Torihime Oriental

The atmosphere was spot on. The food we saw whizz past us looked delicious. I was ready for a treat. Check out some of the dishes we ordered:

Strange version of potato salad - mashed with fish egg sauce
"Fried potatoes"
Pumpkin curry
Yakitori - grilled chicken. And some bacon too!

Looks great, right? WRONG! The “potato salad”, which incidentally involved MASHED potatoes, tasted of nothing, despite having various things mashed into it and being topped with a creamy fish egg sauce. The grilled chicken was so bland I was amazed they had applied any tare (sauce) at all.

To rub salt in the wound, it was expensive compared to other izakaya. There was also a hidden table charge of 500 円.

Overall: 2/5

Don’t waste your time with a place that’s obviously trading on a trendy reputation and prime location.

Food quality 2/5 – Bland. Average at best.

Value for money 1/5 – Hidden cover charge and high prices for bad food. No thank you.

Atmosphere – 5/5 – Credit when credit is due. It had a great interior and was buzzing without being too raucous and loud. Good for both intimate and social dining occasions.

Service 2.5/5 – Slow on bringing the food and a bit of a “drop-and-run” attitude.

NB: I PROMISE A NICE REVIEW SOON. I’ve actually found a really amazing izakaya I want to write about 🙂

Don’t do that to my taste-buds!

Don’t do that to my taste-buds!

That was the result of our lunch during our trip to Arashiyama to see the momiji. Firstly, I should say that I’m convinced there is a ginger conspiracy. People serving food around Arashiyama that day must have a thought process which goes something like the following: “Look at all the red leaves. So much red and orange. Imagine if all these crowds of people had hair that colour. Ginger hair. Ginger spice. Yes, let’s add lots of ginger to everything.” Now I don’t dislike ginger (or gingers for that matter!) but read on….

I arrived at Arashiyama already starving. The stomach didn’t care about the view; it cared about this big, fat nikuman. This is a steamed bun filled with pork, as pictured below:


I thought that this would be similar to baozi in China, which are simply delicious. I used to eat three for breakfast when I was teaching out there in February (NB: the baozi were NOT as big as the one in the picture!)

As soon as I saw the nikuman, the memories of China came flooding back and my stomach started calling for it, for its long lost love. And at 250円, I really hoped it would be delicious.

Nope, it had been Japanacised. No juicyness. Very sweet. Too much ginger. I couldn’t even finish it.

Needless to say, after that experience I hoped for a very good lunch. The streets were seething with people and the restaurants were seething with tourist prices. Just off the main drag, we managed to find a bakery-café, which did a pasta lunch deal that included coffee and dessert for 950円-not bad. Shame about the 30mins+ spent waiting to get into it.

The place: Doppo
The food: Pasta lunch deal

Below is a picture of the starters. A fresh salad, tartly dressed. Something squidgy and fishy that I didn’t fancy. Bread and sweet potato bread, which both tasted the same – bland. A soup that was really quite delicious but I can’t remember what is was. Do you know why? The memories of this part of the meal have been trampled on and murdered by what I was served next.

Starters, incl. purple sweet potato bread

How could pasta – spaghetti even – cause this much havoc? You may well ask…

I ordered a bacon and pumpkin spaghetti dish. Should have been delicious – bacon goes very well with sweet vegetables (my mother makes a delicious bacon, butternut squash and feta linguine).  But when I was served it, the sauce itself looked puzzling.


Yes, the sauce equated to not much more than a gelatinous coating. But that was a minor offence compared to the EXTREMELY LARGE PIECES OF GINGER THAT WENT WITH NOTHING IN THE DISH!! Would you put bacon and ginger together? Not particularly! Pumpkin and ginger maybe? No!

Just when I got a tasty chunk of bacon or pumpkin, a nasty piece of ginger came along and jarred through the mouthful. It was edible but it messed with my taste-buds terribly! The dessert didn’t help.

Oh yes, it looks like a harmless piece of vanilla pudding, doesn’t it? Wrong!! It’s covered in a nastily strong citrus sauce that obliterates the vanilla and doesn’t go at all!

Overall 2/5 – The value was great. But do you want to subject your tongue to that?!


I did eat something that wasn’t gingered up that day. The entrance fee to Okochi Sanso included tea and a Japanese sweet. And if there’s one thing the Japanese love more than ginger, than it’s macha (Japanese green tea). Potent and bitter, it’s not my cup of tea (*cringe*) but for warming me up under the bright red leaves, it was perfect.

Macha sweet/biscuit


YO! Sushi* may have invaded the high streets of the UK but it’s no match for these gigantic roadside sushi stops that are peppered across Japan. A warehouse-sized room, at least 50m of conveyor belt and only 100円 a plate – it was no surprise this place was packed.

*YO! Sushi puzzles me. The food goes round and round looking far from appetising as bored-looking workers stand in the centre of the conveyor belt, clumsily shoving more sushi together. However, the name of it puzzles me more. It appears as if they decided that “Yo” sounded vaguely Japanese but by adding an exclamation mark, they could turn it black-rapper-gangster-style – an amazing two-in-one combination.

Pizza Ball House and Other Osakan Eateries

According to my Lonely Planet, Osaka is renowned for good eateries. And whilst that statement might be true, after interrailing round Eastern Europe in the summer, I don’t trust anywhere Lonely Planet recommends.

So we wandered the streets at leisure, stopping to laugh at all the ridiculous places we found. Here they are, in ascending order of amusement:

1. Snack Donkey

Snack Donkey has squeezed itself down a dank-looking alley, to serve you God knows what.

Snack Donkey or Snack Donkey

2. Eat Man

Really? Eat a man? Cannibalism? Or is this a case of punctuation – Eat, Man!

24hr cannibalism

3. Pizza Ball House

This serves takoyaki (fried octopus balls). Maybe it serves pizza as well. But it definitely does not serve pizza balls. The octopus looks just as confused as we were.

Octopus: "Huh? They wanna eat me?"

4. Far D

Mmm, which would you choose?

Take a look at this food. Yes that is an omelette stuffed with rice, served with a hamburger and a pile of spaghetti. Yes, the Japanese have VERY different tastes when it comes to what flavours they believe fit together.

However, look at this preposterous claim:

The Natural & safe cooking from style of Canterbury

From Canterbury? Yes, I believe the Archbishop eats that dish daily.

But on to our actual lunch restaurant….

The place: Buzz Brasserie & Wine Café 
The food: faux-European 

We spied this stylish place straight after crossing the road from Umeda Hankyu station and later returned to it hungrily to snap up what we thought was a 1,500円 lunch deal. And European food! I get so sick of eating rice, rice, rice and pickles. Hooray for chips and steamed veg!

Although on the main road and at the beginning of a rather dirty “shopping” arcade, Buzz was clean and quiet inside – despite the fact it was packed with people.

They had three options: lunch deal 1 (hamburger), lunch deal 2 (spaghetti carbonara) and lunch deal 3 (mustard chicken). I eyed the room eager to spot what everyone else was eating. I could only see hamburgers but didn’t really fancy it as it came covered in thick tomato-based sauce. Nor did I fancy the pasta because Japanese pasta is notoriously bizarre (I ignored my own reservations just the other day and regretted it – post coming soon). So I ordered the chicken. Mistake. If no-one else in the room was eating it, then there’s probably a reason.

It wasn’t terrible. But the mustard sauce was hardly complex in the flavours employed, and the meat itself was rubbery.

Mustard chicken

Calle took the pasta, which was “all right, especially for Japanese pasta”, and given that they’d adapted it to make it veggie.

Spaghetti with veg and salad and chips!

However, it really was amazing to have steamed vegetables!! And chips!

Plus the appetisers were delicious, and steeped in olive oil and basil and oregano, which are rare finds in Japanese food.

The dessert was also good – not the tastiest brownie in the world, and definitely not home-made, but the fresh fruit provided a delicious contrast.

Gratuitous shot of the super-fancy coffee cup:

Overall 3.5/5

Visit for relatively well-priced and above average “Western” food.

Food quality 3/5 – Pretty good for the price. Given the quality of ingredients and effort that had done into the appetisers, the rubbery chicken was the biggest disappointment. My ice coffee was also undrinkable – no idea what they did to it.

Value for money 3/5 –  let down by not including the dessert in the price. They slapped a cheeky 300円 extra on for it!

Atmosphere 4/5 – Busy yet quiet. Pleasant, stylish interior. Just enough space between tables so as not to feel uncomfortable.

Service 5/5 – Very helpful and obliging. Water glasses were continuously refilled. The till lady then directed us to the nearest cash machine.

How to find it

See this map on their website:

Turns out they also have a restaurant in Tokyo too:

The perfect pot of steaming hot…

…UDON! That’s what I ate during a trip out “hiking” last weekend. At this time of year, everyone goes autumn foliage crazy in Japan – everyone wants to see the momiji or kouyou. We decided to venture to Kibune and Kurama in the north of Kyoto.

It turned out that we were a little too early as most of the leaves were still green:

Kibune is still green

The reddest thing we saw was this fellow – who is actually a tengu, a dangerous mountain and forest spirit. I would definitely run if I bumped into one of these at night.

What a mighty fine nose he has...

We attempted some serious climbing up a very steep path and crazy roots.

Jungle roots
The path was steep....
The view from My Kurama

The views were worth it. But it was just as well we’d manage to find some udon before we went up there. All the restaurants in Kibune were expensive kaiseki places which charged over 3,000円 for a meal, which contained a variety of dishes that we didn’t want to eat.

Fortunately, we were lucky to spot an udon and soba place, where you could sit on little benches outside, spying on the street:

Kibune village
Steaming hot kitsune udon

I got a steaming hot bowl of kitsune udon – that is fried sliced tofu, floating with thick udon noodles in a dashi (fish stock) broth. It was only 500円 and I got myself a shiitake mushroom and processed fish sausage too! (I was more excited about the former than the latter to be honest!) Although I’ve never been too keen on “wet” noodles, it was the perfect dish to warm me up and give me just the right amount of energy for the climb. I discovered after my trip to Fushimi Inari that it’s not a good idea to eat too much if you plan on climbing anything!