I had lunch at an exclusive Ryokan yesterday: Ryokan Yoshida Sanso, perched on beautiful Yoshidayama ("mount" Yoshida) in north eastern Kyoto. This place was recommended to me by Hiromi and Dan, as they had stayed there last year. It was a traditional Kaiseki lunch, beautifully prepared and delicious. I wrote down all the dishes and ingredients that I could identify,( but now can't find the paper in all of my notes!). A few of remembrance: A very seasonal green that had been blanched and tossed with fresh octopus with a mustard-miso dressing (which I learned to make later!), delicious nigiri sushi (pictured) with other bite sized morsels - the most delicious hard boiled egg with black tobiko, Miso soup, chawanmushi, cold soba, rice (of course at the end, when I was stuffed), all washed down with delicious and not too sweet plum wine. It was splendid (about 8 courses in all). The bill was about $85 USD and well worth the experience. On the way out, I picked up some lovely sauces and other foodstuffs for sale in the reception area, as this Ryokan is known throughout Japan for its fine cuisine.
The setting was upstairs in a room overlooking the trees (I was by myself). The building consisted of several closed rooms. You never saw any of the other guests or service staff besides your own attendant. It was very quiet except for the mild storm that was blowing outside. Very peaceful and self reflective, as my solo meals have become here in this country where I don't know a soul and don't speak the language. The feeling of the room reminded me of the "treehouse" in the front room upstairs at Chez Panisse. This was compounded by the fact that it was a little stormy and rainy outside, and the trees were blowing against the windows. However, despite being rainy, it was still warm and not unpleasant to walk. It is funny that again, I thought this was just a hop skip and a jump from my hotel. Somehow my instincts (or experience by this time) must have kicked in, because as I exited my hotel to make my way up the hill, I encountered a taxi and without hesitation, jumped in. Let's just say that the walk down the hill back to my hotel took me over two hours! I'm glad i didn't keep them waiting (as they didn't even ask me my name when I arrived, they knew exactly who i was - well, I had made a reservation online a month earlier).
I wandered around shopping for the rest of the afternoon. I'm not the biggest shopper, but somehow being here has changed that (for now). I think it is motivated by wanting to bring back a little piece of Japan to each and every one of you (well, most of you...).
Plus, the design and quality here is unsurpassed (probably). Maybe i'm just in love...
I went to Osaka for a fun Izakaya style dinner (sort of like robata grill style) with Liz' (from South) friend Eduardo's friend Atsuko (a friend of a friend of a friend!). I discovered that Liz and Eduardo had both lived here about 10 years ago. We had a really nice time; she speaks perfect english, having lived in Vancouver for a year while in high school. We discovered we are almost exactly the same age; she is older by 7 days... She is taking me sightseeing to Nara in a couple of days.