Sunday, 11 January 2009

Junsei Restaurant, Kyoto

It's not as common as before but it's still funny how many Westerners have weird ideas of tofu as tasteless non-food that no one would eat out of choice. Even some vegetarians, apparently. In Japan it's another story, where it is happily eaten alongside meat/fish as well as prized in its own right. Kyoto especially has a large number of restaurants specialising in 'yudofu' (湯豆腐/ゆどうふ), mainly in traditional style. It was one of those, Junsei (順正), that we went to for our most expensive meal (¥3000 each)and biggest treat of the trip!

We were just exploring the East Kyoto area walking towards Nanzen-ji Temple and Junsei caught my eyes among the few traditional Japanese restaurants we passed on the way. I remember reading recommendations of the restaurant online, and I was also attracted by its beautiful building. According to the restaurant website, the site was first established as a medical school in the 19th century; it became Junsei after WW2, and much of the original architecture and garden have been retained. I also remember reading how Junsei is famous for their yodofu course, so I guess we thought we just had to try one of the Kyoto specialities. The host that was standing outside the gate had a photo album of the food; we indicated that we would like the yodofu course and he led us through. We had to take off our shoes before entering the Japanese style room. It was around 3 or 4 pm in the afternoon, but there were quite a few other customers there, probably a good sign! We checked the English menu to confirm our choice and ordered the yodofu course from the kimono wearing waitress.

This picture from the website shows the scale of the meal, we didn't get a similar photo as it comes out in stages. Certainly not as many courses as a Kyoto haute cuisine Kaiseki Ryori, but impressive meal nonetheless.

Grilled tofu skewers with miso coating were amazing, possibly the tastiest thing we had:

miso/tofu skewers

Tempura was fried with just the right amount of batter to be nicely crispy but still taste the vegetables:


Some fresh tofu and interesting vegetable assortment:

assorted courses

The centrepiece was the enormous simmering pot of yudofu:

yudofu pot

We ate some of the smaller dishes while the tofu cooks in the pot for a bit. I wasn't quite sure how long we were supposed to wait, but luckily a waitress came and uncovered the pot for us when it was ready to eat!

the pot opens

We dipped into the fresh warm yudofu blocks, which you could add chopped green onions and soy sauce. We happily ate it with white rice and the other dishes, and yes, somehow finished off all of the tofu!

I know tofu doesn't sound like the most exciting thing for some, but the yodofu course at Junsei is not your ordinary tofu! The simplicity of the set showed off the freshness and flavour of superior quality tofu, since much of the flavor of tofu is dependent upon the high quality of the water. I think it's a place where you can convert non-vegetarians or non-tofu believers to enjoy this Kyoto delicacy.

60 Kusakawa-cho, Kyoto
〒606-8437 京都府京都市左京区南禅寺門前
Tel: 075-761-2311

1 comment:

  1. Hey this is Aviva! I've eaten there too-- it was mid-season (spring I think) so we were able to choose hot or cold tofu so me and Izzy got one of each. I was just fantastic and makes me sad everytime I eat sawdust-y tofu in this country.

    This blog is great and I'm bookmarking the websites of all the restaurants I want to try!!