The Great Noodle Tour: Noodle Nirvana in Kyoto

One of my favorite afternoons in Tokyo didn’t even take place in Toyko. 

20150424_211442 It took place in Kyoto. We took the bullet train for a very comfortable 2.5 hour ride to one of the oldest preserved cities in Japan. Almost all of Tokyo was destroyed in WWII, so the chance to see the ancient streets, gardens, and temples of Kyoto was something that we couldn’t miss.  20150424_213927 Plus, there is a lady who comes by on the train selling things like Chip Star, green tea ice cream, and Pocari Sweat (a mix between lemon Gatorade and carbonation-free Fresca that my husband found addictive). 20150424_230059 When we arrived at the train station in Kyoto, we were shocked to see that people simply left their backpacks and luggage in the main hall while they shopped or used the facilities. Crime is so low in Japan that it didn’t occur to anyone that someone might try to steal their things. And, indeed, no one did. Amazing. 

20150424_235207 We saw a gorgeous temple. 
20150424_235257 Spied a few women in full, exquisite kimono getup (not geishas, though Kyoto is the epicenter for seeing genuine geishas).
20150424_235353 And decided not to pay for a fortune. We already knew we were pretty lucky. 

Then it was time for lunch. So, we walked down the main drag of Gion, Kyoto’s historic district. And walked. And walked. We must have been on 5th Avenue or something because for 40 minutes we could not find a single place to eat that wasn’t an ice cream or sweets shop. They were all closed or…nonexistant. I was getting hangry. Finally, we found a little udon shop teeming with both tourists and locals and got the last empty table.  20150425_002343 The requisite hot spices (Japanese food is woefully lacking in heat). 20150425_002351 The simple, crowded shop. Don’t even think of trying to order soda here. 
20150425_002610 Accouterments for the soba

Bitter grated radish, sharp green onions, and a tiny quail egg to enrich the dipping sauce. Did you know that a raw egg can enrich a cold sauce? I didn’t!
20150425_002803 Buckwheat soba

So hard to find in NYC. And so amazingly delicious.  20150425_002929 Tempura

20150425_002434 Vegetarian udon with fried tofu and green onions
20150425_003109 The greatest noodles of my life. Yes, I mean that. This is noodle nirvana. Chewy, bouncy, earthy, and profoundly wheaty. They suck up the umami dashi broth and are slippery flavor vehicles. The fried tofu and green onions are nice but not necessary. This is all about that light but fully flavored broth and those thick, wonderful noodles. I never really order udon, but they seemed to be the specialty of this shop and I am so happy that I indulged.  20150425_004248 Wouldn’t you like to know where I went? Well, so would I. We were so hungry, hot, and tired that I didn’t even ask for a business card. This sign is my only clue to this glorious restaurant. I couldn’t even tell you how to get there, except wander around Gion aimlessly, turn down a side street, get lost near somewhat of a red light district, and then it’s on your right hand side. 

Kyoto is a beautiful, historical side trip from Japan. It takes most of the day to get there, walk around a bit, and get back, but it’s worth it. 

And be sure to get the business card if you try some restaurant’s fabulous udon!