Kyoto: Must-Eat Riverside Wagyu Beef Sukiyaki 京都必吃鴨川和牛壽喜燒

During the five days with my parents in Japan, I wanted to pick one meal and splurge. I was looking for good food and a Japanese experience. Eventually, I decided on sukiyaki at Moritaya’s Kiyamachi branch — Kansai region style of sukiyaki with kuroge wagyu beef, a tatami-floored private dining room, and a view of the Kamogawa River. It was a fantastic lunch that everyone fully enjoyed. The surrounding area is fun to walk around. I definitely recommend this place for a Kyoto trip.

跟爸媽在日本關西的這五天,想安排一餐奢侈一下,要美食又要日式風格 (又吃不起米其林星星京料理),最後選了森田屋木屋町店的壽喜燒 — 關西風格壽喜燒、和式榻塌米包廂、窗外正對鴨川,全家都非常滿意,這一帶又很好逛,很容易排進行程。

On our last day in Kyoto, we took a nice stroll at a serene temple with colorful flags and beautiful fall foliage, went back to the townhouse we rented to pack, scheduled a delivery service for our luggage to get to the Kyoto Station, checked out by phone, and started the rest of the day worry-free. (Check out the townhouse we stayed in.)

To kill some time before our lunch reservation, I came up with an interesting short stop — Honnō-ji Temple (本能寺). This temple was known for a coup that marked an important transfer of power in the 16th century.

在京都的最後一天早上一大清早去沒人的智積院賞楓看和尚,回我們住的町家打包行李,請租屋公司把行李送到他們辦公室,就兩手空空開始今天的行程。(看我們住的包棟町家月輪)

離午餐時間還早,我找了個短小有趣的行程 — 本能寺,本能寺之所以出名是因為織田信長,織田信長從聲勢如日中天準備統一日本到消失在歷史就發生在京都本能寺,劃下日本戰國時代重要的權力轉移。

The broom and replacement brush that Kiki in “Kiki’s Delivery Service” used to fly! 魔女琪琪的掃把和掃把壞掉之後用來飛的刷子!

We took a bus to the Sanjo area and started walking. To our pleasant surprise, we accidentally ran into the mall “Times” designed by the famous architect Tadao Ando!

我們搭公車到三條一帶,走一走意外遇見安藤忠雄設計的親水商場Times!

If you have clicked on other posts about Japan in my blog, you might have read that I ate at a restaurant founded in 1540 and got its name from a famed warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi; and I visited a much less traveled temple that Toyotomi Hideyoshi built in memory of his son and his rival Tokugawa Ieyasu took that from him and gifted it to someone else.

Well, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu, and Oda Nobunaga are the trio of Japan’s “game of thrones” period that lasted from 1467 to 1603 (the Sengoku period). Individually, these three men nearly or actually unified Japan. This temple, Honnō-ji, was about the end of Oda Nobunaga.

從西元1467年 to 1603年是日本Game of  Thrones時代,織田信長、豐臣秀吉、德川家康號稱日本戰國三雄,分別統一或差點統一了群雄割據的日本,本能寺是織田信長被叛變而自殺的地方。

Oda Nobunaga (織田信長) was a powerful warlord who acted as the leader of Japan from 1568 to 1582. He overthrew the previous feudal military dictatorship and conquered most of Japan.

In 1582, Nobunaga was getting close to the last steps of unifying Japan. Most of his samurai generals were all over the place, preoccupied with conquering remaining areas that were not under Nobunaga’s firm control. He ordered his samurai general Akechi Mitsuhide to aid another general with a skirmish. Nobunaga also led a small crew of bodyguards and servants to head the same way. While traveling, he decided to spend a night at his usual stop Honnō-ji.

This general Mitsuhide pretended to follow Nobunaga’s order and marched through Kyoto with an army of some 13,000 soldiers. Before dawn, he announced to the troops “the enemy awaits at Honnō-ji!” (敵は本能寺にあり)

The general’s treachery led to a successful military coup. The army surrounded the temple. Nobunaga understood that it was futile to resist. He committed suicide at the Honnō-ji.

This coup is known as the Honnō-ji incident (本能寺の変).

織田信長推翻前朝封建軍事獨裁的足利幕府,從1568到1582年稱霸日本。1582年,織田信長快要統一日本了,手下大將幾乎都在各地征戰,當時還叫羽柴秀吉的豐臣秀吉也在幫信長打天下,需要軍援,信長派了愛將明智光秀帶一萬三千大軍去幫忙,織田信長自己也帶了一小群保鑣和僕人要去幫忙羽柴秀吉,路上在京都本能寺過夜。

明智光秀路過京都的時候,告訴大軍:敵在本能寺!(敵は本能寺にあり)明智光秀率軍攻打本能寺,織田信長只有一小群保鑣,寡不敵眾,在本能寺自盡。這個翻轉日本戰國權力平衡的叛變叫本能寺之變。

This general staged a successful coup but didn’t get all of his ducks in a row to take the throne. Upon receiving the news, Toyotomi Hideyoshi negotiated a truce with whoever he was fighting against and marched 120 miles in seven days back to fight the traitor. Thirteen days after the coup, the traitor was defeated by Toyotomi Hideyoshi and later died. Toyotomi rose to power. There are so many conspiracy theories about why this general staged the coup. I don’t know much about Japanese history to say which one is more believable.

Some say the temple housed lots of explosives so it was burned to the ground during the conflict. Some say those who conspired together deliberately torched the temple to the ground and relocated Honnō-ji to a new site to bury any evidence there might have been.

Either way, the Honnō-ji we see near Sanjo is the new site. It is not the original temple where Nobunaga committed suicide.

明智光秀成功叛變,但也沒計畫好怎麼奪權,羽柴秀吉從中國地方一路趕回來,194公里行軍只花了七天,本能寺之變十三天後明智光秀就戰敗身亡,羽柴秀吉開始取代織田信長成為日本戰國霸主。

知情者短短十三天內都死光了,明智光秀叛變原因眾說紛紜,有人說本能寺囤了很多彈藥,織田信長被圍攻之時下令放火燒了寺廟,所以原來的本能寺被燒為平地;有人說豐臣秀吉知情,掌權之後,把本能寺夷平並且遷址,毀滅證據。不論如何,這個本能寺不是當年織田信長自盡的原址,是後來搬遷之後再蓋的寺廟。

Four hundred year later in 2017, a beverage company got the descendants of warlord Oda Nobunaga and the traitor general Akechi Mitsuhide together for an advertisement campaign for its green tea! The 17th generation of the Oda family is a figure skating competitor. The descendant of the general is Chris Peppler, a Japanese-American radio personality. (Chris Peppler’s tweet of him wearing a kimono for the tea event.)

After this short detour, we walked towards Moritaya’s Kiyamachi branch for our highly anticipated lunch.

四百年後,2017年,綾鷹的茶做了一個本能寺之變四百年後大和解的廣告,找來織田家第十七代孫和明智光秀的後代一起品茶做廣告。

本能寺旋風之旅之後,我們往森田屋走,吃期待已久的鴨川河畔壽喜燒!

Lunch was sukiyaki. Sukiyaki is a Japanese dish that is prepared by cooking meat (typically thinly sliced beef), vegetables, and other ingredients in a shallow iron pot at the table in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin. After the ingredients are cooked, you dip your food in mixed raw egg and eat it.

Sukiyaki is prepared differently in Kansai or Kinki region (関西) versus Kantō region. Kansai region is the southern-central region of Japan’s main island Honshū that includes Kyoto and Osaka. Kanto region includes Toyko. The biggest difference is that Kanto style sukiyaki simmers ingredients in a broth of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin; Kansai style sukiyaki adds sugar to the hot cast iron pot before they pour a minimal amount of sauce in the pot. The caramelization adds flavor to the food.

關東關西壽喜燒不太一樣,關東壽喜燒比較像在台灣吃到momo paradise那樣,用淺淺的湯汁煮一堆料,關西壽喜燒會先用砂糖下鍋燒,再加一點點醬汁,讓加熱過的砂糖和醬汁裡的醬油焦糖化,再收汁。

I picked one of the most famous Kansai style sukiyaki restaurant, Moritaya (モリタ屋). This restaurant was founded in 1869 as one of the first beef specialty restaurants in Kyoto. Moritaya runs its own farm in the Tanba region of northern Kyoto to raise quality Japanese black cattle for kuroge wagyu.

It operates five locations in Japan. I chose the Kiyamachi (木屋町) location because this restaurant has private dining rooms with tatami floors and a view of the Kamogawa River!

The entrance of this restaurant was easy to miss. You want to enter this narrow hall way in between two storefronts to get to the front door of the restaurant.

我選了關西風格的壽喜燒森田屋 (モリタ屋 / Moritaya),森田屋是明治年間西元1869年創立的京都首家專賣牛肉餐廳,森田屋有自家經營的牧場,在京都北邊的丹波,養丹波黑毛和牛。森田屋在日本有五家餐廳,我選了木屋町店,因為有和式的包廂,又可以看到鴨川。

森田屋木屋町店的入口很不起眼,要穿過兩家店中間的窄窄走道才會到店門口。

The staff was extremely friendly. You will need to take off your shoes and change into slippers because of the tatami floors. The hosting staff even remembered what shoes we wore! When we were leaving, upon seeing the first person in our group, the host grabbed all five pairs of our shoes and neatly laid them out at the door.

進來要脫鞋,換成室內拖鞋,服務人員很親切又很周到,還要負責記得我們穿什麼鞋!我們要離開的時候,門口招待才看到第一個人走出來,馬上拿好我們的五雙鞋子放在門口。

We reserved a private dining room that faced the river. The restaurant does not take special request but would note it.

我們訂了一間包廂,雖然不能指定要面對鴨川,但訂位的服務生還是有做個註記。

The serving staff came in to take our orders. They also prepare food at the table for you.

森田屋的壽喜燒是服務生在桌邊幫你煮好。

The beef can prepared in one of the four styles: sukiyaki, shabushabu (like a hot pot), oiru-yaki or steak. Moritaya offered four tiers of sets. The differences were the quality of wagyu beef and side dishes.

We ordered four sets of sukiyaki, three of the cheapest tier and one of the meddle tier. I didn’t think Aaron would eat raw eggs so I ordered him a oiru-yaki. All meal sets came with an appetizer, tea, main dish, and seasonal fruits.

From the picture below, you can clearly see the difference between the cheapest and the one level up cut of beef. More money means more evenly distributed beautiful marble pattern of fat. And we surely tasted the difference. It was worth spending the extra money to try the higher quality wagyu beef.

森田屋有四種料理:壽喜燒、涮涮鍋、陶板燒、牛排,每一種餐點有四個等級,是肉的品質和副餐的等級不同。我們五個人點了四份壽喜燒和一份陶板燒,壽喜燒有三份是最便宜的“竹”,一份是高一等級的“松”,想說Aaron應該不敢吃生蛋,所以點了陶板燒給他。主餐都有附開胃菜、茶、和餐後水果。

下面這張照片可以看出來肉的等級真的有差啊,高檔一點的黑毛和牛油花分布比較均勻,連節儉如我爸都覺得多花一點錢吃厲害一點的肉比較值得。

The beef for sukiyaki was thinly sliced. Oiruyaki came with small pieces of steak.

壽喜燒的牛肉是超大張薄肉片,陶板燒的是小塊牛排。

Then the show started. Aaron’s grill was much less eventful, and yet the server certainly treated all the ingredients with care. His dipping sauce was a mixture of ground daikon and ginger topped with probably seven spice and what seemed like a Japanese light soy sauce.

陶板燒的過程非常樸實,但服務生姊姊也真的太細心秀氣了吧,每一樣食材都慢慢好好煎。陶板燒的沾醬好像是薑味蘿蔔泥加上日式醬油再撒七味粉。

Our sukiyaki was much more exciting. The waitress started with coating the cast iron pot with beef fat. She then spread a thin layer of sugar on the pot. She cooked the beef and then drizzled some soy sauce and mirin mixture in the pot. The heated sugar and soy sauce quickly caramelized. Then she reached for our individual bowls of egg mixture and placed one slice of beef for each person in our own bowl.

重頭戲壽喜燒太興奮了都沒拍到步驟,服務生姊姊會先在鐵鍋上放牛的肥油,灑上一層白糖,再開始煎牛肉,煎一陣子再倒一點醬汁進鍋子裡,加熱過的砂糖和醬油味醂開始在鍋裡焦糖化,服務生會夾一人一片肉,直接放到打散生蛋的碗裡。

 

She made the fancier beef for the first round. It was melt in your mouth quality! So smooth and tender!

Aaron normally hates eggs, not to mention raw egg. This sukiyaki was so good that he in fact loved my raw egg covered beef more than his steak.

After one round of meat, the waitress put all the meat, green onion, onion, burdock, tofu, and konjac noodles in the iron pot to cook in a thin layer of sauce.

第一輪是高檔的肉,裹了蛋汁之後好滑順,肉好嫩!配飯超好吃!Aaron明明超怕生蛋,結果他竟然愛壽喜燒勝於陶板燒。

吃完一輪肉之後,服務生把其他配菜加進去煮。

We asked, and the waitress was able to tell us the origins in Japan where each vegetable was harvested. My favorite was the almost leek size green onion. It was so flavorful and sweet! My second favorite was the edible burdock. I don’t know what people call it in English: lappa, greater burdock, edible burdock… It’s the root of some plant in the sunflower family and it’s very common in Japan and Taiwan.

The meal was served with rice and hōjicha, oven roasted Japanese green tea. It also comes with different kinds of pickled veggies because pickled food is what Kyoto is known for. The pile at the upper rights corner is dried fish. One of the traditional dish in Kyoto is chirimen sansho — dried whitebaits with Japanese pepper, which tasted like capers to me. I realized I didn’t like the darker color miso in the Kansai region.

A tip that lots of people don’t know about: towards the end of the meal, when you no longer have any grilled ingredients to dip in the egg, lots of Japanese people would pour the remaining egg mixture in the bowl to the bowl of rice, stir it up, and eat the rest of the rice and egg that way. It’s worth a try. I liked it.

服務生竟然可以一樣一樣告訴我們每種食材的產地,我最愛的是大蔥,也太好吃了吧!牛蒡也很不錯。

主餐配焙茶,飯後水果配綠茶。除了飯之外,還有一小盤京都漬物,後來去錦市場一直指著一桶一桶漬菜說我們中午有吃這個,新發現是關西的味增湯味道好奇怪…

吃到最後還有飯的話,記得把剩下的蛋汁倒到飯碗裡拌一拌,很多日本人會這樣吃。

 

Lunch is cheaper than dinner. Lunch sets range from 4,800 to 7,500 yen. Dinner sets range from 5,300 to 7,800 yen with a premium set that costs 10,000 yen.

This branch has traditional tatami private dining rooms. (Click to see some of the seating situation at this riverside branch.) In summer, Moritaya’s Kiyamachi branch offers “kawayuka” (納涼床) style seating — outdoors tables on an elevated terrace near or over the river. The downside is that this location takes reservation only over the phone.

An alternative is the Kyoto Isetan mall location where you can see the Kyoto tower. Pricing is different. You can make reservation online on Gnavi.

Another restaurant for fancy sukiyaki is Mishima-tei (三鳩亭). I didn’t get to try both so can’t tell you which is better.

壽喜燒還是吃午餐比較便宜,森田屋木屋町的午餐是4800-7500日幣,晚餐5300-7800日幣,晚餐的特上和牛是一萬日幣。木屋町店有和式的包廂,夏天還有鴨川納涼床的室外座位,缺點是只能電話訂位。森田屋京都伊勢丹店也是個不錯的選擇,窗外看出去是京都塔,可以在Gnavi網路訂位。另外也是百年老店的還有三鳩亭。

Like many stores, Moritaya set a neatly shaped pile of salt outside at the front door. It’s for good luck and good business. There are two explanations for this practice. Number one: salt can purify. Setting a pile of salt at the door can ward off evil spirits and offset negative energy. The second one: Legend has it that there was a Chinese emperor who visited a red light district on a carriage. A hooker set outside some salt. The oxen stopped to lick the salt, and the hooker got the business. Today, businesses leave salt beside the door to attract customers.

餐廳門口左右各放一堆小鹽山,我們還特地查了這是什麼意思,原來是為了驅邪避凶或者招攬生意,有一說是鹽可以淨化,放鹽在門口可以驅除邪靈或消除負能量,另一種說法是,相傳古代中國皇帝坐牛車去紅燈區,妓女在門口放鹽,牛停下來舔鹽巴,皇帝哪裡也去不了,妓女就有生意上門,所以現在的店會在門口放鹽招攬生意。

Right next to the sukiyaki place on your left is a famous Japanese sweet treats shop.

There’s a lot to do in this area: the Teramachi (寺町通) and Shinkyogoku (新京極通) shopping streets, the Shijō Kawaramachi shopping district, and the Nishiki Market are all within walking distance.

森田屋隔壁就是有名的紅豆餡蕨餅月餅家直正,木屋町附近很好逛,寺町通和新京極通都很近。

We got a single order of this cinnamon-y yam sweet treat from 小松屋, saw a cool store that sells firefighter-branded clothing and bought a souvenir for our volunteer firefighter friend, and walked around a traditional stationary shop Kyukyodo (鳩居堂).

我們在小松屋買了這個肉桂味的地瓜燒,附近的消防隊員風服飾店買了小孩的東西送給我們的義消朋友,逛了一下傳統文具店鳩居堂。

Then we strolled along the Takase River which used to be a canal. Before railroad transportation became common, the economy heavily relied on this canal for about three centuries. The walk along this river is a great cherry blossom viewing spot in the spring.

再沿著以前是運河的高瀨川散步,鐵道運輸發達之前,京都的經濟都靠這條運河。這裡秋天還蠻美,春天是個無料又名氣不高的賞櫻景點。

Our afternoon break took place at a unique coffee shop — Traveling Coffee. This coffee shop was housed in a deserted elementary school next to this creek.

下午到高瀨川旁邊這個廢棄小學裡面的咖啡廳Traveling Coffee坐坐,高瀨川在木屋町這一帶秋天蠻漂亮的,春天可是個無料賞櫻景點。

The school was founded in 1869. The existing classroom buildings were constructed in 1928. The school was closed in 1993. Now it served as a community space for movie screening and discussion.

The coffee shop is located inside an old classroom. You can flip through a coffee table book that shows what a 1920’s Japanese elementary school looked like.

立誠小學校1869年創建,現在的大樓是1928年建的,1993年廢校,現在變成社區的藝文活動空間,還有這個非常文青的手沖咖啡店。

 

 

Click here for a Google Map of these places

Honnō-ji 本能寺
Address: 京都市中京区寺町通御池下る下本能寺前町522
kyoto-honnouji.jp/index.html

Moritaya モリタ屋 Kiyamachi (木屋町) branch
Address: 京都市中京区木屋町三条上る上大阪町531
Mon-Fri: 11:30 am – 3:30 pm; 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Sat-Sun: 11:30 am – 11:00 pm
Double check the link below for hours
moritaya-net.com/restaurant/kiyamachi.html

Traveling Coffee
Address: 京都府京都市蛸薬師通河原町東入備前島町310-2
11:00 am – 8:00 pm
Facebook Page

 

 

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