Gion, a neighborhood famous for its geisha houses, was supposed to be having its huge annual festival, but things were pretty much rained out that night. Still, I wandered around the dark, deserted streets and saw three geisha in the span of about 15 minutes. I practically ran into one of them as she came around from the other side of a shrine I was passing. I’m sure all the maiko-san (the geisha-in-training, who wear bright colors and white face paint) had to stay inside so their makeup wouldn’t melt. Anyway, the rain was starting to feel chilly, and my stomach was rumbling, so I ducked into Mimasuya, on the narrow, pedestrian-only street running down Pontocho. The restaurant served modern Kyoto cuisine and local sake. Here’s some lovely duck with eggplant (the ubiquitous summer vegetable in Japan), peppers, and sesame seeds.
A piping hot gratin with scallops and nama-fu (soft, kind of chewy wheat gluten that I have a thing for).
The next night, I had dinner served in my room. They didn’t give me a menu or I.D. anything for me, but I’ve eaten enough of this stuff before to figure out what most of it was. Clockwise, from the top: Ayu (a kind of river fish) wrapped in leaves, served with a bright pink ginger shoot; sashimi; a pickled fish and cucumbers, with fish wrapped in yuba (tofu skin); pickles; a mystery dish . . .
The mystery dish revealed: Anago (eel) wrapped around cooked gobo (in front), with eggplant-shaped pieces of green and pink nama-fu (they usually serve fu in seasonal shapes and colors). Underneath, there’s another piece of fu, and some eggplant, topped with katsuo-bushi (shaved dried bonito). A few cups of sake equals blurry photo, sorry . . .
A simple soup: clear broth with a tender piece of hamo (this awesome, fluffy fish that’s in season during the summer – it’s bony, so they prepare it with lots of tiny cuts) and a sprig of mitsuba, a refreshing herb, kind of like parsley.
I saw this critter on the roof of a temple, and it made me smile.