Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fujita, Kyoto (藤田)

Sure, this was the third day in a row that we visited Pontocho, but what the hey? Fujita is a pleasantly reserved-looking traditional place up near the top of the alley, with a youngish master but a feeling of long history. The food was decent; this would be OK for a lunch, but if I was really planning a food itinerary, I'd find a place to get a luxury bento out of the city grid and among the temples, overlooking a garden and pond.

One fun thing is that the counter was so high - up 4 or 5 steps from the entrance, so you towered above the chefs and brushed the ceiling before sitting down on the floor at eye level with the food.

The basic lunch items were variations on Kyoto food. Over 4 options, you could have the basic bento, the tofu-yuba set (which upgraded some bento items slightly, e.g., sashimi of yellowtail instead of tuna, and added a few dishes like fresh tofu), and then kaiseki lunches that appeared simply to serve everything from the two sets together and in sequence (with some upgrades, I guess).

Starter yuba tofu. Looks sweet, but isn't. Looks boring, but wasn't!

Starter salad - crab and lightly-pickled vegetables. Some would say "This worked well to activate my palate." I am not among them. But it was tasty.

Yuba-tofu set ingredients (in addition to the fresh tofu you'll see below). The usual suspects appear here - kounter-klockwise from back left, there's salmon eggs with grated radish, boiled pumpkin, roasted fu (wheat gluten) with sweet miso sauce, scrambled egg, and minced cooked duck.

Kamogawa bento, basically the same ingredients except the fried tofu skin bits in the basket and the sashimi in the front (sashimi for the above set was a separate plate).

Fresh tofu, still warm, just set. Fresh tofu is really nice. You should try it some time. I wonder what tofu is like in America; certainly I don't remember it with any fondness, but there are some times in Japan when I eat tofu and just think "Wow, that was good." I know - tofu!

The master was pretty chatty and amused by all the picture-taking - you can see him smiling here as I lined up this shot of 6 dishes being served to us at once. It's not that common for the master to be a good conversationalist and work hard at it (i.e., clearly opening conversational lines with the guests while he's slicing radishes), so appreciate it when you can. He helped the older women next to us by finding the phone number of a restaurant they wanted to visit for dinner.

Croquette in thick, starchy sauce, which came with the rice, soup and pickles. Nice work on the frying and everything, buddy.

What, no simple, humble dessert? I kid, I kid. There was some ice cream that I didn't photograph.

With that, we were back on the street. As is realtively common in small places, the master came out with us and stayed outside until we were out of sight. It's pretty embarassing, really.

Daytime in Pontocho is a little weird.

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