Saturday, November 28, 2009

Yuubi, Kyoto (遊美)

Really outstanding food from a modern kappou in the deep south of Gion - on the street with all the chayas, if that helps. While the atmosphere was a little cold, this was some of the best Japanese food I've ever had.

But first, stone-paved streets with rickshaws! Quel queint!

No pictures were really possible (master's policy, boo on that, I grabbed this one out of spite), but the course proceeded as follows:

Pickled mackerel and seaweed. Extraordinary balance of sweet, salty and sour; he had made a sort of cake out of mackerel filets and konbu, then cut it into cubes for serving.

Raw snapper with miso, fermented beans and myoga. I tell a lie - 'fermented beans' will make you think it was natto, but it was actually moromi miso (barley fermented into the miso). This was a stir-it-together-until-it's-all-brown-and-sticky sort of dish, but tasted wonderful.

Steamed tai fillet covered with grated lotus root, another white-on-white dish with interesting textural contrasts and gentle, complex flavors.

Boiled turtle and daikon with fried fu and turtle egg. First time for me to have turtle, and as expected it's a little collagen-heavy and gross. Especially the skin and layer of gelatin that comes with it. The fried fu (wheat gluten) was marvelous; you think of fu as something boring that floats in your soup occasionally with a rainbow pattern and maple leaf shape, but this was so perfectly fried... Turtle egg could be confused with fish eyeball in size and shape, but was bright yellow.

Sawara saikyo with pickled gobo in sesame. I thought I had good grilled sawara for the first time at lunch on this day, but this was a whole different level of awesomeness. In keeping with the 'rustic kitchen' theme, the grill was basically a box on the counter into which they put some charcoal that had been heated in a pot on the stove.

Whole shrimp potato. Again with the seasonal ingredients - but high quality in this case, peeled, boiled, and thickly sauced.

Lily-root steamed bun filled with duck mince. Looks like a normal steamed bun, but instead of bread it's grated lily root (yurine. No jokes please.). The flavor and texture of that was awesome, as was the taste of the minced duck. Really masterful. But again basically one white lump in a bowl!

Donabe rice with shirasu and pickled konbu. I don't like shirasu, but I liked this. It's also kinda cute how this was served to us and another couple at the same time from the same pot. I always think rice cooks better in larger quantities.

Really incredible persimmon. If not for the overall rusticity of the approach, I would think there was some molecular foolishness at work here. The inside of this persimmon was jellied in much the same was as the apricot I had at Can Roca, but I think it was just a case of ingredient selection and very, very careful ripening. Neat stuff.

Seriously, boo on the no-photos policy. Then again, most of the establishments on the street barely have names, so I guess he's doing us a favor by letting normal people eat there. When you leave, you'll notice that the street is lined with these lanterns on other houses, and occasionally you can hear the sounds of music or talking from inside. The lanterns certainly mean that entertainment is available within (nothing untoward, mind), but outside there's just a name plate. In fact, if you look at this street on a restaurant map, even a good one, you'll get the impression that it's dead and wonder why Yuubi san would be here. In person, you quickly realize that it is in fact crowded with quiet, secretive places of the type that you're always reading about in articles ("introduction-only") but are never seeing. This is where they are.

Secret-secret...I've got a secret...


  1. we'll be needing cameras in fake lapel carnations soon...

  2. Good idea Dom. We actually have a camera about the size of two sticks of gum that we can send Jon. It will be a Christmas present. Takes movies too.

    Jon's Mom and Dad