Friday, March 18, 2011

Nezameya, Kyoto (祢ざめ家)

Not everyone is fascinated by Fushimi Inari, Japan's greatest shrine to the fox god. Some people, in fact, just get sleepy walking through all those gates. For propriety, you're supposed to walk through them off-center (humble), and bow as well, but with thousands of gates, it ain't happening. In fact, it never happens. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've seen a shrine-goer bow when passing through a normal torii.

For the people that are sleepy, there's a whole town of attractive destinations for lunch.

The oldest of which, more than likely, is Nezameya - in business since 1592. They offer much the same menu as the other places on this touristy street in front of the shrine entrance: grilled birds, grilled eels, and special inari-themed dishes to go with the inari shrine.

And they all do the grilling on the street, like the guy to the right in this shot. Inside is pleasantly dark and cool and light wood and green-gray walls, like thousands of other traditional restaurants and country-style homes.

We had a multi-course tasting feast of all the specialties. Actually I was just excited to be on vacation and in a different food city, and we ordered one of everything.

Like the kitsune udon (kitsune being 'fox', and inari being the fox god), which is some quite good udon (a little rough, looking hand-cut) and very nice soup, with squares of the thin fried tofu that's also used to make...

inari sushi. I've always loved these; it's the sweet-and-sour-ness of the vinegar rice and the syrup-soaked fried tofu packets. Actually it's just the sweetness. These were genuinely some of the best I can remember; usually you get these as the junk item in a cheap bento or boxed sushi lunch. Here they put some care into it.

[Interestingly, a wizened old mama scoffed at my question later this evening about whether these were invented in Fushimi. Unlikely, it seems.]

Not sure why pressed sushi of pickled mackerel is also a specialty here, but with it being one of my favorite things, it was an easy entry into the lunch parade. [And by the way, if you're worried about the calories, we walked literally around 4 hours each day, including 2 hours up and down the hillsof Inari Mountain just before lunch.] Too much rice, but good fish and good pickling.

Earlier I mentioned 'grilled birds', but I was teasing you. You thought that meant chicken, right? How's this for odd - many of the little souvenir stands and tourist restaurants also had displays of freshly-grilled quails outside. At Nezameya, you can get bone-in or boned; I regretted my decision to get bone-in because it's fiddly and also because they seem to grill things wit a blacknessss, if you take my meaning. This was not the best quail I've ever eaten. It wasn't even that satisfying.

So there are satisfying lunches, and there are tasty lunches, and there are lunches after which you can say "Hey, I just ate a whole grilled sparrow, bones and all."

Guess which one this was.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my, now there's a place I will visit, pickled mackerel I'll fill up on just that, forget the quail. Chicken or salmon yakitori? No barbecued fox I suppose?