The Urban Housewife
17Nov/09

Kick back in Kyoto!

While Tokyo is the fast paced part of Japan, after a quick Shinkansen ride you can visit Kyoto, the slower paced city with a rich history & many beautiful sights.

Healthy Tofu Hamburg, Moco Loco Style (?!) at mumokutekiOn our first day in Kyoto, we walked through Nishiki Market, an interesting place to see traditional Japanese foods. Although it's not very vegan friendly, we stopped for some Daifuku filled with chestnut paste, yum! Next, we headed to the nearby mumokuteki, a macrobiotic cafe & shop that's not vegan, but very vegan friendly with about 1/3 of the savory menu & all the desserts being vegan. Delicious Parfait at mumokutekiOn our 1st visit, I started with a Strawberry Shake which was thick, not too sweet, & hit the spot. As an entree, I had a Brown Curry that came with assorted vegetables & mushrooms in a nice thick curry sauce. Ryan had the "Healthy Tofu Hamburg Patties, Moco Loco Style" which was a hilarious name, but was brown rice, salad, & two fried tofu patties topped in a creamy tofu dressing. Not one to pass up dessert, I had an excellent Parfait with their tasty soy ice cream layered with corn flakes, dried fruit, cake pieces, dango, fruit sauce, & a cookie! Let's just say I enjoyed more than one of these in Kyoto! On another trip we shared the Soymilk Ramen, which was creamy & delicious, with noodles, cabbage, mushrooms, & other vegetables floating in it. For Dessert, I had a Tiramisu Parfait! This tasty treat was a base of coffee jelly, with pieces of cheesecake, soy soft serve, & soft, spongy Tiramisu on top. It had great flavor & wasn't too sweet or over the top. Very good!

Assorted items from Veggie SweetsThe next day we had a series of dining mishaps that proved in Japan, you should call ahead to see if a restaurant is open! Holidays & unexpected closures seem to happen fairly often, so be prepared & don't go to 4 places that aren't open like us. One of the places we went to that's not actually open to the public was Veggie Sweets. Our vegan guide made it sound like we could dine there, but we scared the daylights out of the baker when we opened her door as she was filling custom orders. My plate at ObanzaiShe was kind enough to let us buy a piece of Tofu Cheesecake, & various cookies, & we went on our way.

After all the closures, Obanzai came to the rescue! We weren't thrilled by the 2100 yen price tag, or the food not being all vegan, but at that point, it was 8pm & we were hungry! The owner was kind enough to show us what was vegan, which turned out to be about 75% of the buffet. We dined on many dishes from excellent pickled tofu with enoki mushrooms & cucumbers, to an assortment of vegetable based dishes, tasty croquettes, veggie nuggets, & fresh fruit. Fresh food continued to come out while we were dining, so we grabbed another round of food before heading out. A friend who also dined here said the lunch buffet is a better option & worth the much lower price, so I suggest lunch, if you're in the area.Rock and Do Pizza

On another evening, we enjoyed the nighttime view of the Yasaka Pagoda, as we walked to a quiet area near Gion to go to the all vegan cafe, Rock & Do. We were greeted by the very friendly owner who helped us navigate the small menu in English & we made our selections. To start, Ryan enjoyed a Teriyaki Soy Chicken wrap, which was wrapped in a flour tortilla, which was tasty, albeit small. I opted for the Taco Rice Curry which was an amazing, flavorful creamy curry sauce with brown rice, taco seasonings & crunchy toppings like lettuce & tomato. We finished with the Pizza which was on a very thin flatbread crust & topped with chunks of tomatoes, zucchini, red & green peppers, & sesame seeds, with both a creamy & a teriyaki sauce. Once again, Japanese pizza is not comparable to the pizza American's churn out, but this unique blend of ingredients was great!Cafe Proverbs 15:17 Tofu Dengaku

The next afternoon, we rented bicycles, the transportation of choice for many Japanese people, & made our way down the river & over near Kyoto University, to meet Gabrielle at Cafe Proverbs 15:17. The menu is 100% vegan, with a English menu option, so we were in heaven as we viewed all our options! We ordered quite a bit of food, but the timing was erratic, so it didn't come in any particular order. Teriyaki Tempeh Sandwich at Cafe Proverbs 15:17The Tofu Dengaku was soft, light tofu in a miso, sesame sauce with a side of baked vegetables & a salad. Ryan loved the creamy & flavorful Teriyaki Tempeh Sandwich piled with avocado, pickles, & vegetables so much, he ordered a 2nd one! I opted for the Soymilk Ramen, which took so long to come out, they gave me a free muffin that unfortunately, wasn't very good. When my Ramen finally arrived, I enjoyed the creamy, light flavored, but hearty broth with roasted root vegetables & greens, although I preferred the one at mumokuteki. For dessert, I had a Parfait with sweet potato ice cream, chestnut cream, & pieces of caramel apple which was pretty good, but quite small. I also was intrigued by the "Kyo-kinako" Soybean Flour ice cream, so I had some of it along with a scoop of Caramel ice cream, topped in Tofu Cream. The Soybean Flour ice cream was surprisingly good & not too sweet, like most Japanese desserts.

Dinner set at MikoanAfter more bike riding, a costume parade at the Heian Shrine, & a trip down the Philosopher's Walk to Ginkaku-ji, we wandered back to Gion to eat at Mikoan. While a bit hard to find, this little vegan counter cafe with Buddhist principals is worth the search. It's very homestyle, you almost feel like you're entering someone's house, but that means the food will be excellent, right?! Beware; if you don't like cats, this is not the place for you. The cats at Mikoan!We were thrilled to meet a family of Tabby cats that live at Mikoan, including a very tiny kitten that kissed me on the nose & stole my heart! No English is spoken, but order the dinner set, which is very reasonably priced, & you'll be set! The woman behind the counter whipped up two huge meal sets for us, with different dishes, so we could share! We loved everything from the mild vegetable soup, bean sprout salad, water spinach with yuba, pickled spicy vegetables, & creamy enoki with mixed vegetables, to the perfect fried balls of deliciousness & fried rolls filled with what we think was pumpkin, & tofu that tasted like sour cream & chives! If you don't mind a very intimate, cluttered setting, with a lovely owner, & some sweet cats, get yourself to Mikoan!Fresh Yuba!

On our last day, we treated ourselves to a Buddhist temple meal or Shojin Ryori, which are typically all vegan with the exception of some adding fish ingredients in recent years. Before heading to the temple, I couldn't help but marvel as a man made fresh Yuba, so I had to purchase some. It was amazing! Layer upon layer of fresh tofu skin folded in squares made it's way in to my tummy, as soy milk dripped from it. Beware the accompanying soy sauce, it contains fish! The dreaded fish sauce strikes again! Luckily, this creamy treat needs no sauce.

Shigetsu, Shorin RyoriWe headed in to the grounds of Tenryuji Temple to Shigetsu, one of the two Shojin Ryori dining establishments on site, & a suggestion of Mel from veglicious. This was our 2nd attempt to dine here, after they were booked for the day earlier in the week, so make reservations! The Snow meal at 3000 yen is very inexpensive for Shojin Ryori & is plenty of food. Amazing Sesame Tofu from ShigetsuWe enjoyed sitting on the tatami mats, overlooking a beautiful garden & koi pond as we dined on an assortment of dishes like greens in a creamy sesame sauce, potato salad, tofu & yuba soup, a tofu donut with mushrooms, potato with ginger, pickled ginger with beets, & green tea mochi. We also had a strange, gelatinous soup with mushrooms & fried tofu suspended in it that we weren't sure how we should feel about. The highlight was the perfect sesame tofu in shoyu, which was so fresh & delicious, we could have eaten it forever! I highly suggest treating yourself to Shojin Ryoji & Kyoto is a great place to do so!

I would say Kyoto is a "must see" in Japan, it's full of amazing views & has a great relaxed feel to it. The former capital of Japan, there's no shortage of historic sights to take in & of course, delicious food! We love Kyoto!

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