April 13, 2017

One of the greatest adventures you can have in Kyoto is visiting the tiny restaurants found along the Kamo River in the Gion District. The eateries here keep their culinary secrets hidden behind hermetic facades, tinted windows and closed doors. In fact, restaurants are often hard to spot. Most likely there is a Noren (traditional curtain with slits) above the door, and sometimes a humble lantern sheds a dim light on a small menu.

I stand in front of a mysterious establishment, trying to imagine what it looks like inside as I muster all my courage to enter. I slide the door open and a server immediately addresses me with a confusing phrase in Japanese. A few heads turn towards me. Did he just say “sorry, we are full” or “I’ll be right with you”? Judging by the way he’s looking at me, I gather there’s no room for me. Back to square one! I go through the same scenario several times, until finally a smiling waiter offers an inviting gesture that signals me in.

The restaurant is lit by just a few candles. I sit at the bar. While possibly holding the menu upside down, I use my chopstick to point at indecipherable characters to order... something. Who knows what!? I certainly don’t. A bowl of ramen appears in front of me (phew!). It has meat, fish, eggs, mushrooms and a mysterious jelly of some sort. Is it a veggie? Something from the sea? Some sort of paste? The more I think about it, the less sure I am. Either way, it doesn’t taste that bad!

My focus on this mystery jelly thing is interrupted by the waiter placing some sake on the table. The tiny glass is served inside a wooden box that’s filled with a transparent liquid. I assume it’s water, to keep my drink fresh. When I order a second glass, all becomes clear. The waitress generously pours sake into my glass until it overflows into the box. I guess I was getting more drink for my dollar.

I was a little bit tipsy by the time I asked for the bill, but I had a full belly and a happy heart. This adventure was not an easy one, but it was definitely worth it!

You may also like to read

HI Vancouver Jericho Beach celebrates its 50th birthday

Learn more the hostel's vibrant history as an air force base, a hippie haven and, most of all, a home away from home 

July 06, 2021
...

The best hostels for working remote in Canada

Now that you've mastered the art of working remote, it's time to take your skills on the road. 

July 05, 2021
...

Get to know Whistler beyond the village

Hikes, bike rides, lakes and a ton of adventures are waiting for you outside the village gates up in Whistler 

July 05, 2021
...