Uichiro: Kamo Nanban, Kisetsu-no-gozen, Soba Kanten Jelly (宇一朗 へぎそば・越前そば)
Paku and I were invited to Uichiro, an elegant handmade soba and udon restaurant yesterday by one of Paku’s foodie friends. Uichiro is in a beautiful old machiya (traditional Kyoto house), has excellent food, great atmosphere and very friendly service.
I had kamo nanban (鴨南蛮そば), which is a popular Kyoto dish combining thick sliced roast duck breast, roast scallions and soba. The roast duck lends a distinct, pungent barbecued taste to the dashi soup.
Dessert was a true novelty; soba kanten jelly! Unheard of!
Article Update: Unfortunately, this commendable restaurant has closed. (20.10.2009)
Duck (kamo) is very popular in Kyoto, and is a ‘winter food’ as it is rich and nutritious. Kamo is enjoyed in soup, ham-like thick sliced roast and the luxurious kamo-nabe.
Uichiro’s rendition of kamo nanban is exquisite because the kamo and scallions have been well grilled before added to the dashi soup. Dashi is already rich and pungent thanks to the katsuobushi (shaved skipjack tuna) that is the base of the soup stock, but this combination takes it over the top. The three of us has never had a Japanese soup that tasted anything like this, it was sublime! And perfect for a snowy, winter day.
Steaming Kamo Nanban Soba
note: The dipping sauce on the left is not for kamo nanban soba, but for the croquettes (see below).
Kisetsu-no-gozen (Seasonal Dish Set) – first course
note: The bowl on the left is delightfully and playfully in the form of a radish! Nuta (left) and mushi-zushi (right).
Kisetsu-no-gozen (Seasonal Dish Set) – main course, tempura soba
Kisetsu-no-gozen (Seasonal Dish Set) – final course, soba kanten jelly
Gozen is the polite was to say ‘meal’ in Japanese. Traditionally it was reserved in use for members of the nobility. Now, ‘nice’ lunch sets are often called Gozen… and usually incorporate a rice dish.
Kisetsu in Japanese means, ‘season’.
This one consisted of four dishes in three courses.
Nuta: a fish salad dressed with a miso-vinegar based dressing.
Mushi-zushi: This is a steamed (mushi) variation of the ever popular chirashi-zushi. None of us had ever had this dish before as sushi is not a warm or hot dish. Again, seasonal — it’s winter. The sushi rice seemed to have dashi in it, making it more hearty. The yellow topping is slivered egg. The green leaf garnish is sansho.
Tempura Soba: Shrimp and Sato-imo tempura served on soba.
Soba Kanten Jelly: Simple yet astounding! Again, none of us had ever heard of this dessert. Kanten is a naturally derived jelly that is made from sea vegetables used for many popular desserts in Japanese cuisine. Traditionally it was produced in cold mountainous regions in the winter as freeze drying was essential to creating kanten.
This dessert is unique because the kanten is heavily flavored with soba, probably soba-cha (soba ‘tea’). The reddish-brown garnish sprinkled on top of the jelly is cracked, roasted soba kernels.
The black beans are the well-loved sweetened kuro-mame, literally ‘black bean’, from the Tamba region of Kyoto.
This is one heck of a dessert!
Sato-imo (Japanese taro) Croquettes
Japanese Lacquerware – Urushi
Everything in this photo is lacquered, even the tray. Japanese lacquerware, or urushi, often incorporates fabric. Notice the square at the bottom of the bowl, that is fabric that has been lacquered over. The lip of the bowl is also covered with fabric, as is the grip of the spoon. Urushi is another subject that an entire blog could easily be devoted to. Be sure to stock-up on urushi when you visit Kyoto!
The Genkan, or Entry Vestibule
A fountain, a cast iron lantern and the ubiquitous ikebana flower arrangement greet the guest upon sliding open the door.
The Front Dining Room
Several obi (帯), or kimono sash decorate the dining room. Perhaps this machiya was once an obi store.
The Front Dining Room
The Front Dining Room – Mochi-bana
This is a winter decoration called mochi-bana, literally ‘mochi flower’. Pieces of red and white mochi (rice cake) are put on willow branches to simulate blossoms. This decoration is a part of the New Year’s (shogatsu) celebration.
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English menu: none
English website: none
Service/Staff: Very friendly
Price: 700 – 1,800 yen.
Location and Access: Uichiro is located a few blocks to the west of Teramachi and Kawaramachi Steets, about 15-20 minutes north of the Shijo/Sanjo Kawaramachi and Shijo/Sanjo Karasuma areas. Probably best accessed on foot.
Address: 604-0944 Kyoto-shi Nakagyo-ku Oshikoji Fuyacho-higashi-iru Tachibana-cho 616
Near Sightseeing Spot: The Imperial Palace (10 min. walk to the north), Teramachi Street, Kamo River, Kyoto International Manga Museum.
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