Kyoto and our traditional first meal at Sakuraya for soba

We are back in Kyoto and our first meal was with good friends at their neighborhood soba shop, Sakuraya. I look forward to this meal every year for the perfect nishin soba. There's something so comforting about that dish and I have yet to find anything that even comes close in the States. We rounded out the meal with dashi maki tamago (the best I've had any where), tempura soba, tonkatsu don with egg, and chicken karaage. Now I need to wait a whole year before I can have this great meal again...

2nd Kaiseki Dinner @ Nishimuraya Hotel Shogetsutei

After our first night's dinner, our server asked if we wanted a similar crab/beef dinner for the next evening and we decided to forego that. We figured there would be similar dishes with some of the crab/beef dishes swapped out. To our delight, we were treated to a completely different menu with no repeats of the night before. My daughter's meal was also varied to include nigiri sushi, different sashimi, and a sizzling beef plate.

Our meal started with a lovely set of mini bites which included a playful little face made from mochi. We next got a dish wrapped in a plastic bag which turned out to be a chawanmushi egg custard. This was followed by a sashimi course with completely different fish from the night before.

Moving on to hot dishes, we had a steamed beef dish cooked on a large leaf which imparted a nice charcoal flavor. However, it was the next hot dish that surprised us. We were each given a live Japanese abalone which we grilled over charcoal. It was a pretty decadent dish and I felt a little bad since I'm not a huge abalone fan. Still, it was definitely an experience to behold and eating a whole abalone with its liver was definitely a treat. 

Our final two hot dishes was a very nice grilled salmon with crispy skin and a steamed white fish in dashi. Both flavorful and a nice contrast from each other. We rounded out the savory portion of the evening with a pot of rice cooked with fish for me and little shrimp for the wife. This went nicely with a hearty red miso soup and pickles.

Our dessert was just simple seasonal fruit with a strawberry sauce. They even had a nice little gift for my daughter! A really great meal served impeccably with care and attention.

Walking Kinosaki and cooking an onsen tamago

One of the charms of Kinosaki is transporting yourself back in time by walking the town in your yukata and geta. Most hotels will provide guests with a full ensemble and it's pretty cool to see everybody walk the streets in their traditional wardrobe. Of course, when in Rome...

The buildings feel like they are from a different era so there is definitely a tourist town kind of feel to it. But Kinosaki is also a working town, as well, where locals go about their daily business like shopping for groceries. It's pretty cool how both tourists and locals co-exist and navigate through the same streets together. We walked up and down the main road which was divided by the Otani River, making occasional pit stops to take a foot bath, grab a coffee and donuts in a modern cafe, and even cook some soft boiled eggs in the hot spring waters.

Near where we cooked our eggs was an old temple where the statues are "dressed up" in winter attire to keep them warm. A nice intersection of reverence and whimsy.

Nishimuraya Hotel Shogetsutei and their buffet breakfast

Breakfast was served in a dining hall for both of our days at the Nishimuraya Hotel Shogetsutei. There was a ton of variety in what was available and it was all quite good. I loved all the small bites you could choose from including Tajima beef croquettes, fresh okra, oden, and perfectly cooked onsen tamago.

The hotel itself is beautiful and grand. It's like something I would imagine from the 50's or 60's. Very mid-century modern which still holds up today. The highlight is an expansive window wall that overlooks a picturesque garden.

Of course this place is known for their hot spring baths. In addition to their large public baths (separated for men and women, with an inside and outside area for each), they have private spas which you can book for an additional fee. We were lucky and reserved while they had a special deal which gave us one free session in one of their private spas. We opted for the Gingetsu (Japanese Style) which had a rock sauna room. There was even a lounge area where we could just chill after getting out of the bath with a free bottle of bubbly. An amazing onsen experience!

First night in Kinosaki Onsen Town @ Nishimuraya Hotel Shogetsutei

We finally made it to Kinosaki and checked into our hotel, Nishimuraya Hotel Shogetsutei. It's a larger place than our previous onsen experience at Arashiyama Benkei but were still able to get a very nice tatami mat room with a garden view.

Service was outstanding including a welcome snack with tea and a refreshing vinegar juice. Snacks included rice crackers, red bean cookie, a wafer with light cream inside, and a preserved plum candy.

For dinner that night, we were treated to a full kaiseki meal in our room. They even had a special children's kaiseki meal which included sashimi, tempura, Matsuba crab, Tajima beef, and a box of fresh made onigiri. They even had two desserts for her. I would have been perfectly happy with that line up!

The adult menu was much more extensive and left us completely stuffed. We had two separate menus to accommodate my very inconvenient crustacean allergy. While my wife had a good helping of crab, I was treated to extra dishes centered around Tajima beef. I even had my own teppanyaki plate for one of my courses! I hope tomorrow's dinner will be as varied - stay tuned!