Odakyu Hotel de Yama, Hakone

I was very fortunate that two out the three days I was at Lake Ashi, the weather was clear and beautiful, which allowed me to bask in the beauty of the lake and its surrounding including the view of Mt. Fuji.

This villa turned hotel resort has a 70-year history. I love how the hotel has maintained its charm and history. The hotel has two restaurants and a café. Vert Bois serves up French cuisine, Tsutsuji no Chaya serves Japanese kaiseki cuisine and Salon de Thé Rosage is a dessert restaurant with a premium shop located by the lake.

When you check in, you are asked to choose what cuisine you would like for each day of your stay and time. I decided on having French on my first night and Japanese Kaiseki on the second.

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I enjoyed my meal at Vert Bois. The table was beautifully set up. All waitresses were well dressed and mannered. There was a harmony between the waitresses that set a calm atmosphere to the restaurant.

I liked that each table had a menu. I personally like to know the name of each dish I’m having. Sometimes it is hard to make out what the waiter said especially if English is not their first language.

As I don’t like eating raw fish, they replaced the marinated tuna with abocado’s tartare with a Paté dish. All the dishes served were delicious. My favorite would be the fish of the day. It was really fresh and cooked to perfection. The fish was accompanied by a sweet red wine sauce, just the right amount that it didn’t overpower the natural flavor of the fish. The dishes were served at a good pace, I didn’t have to wait too long between each dish.


Tsutsuji no Chaya has a calm and soft environment with a violet-colored carpeted floor, wooden tables, and chairs, with soft lighting and neutral walls.

Sadly, I had to skip the kaiseki dinner as I felt quite sick after two cable car rides earlier that day. I am highly susceptible to motion sickness and it was quite windy that day. As I was looking forward to the kaiseki meal, when I felt a bit better, I made my way down to the restaurant. Shortly after having the first appetizer, I felt nauseous. So I told the waiter to just serve me rice and miso soup.

The menu was pretty impressive. As you can see from the picture on the right (excuse the blurriness), there is quite a variety.

For breakfast, there is the option of an American breakfast or Japanese breakfast. The American breakfast is served at Vert Bois and it includes a juice, coffee or tea, croissant, pickled vegetables, sausages with toast, salad, and your choice of eggs. It was so relaxing and serene to have breakfast with the stunning view of the lake. A great start to the day.

Odakyu Hotel De Yama

Website: http://www.hakone-hoteldeyama.jp/en/

Telephone: +81 460836321

Address: 80 Moto-Hakone, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun,
Kanagawa Prefecture 250-0522




Simple meal in Nagoya

I had one day in Nagoya. It was a stopover before I head on to Hakone. I usually plan ahead and look for good places to eat but in Nagoya I decided to just wing it.

After checking into the Mitsui Garden Hotel Nagoya Premier, I ventured out around the area to look for a place to have lunch. It was windy and cold and a bowl of hot ramen quickly became my top choice.

ラの壱 名駅店 ranoichi ramen

The ramen chain store restaurant is just two streets away from the Mitsui Garden Hotel. The staff were friendly. Unfortunately there is no English menu. Not all the staff can speak English. I had to order blindly. As I could read some Chinese characters, I noticed on the top left of the menu that the restaurant was serving two types of ramen for a limited time.  I wasn’t sure what type of ramen it was but the picture looked good so I ordered one. If I heard correctly the waitress mentioned miso when she served me the noodles. The ramen was surprisingly good. It had a thick creamy miso broth, slightly sweet with a hint of spiciness, but nothing like the miso soup where the miso flavor is the dominating taste. Other than the miso flavor, I could also taste the meat broth. The toppings were different from the ramen I’ve previously had in Kyoto and Osaka. It was perfect for the cold day. A satisfied meal indeed!

Ranoichi ramen

Website: http://www.ranoichi.com/store/meieki/

Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 11: 00 AM~ 23: 30 PM, Sundays and public holidays 11: 00AM ~ 22: 00PM

Telephone: +81 52-446-5581

Address: Nagoya-shi Nakamura-ku Nominami 4-27-7 Noda-ya Building 1F


Craft Works Cafe by Hand Bakes

I had been walking for hours, I was tired and cold, to the point where I just wanted to fill up my stomach and head back to the hotel to rest. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to eat. I couldn’t be bothered to walk around in the cold to look for a restaurant, then I thought most malls have a floor where it’s all for dining, so I head over to Parco mall, which was the nearest mall.

I got to the 7th floor of the Parco mall, looked at the list of restaurant and randomly picked this restaurant. The color scheme and pictures hanging on the wall gave me warm and homey feel. I ordered the grilled chicken and veggie plate with gorgonzola sauce which was ¥950. The food was decent. The rice was a little dry. A simple average meal.

Craft Works Cafe by Hand Bakes

7th Floor of Parco West building

Website: http://nagoya.parco.jp/web/restaurant/craftworks/01/

Opening hours: Monday to Sunday 11:00 AM to 22:30 PM

Telephone: +81 52-264-8058


Crispy Chicken with Roasted Carrots and Couscous


This dish is simple and delicious! A great dinner dish for those who want something a little less heavy. The subtle flavors of each ingredient when eaten together gives this amazing aromatic and savory flavor.

I found this recipe on the Country Living website. You can get the recipe here.

I was lacking a few ingredients such as the salted pepitas and the box of olive oil and herb couscous, so I had to make them from scratch. I used a garlic couscous recipe instead of a herb one. I find that the garlic gives it a richer and stronger flavor.

Below are the recipes I used for those ingredients.

Salted pepitas 


I used the traditional recipe. The recipe asked for 2 cups, but I just made 1 cup and used half of all the ingredients required.

Roasted garlic and olive oil couscous




Funatsuru, Kyoto style French restaurant

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Funatsuru is a Kyoto style French restaurant set along the Kamo River with views of the Higashiyama mountains with close to 150 years of history. The building itself was built almost 100 years ago. You can read about the history of this restaurant here.

I made a reservation for a window seat. At the time of making the reservation, the staff could not guarantee a window seat for me but will try their best. We were fortunate on the day of our arrival that we were given a window seat. The view was beautiful – The river, mountain, and sky. The staff who greeted us was graceful and pleasant. She could speak decent English.

There are two different lunch courses. One is for ¥ 3,000 which includes a hors d’oeuvre, soup, main dish, dessert, bread, coffee or black tea. The other is for ¥ 4,500 which includes a hors d’oeuvre, soup, a fish dish, a meat dish, dessert, bread, coffee or black tea. We decided on the ¥ 4,500 lunch course.

I did not take a picture of the menu so I don’t know the names of the dishes or what exact ingredients were used in the dish.

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The course started with a turkey mushroom pate followed by a soup. The soup was very interesting. It tasted like a saltish very mild cafe latte with cocoa nibs. The waitress did describe that it was some kind of coffee soup.
Next, we had the flounder wrapped in pie pastry. I love this dish! The flavors in this dish were mindblowing. The fish was cooked to perfection. The buttery flaky crust accentuated the natural flavor of the fish. The tomato-based sauce further boosts the already delicious flavor of the pie. Even till now I can remember the flavor. A very memorable dish!
We had the duck with apple and root vegetable sauce next and lastly a white chocolate cream cheesecake.
I really enjoyed the food. Each one was delectable and beautifully presented. I would recommend this restaurant for the food. However, it was really loud in the restaurant, probably the loudest restaurant I have been to in Japan. Most of the customers were rich middle-aged women and they were talking pretty loud. I did not enjoy that. Lucky for us, we got there around 1 PM and the noise began to subside half an hour later as some were finished with lunch and left. The last order for lunch at the restaurant is 2PM.



Website: https://www.funatsuru.com/en/restaurant/

Opening hours: 12 PM to 22:00 PM (closed on Tuesdays)

Telephone: +81 75-351-8541

Address: 180 Minoyacho, Kiyamachidouri Matsubara-Agaru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto




The living room with sky bar, Nagoya

The living room with sky bar is located on the 18th floor of the Mitsui Garden Hotel Nagoya Premier. The hotel is just a 5-minute walk from the Nagoya station. As I stayed at the hotel, I had the pleasure of dining at the restaurant. The restaurant has a chic decor with earth tone color base colors. For hotel guests, the breakfast buffet price is ¥ 2,220 and for non-hotel guests, it is ¥ 2,400.



There was a good healthy selection of both local and western food incorporating flavors and ingredients unique to Aichi. The ingredients were very fresh. You get the usual hotel breakfast buffet spread. For the western cuisine, there was bacon, sausages, french toast, scrambled eggs, pastries, toasts, and salad. For the Japanese cuisine, there was congee, rice noodles, steamed vegetables, tamagoyaki (egg rolls), grilled chicken breast, and salmon.  I had an enjoyable hearty breakfast with an amazing view of the city.

The restaurant also offers lunch and dinner courses.



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The Living Room with Sky Bar

Website: http://www.livingroom-skybar.com/

Breakfast hours:  6:30 AM to 10:00 AM

Telephone: +81 52-446-5422


Yasube, Okonomiyaki, Pontocho

Yasube is a family run restaurant in Pontocho serving Okonomiyaki. There are many variations of Okonomiyaki on the menu and different ingredients that you can choose to add to your Okonomiyaki. The prices are very reasonable, one of the cheaper places to eat in Pontocho I would say. The son speaks good English and there is English menu.

We had the yaki-udon with pork and kimchi (¥ 950) and pork and seafood combo with egg okonomiyaki (¥ 950). It was served on the hot plate on the table. I liked that we were given the freedom to put the sauce and toppings on the okonomiyaki ourselves. I have had okonomiyaki before and sometimes the amount of sauce was too much for me. Of all the okonomiyaki I have had both in Kyoto and Osaka, this would be the best one. I think the minced pork made a big difference. Previous okonomiyaki I had added pork slices instead of minced pork. The minced pork made the okonomiyaki less dry and gave it a savory sweetness.




Opening hours: Monday to Wednesday 12:00 PM to 19:30 PM, Thursday to Saturday 16:30 PM to 23:30 PM, Sunday 15:00 PM to 22:30 PM

Telephone number: +81 75-221-2613

Address: 142 Umenokichō (Pontochōdōri), Nakagyō-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 604-8012, Japan



Gion Karyo, Kyoto

Set in an old Kyoto house, Gion Karyo is a kaiseki restaurant located in the heart of Gion.  It is a great kaiseki place for people who are not as familiar with Japanese cuisine or are not as adventurous (like myself). The food served at Gion Karyo is nothing too alien or unique to the taste buds. If you have any food restrictions or allergies, you can let them know in advance and they will prepare your food accordingly.  The staff speaks sufficient English and there are English menus available.

The interior decorations were simple, not much ambiance.


I made reservations in advance. When you are presented to your seat, there will be a menu ready on the table. The price for the lunch course is ¥ 5000.


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The dishes were beautifully presented. However, for me, it was lacking in taste. Most of the dishes tasted similar and was a little bland. There was no wow factor me.

The highlight for me was the dessert and coffee. For dessert, I had some kind of matcha arrowroot dessert accompanied with ice cream and caramel cake. My brother had the Crème brûlée. The matcha arrowroot dessert tasted like matcha jelly with evaporated milk and soybean flour – very fragrant.

Overall, the food was basic and average especially for the price. But it is definitely a foreigner-friendly restaurant.


Gion Karyo

Website: http://www.karyo-kyoto.jp/gion/

Opening hours: Monday to Sunday 11:30 Am to 8 PM

Telephone: +81 75-532-0025

Address: 605-0074 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Higashiyama-ku, Gionmachi Minamigawa, 東山区祇園町南側570-235



Gontaro, Kyoto

Gontaro is a famous udon noodle restaurant in Kyoto. There are three branches in Kyoto. I went to the main branch which is located downtown on Fuyacho Dori, between Nishiki market and Shijo Dori.

The restaurant had a Kyoto machiya style exterior with a stone path leading to an automatic sliding shoji door. The interior is decorated in Sukiya-zukuri architectural style, a style common in many of the Japanese tea houses; creating a tranquil ambiance. There was only one waitress dressed in Kimono. She did not speak much English but she could understand some of the things I said. She was nice and had a smile on her face the whole time.

The restaurant offers a variety of Soba and Udon noodles with some side dishes. The prices are reasonable. There is also English menu available.

As I was really craving for fish, I ordered the Nishin udon (¥ 1200), a Kyoto specialty. It is basically a piece of dried herring placed on top of the udon. At the time, I did not know it was dried herring. On the menu, it stated sweet stewed herring. The soup was very good but I did not like the herring. It was dry and chewy. I guess I was not used to eating dried fish.

If you are in the area, this is a good place for Soba and Udon noodles.



Website: http://gontaro.co.jp/english/kyoto/index.html

Opening hours: Monday to Sunday except Wednesday 11:00 AM to 21:00 PM

Telephone: +81 75-221-5810

Address: 604-8053 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, 麸屋町通四条上ル



Kichi Kichi, Kyoto’s famous Omu Rice

Located in one of the alleyways in Pontocho, is a small and cozy restaurant established since 1978 serving one of Kyoto’s best Omu rice.  It took us a while to find the restaurant even with the help of google maps. We went back and forth along Pontocho main street, trying to find the right alleyway. We got to the restaurant around 6:15 PM and there were already customers waiting outside the restaurant. The restaurant only has 8 counter seats and a table which can accommodate about 5 people.

I read about how popular this place was so I made a reservation in advance. You can make reservations 6 weeks in advance on their website. I emailed them to make a reservation because the date I wanted to make a reservation was not available on their website. I definitely recommend making a reservation especially for the counter seat, where you can watch the magic happen.

Other than their famous omu rice, Kichi Kichi also serves salad, soup, beef stew, casseroled chicken leg, and croquette. Since we were there for the omu rice, we ordered that and a potage soup of the day (¥ 650) and salad (¥1500). The omu rice comes in two sizes – standard (¥ 2700) and half size (¥ 1450). I think half size would be sufficient for the ladies. I ordered the standard and it was a little bit much me.

The potage soup of the day was creamy corn soup. It was creamy and light with a lovely smokey bacon flavor. The salad was lovely, not the usual western salad. It had assorted vegetables, drizzled with a light citrusy dressing. I love the array of colors of the ingredients.

Chef Yukimura Motokichi puts on quite a spectacular show for his customers. He knows people will be filming him making his famous omu rice. He will position himself in a direction where you are able to take pictures or film him. He definitely has skills! The way he tossed the rice up in the air and how he makes his omelet in the perfect shape every single time. Motokichi makes it look so easy.
To make the omu rice, Motokichi first prepares the fried rice. He adds chicken, onions, mushroom, green soybeans, and beef bouillion sauce to rice. Once the rice is cooked, it is placed in an ellipse shape mold on a plate. He subsequently prepares the omelet which is then placed on the rice. Motokichi makes a slit down the middle of the omelet, and the egg just wraps around the rice so elegantly. To complete the omu rice, Motokichi adds beef bouillion sauce. He does different tricks with the omelet. For the second omu rice dish, he threw the omelet up in the air and it landed on the rice, covering the rice perfectly: pretty impressive!

The omelet was smooth and fluffy. It was delicious eaten with the chicken fried rice. Compared to other omu rice prices, the prices here are a bit more expensive but I personally feel that it’s worth it. It is one of the best one I’ve had.


I highly recommend this restaurant. You will definitely have a great time and an enjoyable meal.


Kichi Kichi Omurice 

Website: http://kichi2.net/

Opening hours: Lunch ( Weekends and national holidays 12:00 PM to 14:00 PM), Dinner ( Monday to Sunday 17:00 PM to 21:00 PM)

Telephone: +81 75-211-1484

Address: 604-8017 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, 材木町185-4


Kishin Kitchen, an intimate culinary experience in Kyoto

I got to know about Kishin Kitchen as I was searching through google for a place to have breakfast. This place was on the list and the reviews were positive. As my brother will be accompanying me on this trip and it is his first trip to Japan, I thought it would be nice for him to try a Japanese style breakfast.
Kishin Kitchen is attached to the Hana-Touro Hotel in Gion. The interior gave me the impression of a dining and kitchen area in a house. It had a very warm and homey feel. The staff was welcoming and friendly. Two of them spoke good English.
The restaurant offers their signature breakfast for ¥ 2,500.  The breakfast includes a starter, white rice and a choice of soup. The meals were prepared by a young chef. He gave an explanation of each dish after it is served.
We had kumiage-yuba, a cold soy skin dish as a starter. The texture was delicate with a refined taste. It tastes like cold soy milk with a hint of saltiness. I, however, was not too fond of the texture.
Before serving the rice and soup, we were asked to choose one out of five handmade bowls by different Japanese artist for the rice. They first served us about a tablespoon of ‘almost’ cooked rice to taste. One of the staff explained that the rice has a different flavor and taste before it is completely cooked. It had a stickier texture. The rice was cooked in a donabe, which is a special Japanese ceramic pot. We were then each served a small portion of rice, you can ask for refills.
The white Miso soup was one of the best I’ve had. The soup had a rich milky pork stock, with a subtle Miso taste, garnished with thinly sliced scallions and a small dollop of mustard.
After everyone was finished with their rice and soup, they served us some scorched rice with a pinch of salt to taste. It was fragrant and delicious, kind of like salty rice crackers.


We were served the pickles and Charcoal-grilled Maruboshi Sardine along with the rice and soup. The sardines were a little salty, which went great with the rice.

There weren’t many customers when we were there but I do recommend to make a reservation. When you make a reservation, you are asked to choose a time slot. There are five different time slots available each day, each time slot is an hour and 20 minutes. Do be punctual, we were 10 minutes late and the other customers had to wait for us before they begin serving the meal.

Though the meal was simple, I had a very memorable and intimate dining experience here. This is probably the first time that I paid attention to every bite, savoring every subtle flavor of the food.  Every aspect, from service to ingredients to preparation of food, was done with care.  I look forward to my next visit.  I highly recommend this place to anyone who wants to taste high-quality local Kyoto cuisine.



Kishin Kitchen

Website: https://www.kishin.world/

Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday,  7:30 AM – 12 AM

Telephone: +81 75-525-8500

Address: 555-2 Komatsuchō, Higashiyama-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 605-0811, Japan