Aside from high end department stores (think Takashimaya, Waco, Isetan etc), Japan's retail scene includes the more appealing (at least to me) covered shopping arcades.
Running for blocks on end, these covered shopping strips run the gamut from cheesy and tacky souvenir stands to small cafes and bars to artisanal, one of a kind designer boutiques and luxury shops.
Right at the heart of downtown Kyoto are two famous shopping arcades -- on the east lies Shinkyogoku, which is the second oldest shopping arcade in Japan (the first being Asakusa's Nakamise dori, one of my favourite destinations in Tokyo) ...
and connected to it, on the western side of the street is Teramachi. Both arcades are near the world famous Nishiki Market (see my previous post) where you can find the best of the best of Kyoto's high quality produce.
On this latest trip to Kyoto, dinnertime found us still wandering around Teramachi and Shingkyogoku. The prospect of sitting outdoors and having a beer and some snacks didn't seem particularly appealing.
There aren't many restaurants along Teramachi. When we spied Tonton Tasty Food, with its peculiar un-Japanese name and pink and green sign we hesitated -- it seemed like an Italian restaurant at first.
However, this huge sign advertising one of our favourites, okonomiyaki was what made us push through the door and grab one of the few tables inside.
Aside from okonomiyaki, Tonton's plastic food display showed omurice, yakisoba and other casual izakaya style dishes.
The tables had a built in hot griddle -- very common in restaurants that serve fried and sautéed food.
I was careful to place my ice cold mug of Kirin beer well away from the hot metal.
We were famished so we ordered quite a lot -- 2 orders of yakisoba, okonomiyaki, teppanyaki and as an appetiser, some cheese chikuwa. The head chef in white (I presumed that's who he was) started prep work at the counter, assisted by a younger apprentice.
After making sure that the food had been properly prepared for cooking, he handed over the task to the younger cook, all the time keeping a watchful eye on the proceedings.
I asked if photos could be taken and they graciously agreed. They must be quite used to tourists asking the same thing.
Here's our food being semi-cooked. The okonomiyaki is on the right -- the pot cover would soon be placed on top of it to add steam to the cooking process.
We were given smaller spatulas to use both to further cook the food and to scoop them onto the small plates.
First up on our griddle was this mound of yakisoba.
Next up, the cheese chikuwa -- normally, this fish sausage comes with cheese stuffed in the middle but Tonton's version had slices of sausage all wrapped in gooey melted cheese. But hey, I was not about to complain.
Our okonomiyaki came to us "bare" with just a thin layer of mayonnaise on top.
To finish cooking the okonomiyaki, we brushed it with the sweetish sauce specially for this purpose and drizzled it with lots of bonito shavings on top.
This is what the okonomiyaki looked like -- thin and very flavourful. Cooking it a bit longer on the hot griddle would have made for a crunchier bottom but who had the patience to let it sit longer when we could have it on our plates instantly?
Last to be served was the mixed teppanyaki -- a medley of vegetables, squid, shrimp, chicken and beef.
As you can see, we were one hungry bunch. Nothing was left on the table except for some sad, lonely bits of cabbage.
And here is the Teramachi Gang -- sated on okonomiyaki, yakisoba and teppanyaki. We'll see you again, Tonton Tasty Foods ... your name lived up to its promise!
Some photos on this post are courtesy of my son, Gani.