Street in Gion, across from the green tea shop, Kyoto

Street in Gion, across from the green tea shop, Kyoto

Sitting in a green tea café in Kyoto, I look at the menu and think, at least there are pictures. I had visited the shop below a couple of days earlier and the queue for the café had been insanely long, so when I idled past later, and saw none, I bolted up the stairs.

It is not uncommon to find that Japanese restaurants don’t have English menus, even very popular ones like this (although I was the only tourist).

Why should they?

This is part of the fun I think, even when there is no pictures, I communicate in whatever way I can using sign language and whatever else I can (pleading looks, clumsy pronunciations), that I would like whatever they think is good. It usually works.

Ujicha Gion Tsujiri is a green tea shop in Gion. The cafe upstairs is famous for matcha ice cream and crazy looking sundaes with ice cream, bits of cake, glutinous rice balls and sauce. I really wanted to try.

Menu

Menu

I was handed the menu and reviewed the pictures. I had yet to try the sweet local glutinous rice balls and also these squares of jelly covered in a powder of sorts (I now know they are warabimochi, a jelly made from bracken starch, and these were like a really toothsome tea jelly dusted with kinako, which is sweet toasted soybean flour).

So, I pointed and looked pleadingly at my waitress: this?

Waitress: No!

Me: Er, why not?

Waitress: This is a set menu.

Me: Ok, can I get the set menu?

Waitress: Yes! {always smiling}

Me: Oh, good! {relieved} I pointed again at the dish and said, pleadingly: this?

Waitress: No! {Still smiling}

This went on for a bit. A complicated dance of me, essentially trying to order the cover of the menu (even though it was about 5 pages in), I found out later through the wonders of twitter.

Waramibochi

Waramibochi

Eventually I got to order this crazy little but very delicious dessert of glutinous rice balls with warabimochi (that came with a liquid green tea sugar to pour on top), and a scoop of wonderful matcha ice cream. Because you just have to.

Fantastic matcha ice cream

Fantastic matcha ice cream

The room was starting to fill up. To my left, Kyoto’s very own Sex & the City seemed to be playing out. A guy dressed head to toe in bright pink (and really rocking it), a pink velvet blazer, light pink trousers and shirt, bright pink loafers, a pink man bag and pink phone was chatting enthusiastically with his girlfriend and to my right a couple sat down and ordered noodles.

Happiness is a green tea shop

Happiness is a green tea shop

NOODLES! I didn’t see them.

I finished my dessert and waited for the waitress. I ordered some noodles through my now established pointing enthusiastically routine. I had managed to find the noodles in the menu by now (this mental chaos is entirely supported by jet lag by the way, it is like oxygen to the flame of confusion).

Green tea noodles

Green tea noodles

The noodles arrived, green tea noodles in a cloudy broth with tofu. Light, lovely, flavourful. Dessert first, but who cares? It was all delicious.

Green tea noodles

Green tea noodles

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Niamh

Cooking and travelling, and sharing it all with you.
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