Thursday, April 16, 2009

Argh Argh Argh (An Especially Articulate Post)

Today I had a most aggravating foodie day. What made it so aggravating was that I’d planned in advance with some care.

First, I looked up when Passover ends, and read Wednesday. Which, of course, I took to mean sundown on Wednesday. So I made this whole plan to eat bread products and stuff on Thursday. Actually, though, it ends sundown Thursday. Not that I’m what anyone would call observant, since I eat shellfish and pork and mix milk with meat and all that. But it’s nice to make some effort once a year. Anyway, that’s one screw-up, which is my own. After that I take no blame.

Skimming one of my favorite Kyoto websites, Kyoto Foodie, I found a bunch of places in fair proximity to one another that are also easily accessible from Sam’s school. Since Sam only has half days at the moment — another annoying thing — I have to pick him up and take him for lunch. Now he adores udon noodles, as well as lots of things anyone would expect a little boy to like, such as ice cream, cake, fruit, and so on. It all clicked....

The Plan

Pick up Sam at 11:40, and catch the #206 bus up to Senbon Imadegawa. Walk a couple of blocks west, and eat at Tawaraya, a famous udon place. Sam can have his usual order — plain (kake) udon noodles with kamaboko fish cake and no sliced scallions. I’ll have the specialty of the house, nihon udon, which is a bowl with just two gigantic (in all directions) noodles. Sounds like an interesting thing to try, and the Kyoto Foodie was fairly positive about it.

Next, walk a couple of blocks due east, ending just south of Senbon Imadegawa, and eat dessert at Chibeta. This is a super-fancy ice cream shop, and so far as my various contacts have learned, it’s about the only really good one, with their own homemade ice cream and sherbet in both classic flavors and their special inventions.

Next, walk a couple blocks more, basically northeast, ending at Le Petit Mec, which two completely unconnected foodie contacts assure me makes the best bread in Kyoto. Buy a fancy loaf to eat with dinner, and if Sam is interested he can have a sweet bread of some kind.

Go home, get him changed, and then play in the park until Mommy gets home.

That was the plan.

The Reality

Picked up Sam, found that he was wearing his exercise pants, but I carefully avoided asking him why: it means he wet his pants, and discussing that leads nowhere good in the short run. As we walked to the bus stop, I explained the plan, and he was amenable.

On the bus, he told me he didn’t want udon. He wanted hamburgers instead. Uh oh. We discussed it, and he decided udon would be okay after all. Whew! The plan was still clicking.

From Senbon Imadegawa, we walked to Tawaraya, which was just where the map indicated. There was something of a crush: apparently a school tour group was having lunch there. Fortunately, noodle places have quick turnover, and high school kids eat fast. We sat and waited, Sam was very good, and we got seated pretty soon. I ordered the specialty:

But this isn’t my photo. Why not?

Sorry, no nihon udon, says the guy. Eh? The specialty dish? It’s also not on the menu, which I find odd. My Japanese is too rudimentary to be sure whether they were sold out or have stopped making it, but in any event I wasn’t going to have it for lunch. Fine. I ordered cold udon with tempura for me, and for Sam the usual: plain hot udon in soup, with no scallion. No problem.

We wait. They serve the table next to us, which ordered after us. I sort of cock an eyebrow, and it becomes clear that our order has been missed. No biggie, these things happen, and fortunately Sam was behaving himself reasonably well. Our food finally arrives... and there’s scallions on Sam’s noodles. Argh! I’m not sending it back, no way. Instead, I pick every one off. Fortunately again, Sam just waits patiently, then eats without complaint.

Results: Frankly, I wasn’t very impressed. The udon place across the street from our house, where they know Sam and give him extra kamaboko (and would never, never give him scallion), is better, and definitely less crowded. When I paid the bill, I also found that Tawaraya is overpriced, albeit udon is never terribly expensive so it wasn’t a big deal. But ten-zaru udon (what I got) shouldn't cost $14, and $6 is steep for plain kake udon. I also noticed that the guy hadn’t written anything on the slip about no scallions on Sam’s noodles, which explains a lot. I still want to try the nihon udon some time, but I’m not nearly as sanguine about it now.

Okay, so now we hike to the ice cream shop. Doesn’t this stuff look delicious?

This isn’t my photo either, though. Because...

It’s closed.

You have to be kidding me. I could swear I looked it up and it isn’t supposed to be closed. There’s a workman’s ladder behind the main window. Maybe they’re closed for renovation or something? Anyway, no ice cream.

Sam was definitely annoyed about this. He mostly got over it when I made it clear that I was at least as annoyed as he was, but after all this walking and no ice cream, his fuse was clearly getting a bit short. I mean, he's not quite four yet, fair enough. So we went looking for other things, heading generally toward Le Petit Mec in hopes of salvaging things a bit — besides, they might have good cake or something.

No luck. The first coffee shop place we passed had a vast selection of coffee-flavored sweets and nothing else. The next was closed. Sam was getting tired of walking and walking, so we took the bus two stops, just past Le Petit Mec, with its beautiful bread...

Which was closed. You have GOT to be kidding me!

Fortunately we were still on the bus as we passed it, so we just didn’t get off until Horikawa, where there’s a fancy patisserie near the corner. We go in there, and Sam picks out a fruit thing that looks to me like he’s not going to like it. I ask him which I should have, and he picks a chocolate thing. I get both. But then it turns out that you can’t eat it there unless you get the cake-plus-drink set, which costs $6.50. Argh. I get ice coffee and milk, and we sit down.

Sam eats the fruit, but doesn’t like the custard, so he eats my chocolate thing. As it turns out, I don’t like the custard either, which tastes like it’s pure egg yolks and has a peculiar citrus flavor that I don’t think goes at all well with it. Heavy and sour, in short. I realize this is how they intend it to be, but I don’t like it. Ah well.

We head home, Sam dozes off on the bus and insists on being carried from the bus stop to the house, so my back starts hurting. Then he refuses to go the park and demands to watch Wall-E on TV instead. After this sequence of failures, I figure the park is probably in flames anyway, so what the heck, turn on the flick.


Then I check some websites.

Chibeta ice cream, closed Mondays. Why is it closed today? No idea.

Le Petit Mec bakery, closed... can that be right? It’s closed Monday through Thursday? How can they possibly run a business like that, weekends only? Weird.

Final tally: $33 for two servings of so-so udon and fancy but (to my taste) not great cake, getting and eating which took a total of about three hours.

Argh argh argh!

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1 comment:

Maryellen said...

Come back to Vemo!! Nothing's ever closed here . . . as if!