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Japan is a fabulous place to eat. No two ways about it. You are never more than a stone’s throw from a fabulous restaurant and tonight was no exception. The tour I am leading (Cherry Blossom in Imperial Japan) has been going fabulously well with gorgeous weather and a lovely group of people. But it is always the meals that help make a tour truly great and tonight we lucked out with a top place. I hadn’t actually planned dinner for tonight yesterday afternoon on a mad dash around I found Gyu-kaku, located on the south-west corner of Sanjo Ohashi (large bridge) – it is in the same building as the Lawson convenience store marked on this map by the bridge. I guess one problem with so many restaurants all around is that choosing is a bit like picking a needle in a haystack. Anyway, this place, part of small chain is quality.
Located on the 3rd floor with some great views of the Kamo River, the interior is all wooden beams and thick wooden tables and stools (I never cease to be amazed how in Japan what a building looks like on the outside has no bearing on what is on the inside). It had the feel of a classic izakaya (Japanese pub). The clientele seemed to be a mix of students, young couples and groups of salarymen and it was pretty lively which is always a good thing.
There is the option to order a la carte but set meals are usually the way forward in Japan and I went for the 2500 yen course with nomi hodai (drink all you like) for an extra 1500. My fears of this not being enough food were ill founded; gyu-tan (ox tongue), karubi (beef), gorgeous chicken with basil, some beautifully soft pork, kimuchi (spicy Korean pickled cabbage). These are just what I can remember of this yaki-niku feast. Fabulous. I guess my only criticism would be the drinks were a little slow in coming but given how ‘thirsty’ everyone was perhaps this was a good thing! And keeping a table of 13 thirsty gaijin in ume-shu (plum wine) and nama biru (draft beers) can’t be the easiest waiting job by any means. All in all a great find. Definitely gets 5 stars from me for quality, volume, and atmosphere with possibly 3.5 for service. If you have a chance, go and check it out. Just one word of warning, there is nothing much here for vegetarians so best keep this strictly meat eaters only!