I travelled with my girlfriend to Kyoto and while we were sight-seeing, finding a good restaurant is as important as visiting a famous sight-seeing spot. After all one cannot walk around having fun with a stomach that is complaining and reminding you of the hunger pangs.
Most of you must be aware of the fact that Kyoto is famous for its tofu based cuisines. However, with so many visitors in town, it was difficult to find a place for a relaxed lunch that wasn’t all booked up or reserved even before we arrived. Luckily we did find one by a last minute google search and made our way to a little café near Kitano Tenmanguu (北野天満宮) that was serving a Tofu course lunch. Its name is Tofu Café Fujino.
We arrived right at noon, and the 6-7 tables there were already full by then, so we had to wait for about 20 minutes. This little café has a tofu-ice-cream counter and a souvenir shop selling their tofu on the first floor. We walked around until our name was finally called.
The server led us upstairs to the 2F that was only for their course lunch. There were no choices to be had because the only thing you could order was the “The Fujino Prix-Fixe Lunch” at ¥1900 per person. As we looked around, noting how the decorations in the café were from a bare minimal to extreme, the waitress walked to our table with our course lunch.
Tofu time, here we go:
Rich Healthy Soymilk
We started with a refreshing shot of rich soymilk. This was a standard opening for a tofu course and it opened up our taste buds to explore the soybean flavours.
A plate with two stacks of yuba sashimi was placed onto our table, about 12 thick pieces per person. The waitress then explained that we could enjoy the different tastes with the seasonings on the table.
- Soy sauce for tofu
- Yuzu miso
Since only a few thin slices of these pricy delicacy is often served in most shops, the large platter surprised us and it was slightly too much for my lady. My favourite seasoning with the sliced delicacy was the shop’s special soy sauce. It was a perfect balance of salty and sweet while bringing out the fresh soy taste of the yuba.
Goma tofu + Yuba tofu
Served together with the yuba sashimi were two blocks of dense slimy tofu. The grey one was a goma (black sesame) flavour with some grainy texture. The yuba tofu was slimy, smooth and sweet. I enjoyed them with the same soy sauce as used above.
Fried tofu in sauce
My favourite kind of tofu, kinu atsuage (thick block of fried soft tofu), served chill in this light but flavourful broth. It adds the taste of oil which is lacking in many other tofu dishes. This was my personal highlight of the meal.
Hot boiled tofu of the day
Rotating from the 4 kinds of tofu sold in the souvenir shop downstairs, the kitchen takes one type and serves it in one of the simplest methods: soysauce and bonito-flakes. A great pairing with the other cold tofu dishes on the table.
This was another plate that shocked us: an assortment of vegetable tempura using soymilk to make the batter. I am not a tempura expert so I wasn’t sure how much of a difference the soymilk batter made. But what we expected to be ordinary tempura was nothing short of amazing. The batter was light yet flavourful. Hints of soymilk flavour wrapped around the fresh seasonal vegetables, adding a silky and crispy coating all over. It came with lemon and salt, but I added the tofu soy sauce from before to enjoy this dish too. After eating this, my concept of tempura has never been the same.
Grilled onigiri ochatsuke
This was the only dish that had nothing to do with soybeans and I honestly didn’t care much for this grilled rice ball served in tea after the tofu roller coaster we just went through. However, it served the purpose to warm us up and fill us up.
Black beans coffee + dessert
To round up the meal, a black-bean coffee (served black) and a simple red beans + mocha + annin-tofu dessert was placed on the table. We took our time to change up the flavours on our taste buds as we recounted the dishes from the amazing lunch we just had.
Overall, this tofu-focused course meal didn’t sound much on paper but it surprised both of us. This healthy soy-ful lunch got us full and super satisfied. It is definitely one of the best meals I’ve ever had in Japan. A couple more things to mention are that throughout the meal, a black bean tea was served. And if you are interested in the souvenirs downstairs, such as the soy-sauce or tofu served in the course, purchasing the items as you pay for your meal will score you a 10% off on the souvenirs.
As a lover of tofu, I give it my seal of approval with confidence. The shop does get busy and they don’t take reservations on the weekends, so plan your travel if you’re visiting that area and give this place a try!