How does one take an ingredient as mundane as Tofu, and transform it into something awesome? Although there’s not much going for it in terms of flavour, but it would be brilliant as an empty canvas which you could build flavours with, whilst taking advantage of the wonderfully smooth texture. Being in Kyoto, the ancient hub of Shinto and Buddhist temples, tofu dishes were a staple for monks. Nowadays such dishes are available for the masses to experience at various speciality shops, as well as restaurants such at this one which I’m about to dine at.
The secluded Syouraian restaurant is located right beside the river, within the lush forested environs of Arashiyama. Getting there isn’t too hard if you follow along the river from the Togetsukyo bridge.
Despite arriving earlier than expected, the hostess warmly welcomed us into their establishment. Upon entering the the dining area, a certain zen-like ambience pervade the senses whilst being surrounded by lush forests. I truly felt at peace here.
We had pre-ordered the 3800 yen set meal, which consisted of 4 courses with predominantly tofu dishes. Doesn’t sound like much, but it did fill up the belly pretty quickly.
First, we started off with a chilled tofu dish, which is redolent of the typical “tow foo fah” (tofu with a warm sugary syrup and ginger) that one might find in Malaysia or Singapore. The texture of the tofu was smooth and pleasant, albeit with rather austere flavours.
Naturally, we ordered a nice cold beer as a reprieve to the scorching summer. Not exactly a typical drink pairing with tofu, but I think the monks will probably approve with this unusually humid weather. And thank the heavens for air conditioning!
Next came a cold platter of various small dishes, which includes grilled fish, green peppers, shrimp, pumpkin, okra, and etc. These were well prepared dishes, and rather appropriate for summer.
Subsequently we had a very simple tofu, paired with a rich dashi sauce, spring onions, and an optional dash of togarashi spice. This was followed by Agedashi tofu, which was lightly battered then fried, and immersed in a rich dashi sauce and topped with spring onions. Both dishes were absolutely brilliant, and prime examples of what a good tofu dish should be.
On the side, we had some delicious pickles as well as anchovies, which we could add to the rice.
For dessert, we had a very odd, but ultimately delicious tofu ice cream with a sugar syrup coated pancake sliver.
This meal was a combination of both traditional and new world techniques, which highlighted the quality of the tofu, as well as the versatility of it via different preparations. Even though you may not be a fan of tofu, this may possibly change your mind about what it could be. And honestly, I could have stayed there for hours just to enjoy the ambience and amazing scenery, which had a nice calming effect on me for the rest of the day.
Contact: Sagakemonoocho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto. +81 075-861-0123. Website. Reservations are essential.