I’ve written before about how department stores in Taiwan often have hidden food treasures, such as food courts, gourmet food stalls, and nice restaurants. It’s a very similar situation in Japan, as I happily discovered.
Hungry for lunch after a long morning of temple touring, I wandered into the basement of the Takashimaya Department Store (at Shijō Kawaramachi) hoping to find something to eat. Luckily, I found lots of food vendors selling Japanese specialties such as bento boxes, sushi, and mochi. I gawked at the beautiful but pricey bento boxes, some costing up to $20 each. I opted for a more economical sushi sampler at about $9. I also bought a red bean “cake,” hot off the griddle. (It’s more like a thick egg-y waffle than a cake.) Unfortunately, I ate it before I remembered to take a photo. Sorry!
On another day, I made my way to the Ramen Hakubutsukan (“ramen alley”) on the 10th floor of the Isetan Department Store in the Kyoto Train Station. It was a great insider tip from my colleague HC, who had lived in Kyoto, because I would’ve never found this place! Once there, I was overwhelmed by the number of ramen places. There were about 10 different ramen restaurants, all specializing in different varieties of ramen. You can only imagine the kind of ramen sensory overload I was experiencing! I had no idea which one to choose, so I opted for one of the places closer to the entrance, where the line was shorter. Their specialty was prize-winning black sesame ramen, which was good but the bitterness of the sesame became a little overwhelming after a while. I wish I had more time to try all of them!
p.s. Happy New Year!! Hope 2010 is full of everything sweet and delicious!