It’s some time since I ate at Wabiya Korekidou but I still have very fond memories of this excellent meal. Being on Hanamikoji dori (street), slap bang in the middle of the main Geisha thoroughfare, I had little hope that it would be as good as it actually was. But as I am learning – most of the meals I have consumed in the Gion district have in fact been very good. Yes they cater for tourists and therefore a little bit more expensive than you might pay elsewhere but Wabiya, one of a small group of Chicken restaurants, has got it right. The spaces are large-ish (for Japan) yet maintain a cosiness and comfortable style. The food is very good and the staff and locals are welcoming. Actually one of the locals was more than welcoming but I’ll come to that later.
We chose the Hanamikoji course for ￥6300. It was a bit of a splurge but we were up for seeing what they could do. When I say splurge – I’m talking Japan right – not Australia where this kind of money pays for a main course and a glass of wine if you are lucky. ￥6300 is about $65 AUD and buys you 11 courses plus coffee/tea – hot or iced! Love that. Why we can’t find a simple cup of coffee over ice in Australia still dumbfounds me (it is true there are a couple of places now getting into this concept – about bloody time – we live in a damn hot country people!?!
It doesn’t look it but this was a really fabulous, pure flavoured, chicken soup – on the side is yuzu kosho (green chilli yuzu condiment)
Ground chicken (soboro) mixed with hatcho miso and chilled seasonal crudites for dipping into the mixture
Steamed chicken with ginger, garlic and spring onions and sudachi lime for squeezing over
Another soup with mushrooms, walnuts and fresh soy beans
3 yakitori skewers of thigh meat – the chicken on each skewer was from a different part of Japan so you could really taste the difference in the meat – I love this concept!
Renkon Manju (lotus root dumping) in chicken broth with grilled manganji peppers
Torinegi – Yakitori with negi (baby leek),
Chicken neck yakitori
yakitori topped with grilled sweet onion
And seasonal Kamameshi – a rice dish with egg, chicken mince, ripe tomato and truffle oil
Duck and chicken Tsukune – mince skewers cooked with tare (glaze) and served with raw egg yolk for dipping. I’m a sucker for good tsukune.
And the final savoury course is rice with sato-imo (taro) and chirimen jakko (tiny sardines cooked in soy with sansho peppers – a local speciality) – this was also served with pickles – as is the Japanese way – rice and pickles at the end of a meal.
We were so very full as you can imagine and we had one rather enthusiastic (and a little bit drunkee) high ranking Japanese business man and his underlings begging us to come with them to his favourite Gion Bar. He’d been plying us with very good red wine from about course 3. I was a bit concerned and annoyed by the attention – and not at all interested in blindly following 3 strange men to a dodgy bar but my mail accomplice insisted it would be fine – and ‘you know -how often do you get invited to a bar in Gion which is not open to foreigners’ – so my arm was firmly twisted. With increasing pressure from our ‘shacho’ (boss to hurry the f#%*# up we gobbled down a few mouthfuls of our lovely black sugar and ginger pudding, thanked the chef and took off into the evening.
you will find this branch of Wabiya Koreikidou on Hanamikoji – about a 3 minute walk south of Shijo street – on the eastern side of the street. If you hit the big Geisha performance hall you have gone too far.
And into the night we went. The underlings assuring me all was fine and that the boss just liked to frequent this bar where there were girls – ‘a little bit like maiko but not maiko….’. Which had me more concerned than I needed to be. They were absolutely charming young ladies, one of whom spoke English. We were again plied with some excellent French reds – which of course we did not pay for.
When the conversation turned to me being ‘glamour’ – which I soon found out meant that I had big boobs (and that I looked like an opera singer) it was time to move on. But not before our host put his stunning calligraphy skills to work writing us all messages from his heart about what he saw in each of us. It was quite the party trick and I snaffled away mine as a souvenir – even though I seriously doubted we would be ‘naturally meeting again’ – but this is Kyoto and if you are going to experience a series of bizarre coincidence this will be the place. He grew embarrassed after a short time – too much attention to his beautiful brushwork – and the wine was really kicking in by then – so we all left and bowed him goodbye as he poured himself into a cab.