You might be curious as to why I’ve included these two eateries as a twin set? The answer is pretty basic really but may seem a little strange to the average bear.
I searched high and low for Oden bar Muro one Kyoto winter’s eve but kept coming across Chabuya (above) in it’s place.
What I realised, just in time to not be too late for our booking, was that the Oden bar is in fact above Chabuya, but to the back of the building. You must walk all the way through Chabuya’s long skinny room (which is almost impossible when they have a full house as the distance between the counter and the wall is barely enough for a person to fit on their stool ) then up a steep set of wooden stairs – in a small windowless room – consisting of a bar with a few seats. With no other access. No not a fire trap at all…
Sometimes in other countries you gotta go with the flow and not be concerned with such things. I actually LOVE the fact that it was hidden away like this – making it so much more rewarding once I found it.
My guess would be that upstairs is owned by the same people and was once probably just a standard bar.
The Oden bar sells, as you would imagine – Oden only. Oh and some pretty nice sake.
Oden comes in very simple to complex forms but to put it in basic terms it consists of some very Japanese ingredients such as particular types of fishcake, other seafood or meats, various forms of tofu, vegetables, Konnyaku etc – particularly good is Gyusuji (beef tendon). Some excellent rustic versions I’ve eaten have been rich and thick -reduced like a slow simmered stew – although I’ll admit I’m not mad for the whale blubber version as I find the flavour too strong. Sometimes the broth is thin and more elegant. Often hot spicy mustard is offered on the side. Plus things like pickles etc to refresh the palate and aid digestion.
At Oden Bar a cauldron of light broth sits simmering -waiting to have ingredients of your choice added and heated – you purchase by the piece. Mostly each has been cooked in the broth earlier – adding layers of flavour. In certain traditional establishments they’ve been using the same broth for years – like a masterstock. Just imagine the depth of umami. Don’t let that smelly convenience store oden put you off.
You choose from the menu on the wall (above) – eg octopus, small meatballs, lotus root, mochi filled tofu ‘money’ bags, shiitake, hanpen (fishcake), leeks etc.
And in this establishment they had a few modern offerings too like tomato which they served with grated parmesan, making the broth a little creamy and hanpen with ‘plastic cheese’ melted over the top.
In my opinion it wasn’t the best oden in the world but it was a most enjoyable and luxuriously quiet experience as we were the only customers for half the time and it felt like a private cocktail bar! The girl serving us was delightful and the sake was very good. A little too good.. So what else were we to do but try the wares downstairs!?
The popular grill restaurant serves up ‘things on sticks’ (think yakitori) but with a focus on Motsu ( offal) of pork, beef and chicken – with a few sides – salads, rice dishes etc. There’s also regular meat too if you are a bit squeamish. I highly recommend the upper tongue.
Oh and beer. A must have with Japanese ‘BBQ’!
The food was fresh, tasty, hearty and cheap – but not mind blowing. In a place like this it really is more about the ‘local’ experience and the jovial atmosphere. I enjoyed myself . A great joint for popping into for a snacky, boozey chat with a mate – and the rest of the patrons… and the kitchen staff….
These establishments are in a small alleyway that connects Kawaramachi dori to Kiyamachi dori – just a couple of blocks south of Shijo dori. Thanks Jesse for keeping me company on my mission!