Delicious Kaiseki Meal at Gion Karyo

Kaiseki” is a type of Japanese haute cuisine consisting of multiple dishes, often ranging from 7 all the way up to 14 dishes. Having a kaiseki meal was something I knew I had to do while in Japan so I had to research quite a bit on restaurants that serve kaiseki. I actually made a blunder while trying to make reservations for another restaurant but long story short, we ended up dropping by Gion Karyo in the town of Gion after visiting Fushimi-Inari shrine in Kyoto. We didn’t have reservations here so I hesitantly walked into the restaurant and passed through its long corridor. It didn’t seem like much from the outside, but the inside was actually quite nice. I got a peek at the bar where you can watch the chefs prepare your meal.

There wasn’t a reception/greeting area and there weren’t any servers around so I just yelled out, “sumimasen!” (excuse me). Someone came by shortly after and with my basic Japanese, I asked if they had seats available for the 6 of us. Luckily, they did! I was so surprised because you usually need reservations for kaiseki.

They seated us upstairs in one of their private rooms and our server presented us with an English menu of their kaiseki course for the day. It was an 8 course meal and ¥5000 per person for lunch.

The tea they provided us with was very refreshing and we also got some cold sake to share. It had a bit of sweetness to it. Really great!

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Appetizer – Pike Conger

1. Sakizuke – Appetizer: pike conger, prawn, stem of taro, okra, green soybeans, corn

This first dish really impressed me. It was served on a leaf on top of a bed of salt and it just looked so peculiar. I had never had pike conger before so I didn’t know what to expect. After looking it up, I learned that it’s actually a type of eel and a popular dish in Kyoto. It had a unique texture — kind of minced/grainy and had a very delicate flavour. Every component of this dish was so simple yet very refined and the ingredients complemented each other so well. The cream corn sauce was super tasty and brought everything together. I almost licked the leaf clean.

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Japanese Soup – Pike Conger

2. Wakamono – Japanese Soup: pike conger, green beans, winter melon, citron

This next dish was also pike conger but in a soup. To be honest, it didn’t look very exciting but we were pleasantly surprised with how it tasted. Again, really delicate and refined flavours. It wasn’t anything like the soups we have here that are full of MSG and salt but it wasn’t bland or lacking flavour either. It was perfect. The pike conger was soft and quite fun to eat. There were distinct citrusy, lemony notes as well which I enjoyed.

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Sashimi – Sea Bream & Scallop

3. Mukozuke – Sashimi: sea bream, scallop

The third dish was their fresh catch of the day (sea bream and scallop) served as sashimi. The scallop was excellent and had the perfect texture. It was still firm so it didn’t feel like it was raw. It was SO fresh and yummy. (Even DC who never eats raw fish enjoyed the scallop sashimi!) The sea bream was interesting too but it had a really chewy texture and I didn’t enjoy it as much.

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Small Dish – Eggplant, Sea Urchin

4. Oshinogi – Small Dish: eggplant, sea urchin, soymilk skin, lotus root, ginger

The “oshinogi” small dish was incredible. At first glance, I thought the texture would be weird since it had a thick consistency and looked slimy and goopy. However, once I tasted it, it was actually smooth and enjoyable to eat. The sea urchin was rich and creamy, almost like a custard — that was the best part. There were also noticeable hints of ginger but it wasn’t overpowering at all and gave the dish a nice kick.

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Assorted Dishes

5. Yakihassun – Assorted Dishes: sea bass, sweet plum, sweetfish, fried corn, walnut tofu, egg cake, water shield

This assortment of little items was arranged and served nicely on a long tray. I had lots of fun eating everything on here. The sweet plum, in particular, was really interesting to me. I don’t know what kind of plum it was exactly, but it’s the one with the orange bulb-like shell/skin. It was green inside and very soft and sweet. It wasn’t very large or juicy, but it was definitely sweet. The water shield was also unique. They looked like little, thin, brown sticks. It didn’t have a very strong taste, just more of a woody kind of texture and a slight saltiness to it. My favourite item here was the fried corn. It was so simple, yet so fresh and fried to perfection with a good amount of crunch. The corn was very sweet as well.

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Steamed Dish – Eggplant, Duck, Wintermelon

6. Takiawase – Steamed Dish: eggplant, duck, wintermelon, red pepper, citron

This was yet another interesting dish. Although steamed, it was actually a cold dish! The duck was just lightly steamed, making it quite tender. However, it didn’t have as much flavour as I’m used to with duck — I think I much prefer it roasted. Otherwise, the dish as a whole was wonderful and very refreshing. The citrusy notes added a nice aroma and flavour to the whole dish.

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Gohan – Rice with Japanese pickles and Miso soup

7. Gohan – Hearth-cooked rice

The nice thing about the rice is that it was served in a wooden pot and our server filled our bowls. There were also 2 flavours of the rice. One was  just plain white rice meant to eat with the Japanese pickles and the other flavour had shishamo (small, salty fish) with ginger. Both flavours were good. It was also served with akadashi (red miso soup).

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Gion Karyo’s Original Dessert – Mango Cheesecake

8. Dessert – Gion Karyo’s Original Dessert: Mango Cheesecake, Raspberry Sorbet

Our last dish was the mango cheesecake with raspberry sorbet. Oh my gosh, it was so good that I wanted to devour it but at the same time, savour it. The cheesecake was sublime. It was rich, tart from the mango, and had a nice crunch. The fresh fruits on the side were a nice addition too. I could eat this every day.

After our dessert, we had a choice of tea, coffee, or juice. I opted for iced tea with milk to end the meal.

The whole dining experience was incredible. This was the first time I felt that my whole meal from start to finish was so carefully thought out and executed. Each dish was like a present and I was excited to open up the lids to find out what was inside. It gave me a cozy feeling eating these simple ingredients that made up such refined dishes. I could tell that the chefs put a lot of thought into preparing the food and making sure that the natural flavours of the ingredients stood out.

If you haven’t tried kaiseki dining yet or you’re still on the fence about it, I definitely recommend doing it if you ever get the chance to go to Japan. There were some mixed reviews of Gion Karyo on TripAdvisor but based on my experience here, I have no complaints at all. It was truly spectacular and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. I hope to have a kaiseki meal again in the future!

Ganso Kushikatsu Daruma Shinsekai Sohonten

Kushikatsu (Japanese deep-fried skewers) was one of the things I wanted to eat while on this trip so it was perfect to try it while we visited Shinsekai for the evening. The majority of restaurants there offered kushikatsu, but one of the restaurants that seemed to be most popular was Ganso Kushikatsu Daruma — the one with the angry man mascot! So, the 6 of us went in.

They have a wide selection of kushikatsu ranging from meat items to veggies, and even seafood. They also have sets available so you can try a lot of different things. But since we had just finished our meal at Okonomiyaki Chitose, we were so full and just wanted some snacks so we each ordered a few skewers for ourselves. I tried the classic beef kushikatsu, lotus root, okra, and shitake mushroom. Although we ordered separately, they served us the skewers all together in one rack… We didn’t know which was which so we had to ask them to tell us what they were so we could pick out the ones we wanted.

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Kushikatsu

After some rearranging, we were finally able to start eating. First, theres some rules you have to know about eating kushikatsu. The dipping sauce is communal so you MUST NOT double dip! If you didn’t get a good dip the first time and realize you need more sauce, what you can do is use the cabbage provided to spoon the sauce onto your kushikatsu. However, I saw on the menu that if you order less than 8(?) skewers per person or don’t spend a certain amount of money, they will charge you for the cabbage — at a cost of ¥300 per person! I thought that was pretty ridiculous. We clearly did not spend the minimum amount so we didn’t use the cabbage for fear of being charged…lol. Thankfully they didn’t charge us extra when we got the bill.

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Lotus root, okra, classic beef kushikatsu, shitake mushroom

Anyways, kushikatsu was fun to dip and eat. They were golden-brown and crispy, but not overdone. The sauce was salty, slightly sweet and sour, but had a thicker consistency than soy sauce. I’m not exactly sure what was in it but it was good! I probably wouldn’t go here for a full meal since it’s all deep-fried food but I did enjoy the experience and glad I got to snack on these. Oh, and I only spent around ¥600 here so that was cheap 🙂

Address: 2-3-9 Ebisuhigashi, Naniwa-ku, Osaka 556-0002, Osaka Prefecture
Landmarks: Near Tsutenkaku Tower at Shinsekai, look for angry man!

Okonomiyaki Chitose

We had decided that instead of going for okonomiyaki at one of the many restaurants in Dotonbori, we would check out Okonomiyaki Chitose instead, which had many glowing reviews online.

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Okonomiyaki Chitose

The place is a bit out of way — it’s south of Shinsekai and in an alley of a residential area so it wasn’t very obvious. It was a pretty small family-run restaurant. There were only 2 tables that could seat 4-5 and a few seats at the bar but luckily, we were able to get a table without waiting too long. It would’ve been cool to sit at the bar to watch the chef cook and prepare our food but there weren’t enough seats for all of us.

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English Menu available

We knew okonomiyaki would be very filling but their menu stated that it’s one order per person so we ordered 4 different types of okonomiyaki for the four of us. The table had a heated surface so it kept our food nice and hot and they provided us with metal spatulas for eating. To be honest, all of our orders pretty much tasted the same because they just used the same sauces. The only thing that really differed between the types was the texture.

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1 yakisoba, 2 okonomiyaki, 1 takasuga yaki

One of our orders was the house special, Takasuga Yaki (¥950), which contains rice cakes, fried noodles, pork, and shrimp. It was extremely flavourful and our favourite one due to the unique texture of the melted rice cakes. It was kind of gooey like cheese but still had a crisp outside.

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Takasuga Yaki (¥950)

We ordered the Yakisoba with Squid (¥750) as well but it was too salty. I think the chef put too much soy sauce so it was overpowering, making it not very pleasing to eat.. but good thing we all shared! The other two we ordered were just regular okonomiyaki with different toppings. They were good but tasted similar to each other.

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Cold Sake (¥500)

We were so full afterwards. I think we would’ve enjoyed it more had we not been so full. Nevertheless, it was really tasty okonomiyaki and the takasuga yaki was the best okonomiyaki I’ve had! The cold Japanese sake (¥500) I ordered went really nicely with the meal as well. Overall, I think Okonomiyaki Chitose is worth the trip if you’re looking for authentic Osaka-style okonomiyaki and you don’t mind the limited space.

Address: 1-11-10 Taishi, Nishinari-ku, Osaka 557-0002, Osaka Prefecture

 

Tasty Gyoza at Osaka Ohsho

Osaka Ohsho is the main place people go to for gyoza in Dotonbori and the name literally translates to The King of Gyoza in Osaka”. You can find it by looking for the huge gyoza sign — you can’t miss it!

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Osaka Ohsho sign

It’s actually a restaurant on the upper levels but I think most people just eat at the standing gyoza bar on the 1st floor or get take-out. Interestingly, if you order take-out, it’s more expensive (¥260) compared to eating in (¥240) because they provide you with a box. If you want to eat in, there are only 3 small tables available with some stools and the ambience leaves a lot to be desired. 

They do have gyoza sauce and hot sauce but we didn’t try the hot sauce since it wasn’t covered and had just been sitting there for who knows how long… We didn’t expect much as we just wanted to get gyoza for the sake of it but we were lucky that there was a vacant table for DC and I. So we went in and surprisingly, it was really good! 

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6pc. Gyoza (¥240)

The wrapper was thin, really crispy on one side, and the filling had meat and veggies. The gyoza sauce had a good balance of saltiness and acidity and complemented the gyoza perfectly. Yum!! Just thinking about this makes me drool… Best gyoza I’ve had!

The problem with going to Osaka is that you’re always full because there’s so much food to eat… But I suggest that no matter how full you are, try this!! Share it amongst yourselves if you’re really full as 1 order is only 6 pieces. We tried to go back again for some late night snacks but unfortunately, they were already closed (past midnight). It was disappointing to not get another order of these delicious gyoza but I’m glad we were at least able to get a taste. 🙂

Address: 1-6-13 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka
Landmarks: big gyoza sign along Dotonbori Street

5 Tastes Chinese Bistro

5 Tastes Chinese Bistro is located at UBC’s University Village. Since it was a Sunday, everything else was closed and my friend and I ended up going here for dinner after studying for our final exams. We wanted to have a nice meal and unwind after a long day but instead, we left feeling bitter about the whole dining experience.

When we arrived, one of the servers said something to us in Chinese but we didn’t understand so she just seated us at a table. When we opened the menu, we saw that they were all big dishes for family-style sharing… which we weren’t there for (obviously, it was just the 2 of us). My friend had been here once previously and had a smaller, individual meal so we were waiting to ask one of the people working there if they had a separate menu for that.

Everyone seemed so frazzled, running around looking like they were so busy but in fact, the restaurant wasn’t even half full. Several servers passed us by, including the manager who repeatedly yammered at us to “wait one moment”. Finally, he came over to our table and we asked if they had individual meals. He exclaimed that we have to sit at the other section so we had to switch tables at the other side. Turns out they do have another menu. They had some small dishes and snacks and if you want noodle soup, it’s kind of like Deer Garden where you choose the soup base, the type of noodles, and toppings to add.

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Fish soup

I opted for a fish soup base since it was one of their popular options and I remember having good fish soup at other restaurants. Unfortunately, that was probably a mistake (although I don’t know if the other choices would’ve been any better). The fish soup was too fishy for me — OK, I know it’s fish but it shouldn’t have been that fishy. The beef slices I got were tough too and seemed like leftover pieces of meat.

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Hot & Sour soup

My friend got the hot & sour soup base and she said it was too salty.

So the food wasn’t great, but it was edible. What disgusted us the most was the service. My friend heard the group before us asking to split their bill when they went up to pay and apparently the manager yelled, saying that they’re too busy to do that! That should be the default when you see a bunch of friends eating together. So when it was our turn to pay, we also asked to split the bill. We wouldn’t have bothered if one of us had enough change but sure enough, the manager was extremely rude and disrespectful to us too. He had the nerve to roll his eyes and scoff at us! Then, when I wanted to pay by credit card, he picked up and slammed this tiny sign on the counter that says there’s a minimum of $25 when paying by credit. He could’ve just told me nicely… 😡

Never before have I encountered such blatant disregard for customers. After our meal, I checked the reviews on Yelp and of course, they were all bad reviews! Check them out for more laughs. This was my first time here and I am never going back. I don’t think the owners even care that they’re losing customers due to their atrocious service. Thanks but no thanks for adding unnecessary stress on top of studying for finals.


Food – 5/10
Service – 1/10
Ambience – 6/10
Value – not even worth it