To my mind the best fish ‘n’ chips in town are at the 海と空 (Umi to Sora or Sea and Sky) Okinawan restaurant on Shijo.
Strictly speaking they don’t actually have “fish ‘n’ chips on the menu, but what you do is; you order the ぐるくんのスイートチリソース (That’s gurukun, a kind of Okinawan whitefish, with sweet chili sauce) and a portion of fried potatoes and you’re away! Bob’s your ojisan; the best fish ‘n’ chips in town!
Basically I order this and a few glasses of Orion on draft every time. However, the last time I went there it was with my poetic pal Jeffrey Angles. Jeffrey is more adventurous than I am; he also likes to share. Continue reading →
There’s a Scottish pub in north Kyoto named antighseinnse (a.k.a. Horie’s Bar). The name (pronounced “an ti shayn jay” I think) is Gaelic and means simply “Inn”. The owner Toshiyuki Horie named it after a favored pub on the isle of Islay in Scotland and still proudly wears a T-shirt celebrating “The best pub in Portnahaven”. Horie-san, a self-described whisky otaku or geek, visited Scotland out of his interest in Scottish whisky and there he fell in love with the scenery, culture and the warm and friendly people he met there. He went on to revisit Scotland every year over a ten year period. Now his pub is a celebration of Scottish culture and fine whisky. He also does some damn fine pub food. The menu is enormous and ranges from typical Scottish pub food (Guinness stew! Venison steaks!) to Korean dishes. Why Korean dishes? “If they’re tasty, why not?” says Horie-san. I recommend his hand made bespoke pizzas myself. Absolutely wonderful. Here are some pictures. Go to flickr for a closer look.
Horie-san himself is an entertaining fellow, and if you sit at the counter and he’s not too busy he can chat with you for hours on end. While we were there, he told us about his whisky tasting experiences, his travels in Scotland, and some of his amusing regular customers. He also gave us an fascinating talk about the relationship between Japanese sake in different regions, the local geography and how this affects the flavor and what food is best eaten with it. Whether sake or whisky, he is quite the expert on the culture of these beverages and it makes you realize what a shame it would be to unthinkingly knock the stuff back just to get drunk. Horie-san was kind enough to share with us a sip of 1965 Glen Grant on our last visit and together we shared our impressions of the changing flavor and aroma as this fine vintage whisky aired; hints of papaya, mango and then custard cream… Just like sipping history. This pub is a whisky specialty shop but also has a good range of beers on tap including Guinness (of course) but also that fine Japanese micro-brew Yona Yona real ale. It’s not far from Shimogamo Shrine and the Tadasu no mori woods, so if you happen to be sightseeing or rambling in the area it’s a nice spot for you to finish off your day with some good pub grub and a quiet drink. Horie’s bar is on the west side of Shimogamo Street, a little ways north of the bridge at Demachiyanagi. Here is a map.
Sheep’s Public Cafe is a place I have been meaning to check out for a while. I kept seeing it as I cycled home from work and thinking to myself “Sheeps. Why Sheep’s?” The signboard outside says “Fish & Chips”, “Guinness” and looking at the exterior I imagined just another foreign style pub. Once inside though I was impressed by how bright and cheerful it is. The owners have abandoned traditional British or Irish pub trappings in favour of their own relaxed cafe style. And though they do serve Guinness and chips, and Bass Pale Ale, they also have a large selection of very nice Belgian beers including some on tap. And why is it called Sheep’s? Well, the two handsome young fellas who run it, Sawano Takehiko and Yokoyama Naoki, were both born in the Year of the Sheep. Simple really.
Photos by mewby.
Takehiko worked for a time as a regular salaryman before jacking it in and getting a job in an Irish pub in Hirakata. Then he and Naoki opened up their own bar Sheep’s in September of 2007, doing a lot of the interior work, such as the wooden counter and flooring themselves. They have created a pub with a uniquely fresh and young feel to it. There is a screen opposite the bar on which you can watch the football (Takehiko is a keen supporter of Newcastle United). And as of December 2008 there is also an art gallery in the basement, set up by a artist and neighbour Nika Feldman. The opening exhibition was not surprisingly a collection of works inspired by the theme: Sheep. Photos by mewby.
Sheep’s is a nice spot for a quiet drink and a tasty bite to eat. You can find it on the east side of Higashioji Dori a short walk south of Marutamachi. Here is a map.
Open everyday: 16:00 ~ 3:00 (the gallery closes at midnight).
In December 2008 my friend David Ewen and I (that’s us on the left) decided to go on an Irish pub crawl and see exactly what each place had to offer in terms of food, drink, music and the elusive craic. What follows is a list of the five pubs we visited, a summary of what we found there and a map to each location. For a fuller article, more pictures and directions click on the name of each pub. However, before I continue, I must say if you are only in Kyoto for a short time you shouldn’t be wasting precious time in Irish pubs at all, so stop reading now and go somewhere Japanese instead. This article is for long term residents only!
Very popular with expats but has more character than your average chain pub. A good menu with plenty of vegetarian options. Irish music every week and jazz monthly. Six screens show major sporting events. The staff are very courteous and professional. Map.
A gastro-pub specialising in micro-brew beers, they even have a chocolate flavored beer! Stunning views over the river Kamo and the city. Very personable staff and a very likeable and chatty owner the house chef, Tadg. Map.
Not the cosiest pub (perhaps because of it’s long, narrow interior) but with friendly staff and a good mix of Japanese and foreign punters. Excellent local musicians play Irish music here Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Map at the bottom of this link.
The first Irish pub to open in Kyoto back in 2000, Field is all about the music. Irish music sessions are held twice a week and there is a recording and practice studio upstairs. Mostly Japanese punters here. It’s a nice place for a quiet pint. Map
My personal favorite. Wonderful Irish style home-cooked food with lots of organic veggies and vegetarian options. A cosy atmosphere and a very friendly owner. The live music schedule is interestingly eclectic. Map.
This is the fifth and final part of a series of posts on Kyoto’s Irish pubs. Earlier this month my friend David Ewen and I went on a pub crawl of five Irish pubs in Kyoto to see what they had to offer in terms of food, beer, music and the craic. Tonight’s post is on…
Gnome opened in October 2007, which makes it the newest Irish pub in town. It’s also my favorite. I like the cosy, home-like atmosphere and I might be just imagining things but I think the Guinness tastes best here too. Yuko, the owner is a friendly, chatty, charming lady of many talents; musical, culinary and professional. She already had her own business before opening Gnome, and in addition to managing an accessory and craft shop upstairs from the pub, she also does all the cooking downstairs as well! The menu is wonderful. I love the colcannon – a simple dish of cabbage, potatoes, butter and pepper. Yuko gets the balance just right and served up with the best soda bread I’ve tasted in Kyoto it’s just lovely. “How is it you make such great soda bread?” I asked her. Turns out she gets the oatmeal from Ireland. Yuko loves cooking and pays a lot of attention to her ingredients; the water is from Kyushu and packed with healthy minerals and the vegetables are organic. There are a lot of vegetarian options on the menu too. Yuko and her husband are both musicians and played together in a rock band in the past covering artists like The Band and Neil Young. However, on a visit to Ireland five or six years ago they fell in love with Irish music and also with the warm and friendly atmosphere of Irish pubs. Now Gnome’s interestingly eclectic live music schedule reflects their varied musical tastes. You can see a short video of a recent performance by the band Baobab here. Here are some pictures:
Quiet during the week, Gnome gets livelier at weekends – and during musical events, you can’t move! The clientele is varied too: families, musicians, salarymen and sometimes foreign chaps like me. Why the name? Well, Gnome is in the basement and gnomes as you know live underground. Gnome is situated a short walk north of Oike on the west side of Kawaramachi in the basement of the SSS building. Look out for the yellow sign. Here is a handy map.
Opens Weekdays 17:00〜25:00
Happy Hour: 17:00~20:00 (unless there are events)
Earlier this month my friend David Ewen and I went on a pub crawl of Kyoto’s Irish pubs to see what they had to offer. Though neither of us are particularly keen on the “gaijin pub” scene, we both occasionally feel a hankering for Irish beer and I especially for traditional Irish music. Over the next few days I am going to post about each of the pubs we visited and tell you what we found there. Tonight’s post is on…
Formerly named Tadg’s and renamed the The Gael in 2007, this is probably the most popular Irish pub with the expat community. In fact, once you walk into this Irish style pub and find yourself surrounded by foreign faces, you could be forgiven for feeling like you aren’t in Japan at all. The staff are professional and courteous and they have an excellent menu with lots of veggie options for our vegan friends. David and I both enjoyed our meals which you can see pictured below. However, I do have one gripe: there’s no soda bread on the menu! And when I asked for it I was offered a baguette! A baguette! What kind of self-respecting Irish pub doesn’t sell soda bread, I wonder! Well my one gripe aside, they do have a good live music schedule in their favour; Irish music every Friday from 8:00 pm, Jazz every 3rd Sunday and an Open Mic Night on the first Wednesday of the month. You can check out the events schedule by clicking here, and see some music videos on this page here. The Gael also doubles as a sports bar and has six screens to keep the punters happy. Overall, thanks to the music, the food and excellent service I’d say The Gael is a cut above your average “gaijin bar” and does a fair job of bringing a little bit of Irish culture to Japan. But they ought to make some soda bread. Here are some pictures:
To find The Gael, from Shijo bridge cross to the east side of Kawabata and keep walking up Shijo. You’ll see an opening on your first right through the Otoh building. Go through there and look up to your right for the Irish flag in the second floor window. Here is a very handy map. Open: 5:00 pm-1:00am Sunday to Thursday, 5pm till later on weekends. Tel: 075-525-0680