Yuka Balcony Dining by the Kamo River
Every year from May 1st through till the end of September around one hundred restaurants along the Kamo River erect yuka balconies so that their customers may enjoy the cool air off the river as they eat their meals. The sight of all those balconies on a summer night with all their cheerful lanterns swinging in a light breeze and the sound of happy chatter from their patrons is one of the most enticing scenes in Kyoto.
A few days ago, Mewby and I visited one such yuka restaurant, 四季 よし菜, to celebrate my birthday. Though it comes during the rainy season here in Japan, the weather always seems to be just right on my birthday and once again this year we were blessed with sunshine and a cloudless sky – perfect yuka dining weather!
Yoshina’s menu changes with the seasons so every time you visit they have something new, but basically you can always count on having some fine Kyoryori (or Kyoto cusine), using the freshest seasonal ingredients.
Here’s what we had. First up, sashimi. There’s a lot of fresh fish and seafood on this menu….
Pretty, isn’t it? Notice the butterfly delicately carved out of carrot in the centre and those little purple flowers – I can’t remember what they are called – but they are edible and surprisingly tasty too!
This melt-in-the-mouth goma (or sesame) tofu, a Kyoto specialty, is so good it ought to be illegal. Next up something completely different…
This is クリームチーズ酒盗がけ or cream cheese with salted bonito innards! 酒盗 (shutou) literally means “sake stealer” because it’s so salty it makes you drink more and more!
One of my perennial favorites, nama-fu-no-dengaku (grilled morsels of skewered gluten with miso sauce), and a little bottle of Tomio sake to wash it down. Tomio is a local nihonshu brewed in Fushimi.
And what pray tell could be within this mysterious package?
Tachiuo-to-natsu-yasai-no-kami-zutsumi-yaki (Scabbard fish with summer veggies in a paper bake) －that’s what! Very tasty with a basil dip!
Deep fried maguro-no-tatsuta-age (maguro tuna soaked in soya sauce and mirin and deep fried in a batter starch). Tastes just like chicken!
Ebi-to-toumorokoshi-no-kakiage (deep fried shrimp and corn in a crispy batter). After all that we were pretty full… but we still found time for dessert! I had the anzu-to-warabi-mochi-no-umeshu-ponchi (apricot and bracken root cake in an ume-liquor fruit punch).
And Mewby had the Chocolate Gateau.
We had a lovely time at Yoshina – but eating a la carte like we did isn’t cheap! To save money you might want to choose one of the set courses on offer. They do have an English menu with some recommended courses and they can also change the meal to suit your dietary needs.
Shiki Yoshina is situated almost midway between Sanjo and Shijo on the east side of historic Pontocho. Here is a map.
Open for lunch (reservations required): 12:00～14:00
Open for dinner (reservations recommended): 17:00～23:00
Last Orders: 22:30
Open every day.
I love your restaurant reviews, but you never talk about prices! It would be great if we knew how much your meals costs, or if you gave a basic price range for a restaurant.
Thanks for the blog!
Michael Lambe says
Hmmm… I take your point, Phil. I used to give prices, but the problem is that prices change – sometimes almost immediately after I have written a post! I suppose I could give a general idea though…
Bryan Cole says
Hi – Thoroughly enjoyed your review here. Planning my next trip to Kyoto in May and will stay in the Pontocho area – so this is great to know about this place… oishi so.
Are you still living and working in Kyoto ?
Thanks again/ Bryan
Michael Lambe says
Thanks for your message. Yes, I am still living and working here – and more importantly Shiki Yoshina is still in business and will have the yuka balcony dining in full swing come May. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.