Pound Kyoto Ekimae
185 - 1 Higashi Sakaicho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto 600-8217, Japan
+81 75-708 8929 website not functioning
(Based on £1 - 181.5 Yen plus 10% Tax)
Starters £4.75 - £17.00 | Steaks £67.00 - £185.00
Desserts £4.00 - £4.50
Cooking 7/10 | Service 1.5/5
Flavour 4/5 | Value 3.5/5
I very seldom base a review on so little food, but (a) it wasn't really my fault, and (b) I'm struggling a bit to fill the Eats! column just now. On Wednesday, I touched on the problems facing tourists seeking an authentic Japanese dining experience. I looked up one or two possibilities on Trip Advisor. Surprisingly few places in my (very limited) experience in Japan let you book online. Reception tried one or two for us. Full. They were about to book another one, then I noticed it was vegan. Having had a veggie time at a Buddhist monastery in the mountains, I declined. Thus it was that we went a full 180, and found ourselves booked into a steak house not that far away.
Not far but tricky to find. Lots of people behind curtain and glass. Nods and acknowledgements but no more. That was left to the one front of house chap. It may have been a family affair, but he bore no resemblance to any of them, and I'm not sure if he was Japanese. Possibly one of these cases where someone's dad persuades a friend of the family to give a job, out of pity, to a relative. I didn't catch the young man's name, but we'll call him Sum. Nice but dim.
Like many restaurants in Japan, the place is small. One table seating about eight, and about the same number of seats at a counter. We had been warned on booking that that's where we would be. As you enter, a glass wall separates you from the flames where the magic happens. Two mighty men labour, with surprisingly little protection. Japan has its fair share of superheroes. Then there was a prep area behind the counter hidden from us by a curtain. We get tantalising glimpses as large glasses of beer go back on a regular basis, and dishes come out more sporadically. An Elder Statesman carries most of them. To paraphrase Eric Morecambe, he may bring the correct dishes, but not necessarily in the right order, and not necessarily to the right people. A couple of young Japanese girls next to us seem to be the main recipients of the regular food cockups.
Eyebrows raised when it comes to choosing. Steak is the main event, of course. We are presented with a board listing the individual pieces of meat on offer. Most of these are Kobe, The little cards specify the cut and weight. A sirloin of 285g (10 ounces) will cost £141. We swallow hard. Fortunately (for many reasons) they also have a selection of what is simply described as aged beef, all about the 700g mark, bone in. All for one person, says Sum, earnestly. I recover my poise, and specify that we can share that. £63 for two is hardly out of the way.
Sum tells us that as the beef will take 30 - 40 minutes to prepare, we should order a starter. No hardship, From a short, eccentric menu we could have chosen to begin with Assorted Aged Beef, Beef Sausages, Korean Yukhoe Style Aged Beef or Fried Potatoes. Shrimp Cocktail seemed a reasonable choice. You really can't have rice with steak, not even in Japan, so we ordered some tatties to go with the main event. Sum disappears.
A drink would be nice. Only one type of beer on offer, a malt beer. I've had unpleasant experiences of this. We eventually attract the attention of Elder Statesman and indicate that we would like to try before we buy. No problem. He brings us about a pint of the stuff, then disappears into the kitchen carrying another two glasses.
Time passes. ES reappears in our direction bearing a plate of chips. No thanks, that's for the main course. Starters would be nice. More time passes. The beer, when it comes, is good, and we're in no hurry. I seek permission to go and photograph the Mighty Men of Fire. It's an hour in. I may have ordered a second beer. Then Sum is at our elbow - with a large plate of beef. When we express surprise that we've had no starters, he disappears like a frightened rabbit, clutching our steak. We literally had to chase after him to retrieve it, with a promise that the chips might arrive in another 10 minutes.
Elder Statesman disappears behind the curtain again, this time with a couple of large whiskies. He does reappear, surprisingly quickly, with our tatties. The steak is magnificent. Like good Scottish beef, correctly seasoned, and looked after by men who have the skill to cook over fire. Incidentally, you're not asked how you want it cooked. It arrives rare/medium rare, which is just fine by me. I won't repeat my rant about the Kobes and Wagyus - see Wednesday's column for that - but my faith was restored. Japan is indeed up there with the top beef producers. Certainly the view of the svelte Swiss couple next to us, who had the same cut as us, then followed it with a large Kobe sirloin. Japan, as I say, is full of superheroes.
It's extremely difficult to write a review based on such a small selection of food, but as you can see it wasn't my fault. It's even more difficult to assess value for money, when you don't really know what the stuff costs in the shops. We did look at the dessert menu. Today's sweets (please ask the staff). More dialogue with Sum? Perhaps not. We paid and left, waving to the clinking glasses behind the curtain.