In preparation for our trip to Japan I read several food blogs with recommendations and suggestions. I still enjoy reading Kyoto Foodie when I want to day dream about revisiting! In fact, I follow this blogger on Twitter as well. Several weeks ago @kyotofoodie posted a picture from lunch at Izugu for Kyoto-style sushi before heading to Ebisu Shrine. This tweet made me realize just how many blog posts from the Japan trip I have left unfinished.
As I learnt in reading the Story of Sushi, Kyoto style sushi is quite different from the much more common Edo style sushi. Tokyo, or the ancient city of Edo, is on the coast and fresh fish is readily available. Therefore, Edo style sushi highlights the freshness of the fish. Kyoto, on the other hand, is inland therefore the sushi relies on cured fish and a variety of vegetables and tofu. Another distinctive feature of Kyoto style sushi is the rice is sweetened much more than it is in Edo style sushi. I believe the sweetness of the rice was used to balance the flavor of the cured fish.
Izugu sushi has been making Kyoto style sushi for over 100 years and takes pride in preserving this tradition with the influx of Edo style sushi. It has been in this particular location since WWII. It is a restaurant full of history, culture and tradition. We tried several specialties of the house. The Sabazushi is a roll with mackerel and pickled vegetables. The Sasamaki is sea bream, kinome and sushi rice wrapped in sasa bamboo leaf. The Hakozushi, literally box sushi, is sushi which is pressed in a wooden from. In our case it was Spanish mackerel pressed onto sushi rice. We also tried the Inarizushi which is sushi rice wrapped in deep fried tofu skins.
The flavors are nothing like what we are used to in sushi. For me, all of them were overwhelmingly sweet. I really couldn’t get passed the sweetness. I also felt that most of the fish was a bit pungent with the curing. In general, I don’t have a taste for pickled items. Having said that, I did enjoy the Inarizushi tofu skin sushi. The fried skin was crispy and delicate and provided a nice contrast to the sweet rice. Again, it was quite sweet but I did enjoy the texture.
Though, I can’t say that I loved Kyoto style sushi, I am glad that we tried it when we were in Kyoto. It allowed us to get an understanding of sushi throughout Japan and local flavors. It was also a treat to try this style of sushi in a restaurant with so much history and tradition and working to maintain this tradition.
Gion District of Kyoto
At the corner of Shijo Street and Higashi O-ji
Across from the bright orange gate of Yasaka Shrine