This hundred-year-old restaurant is smack dab in the middle of Arashimaya in Western Kyoto. Although we stayed at a Zen Temple, meals were not included as part of our lodgings. We were, however, able to sample a delicious vegetarian yudofu - boiled tofu - meal at Takemura.
We didn't go into this blind; we found Takemura via one of my favourite Japan bloggers (Blue Lotus) and decided that we were definitely stopping by when we went to look at the beautiful bamboo groves.
Luckily, we arrived on the earlier side, (perhaps around 11:30 or so) and we were able to drop in without any reservations. As the lunch hour waned, the room filled with other couples enjoying a Springtime tete-a-tete.
We chose from a menu of teishoku - set courses. We couldn't really distinguish what made each of the teishoku different, except that we assumed that the romanized numbers in the middle of each description (see a bigger version on Flickr here) indicated the number of courses. We chose the ￥3600 course -- if I recall correctly -- exactly in the middle-range price-wise.
Takemura's speciality is boiled tofu - yudofu - one of the primary dishes in shojin ryori vegan cuisine developed in Buddhist temples throughout Japan. I've read that Kyoto is particularly known for their pristine water and tofu, and Takemura demonstrates the delicacy of this vegetable-based cuisine. The silky blocks of soy arrive in ice water, to be placed in the nabe, the earthenware pot filled with boiling water and a piece of konbu on top of a portable table burner.
This is not the prettiest dish but an illustration of placing the toppingu on the tofu, once it's heated through. Take bits of grated ginger and daikon, katsuoboshi (bonito flakes), nori, negi and shoyu, and top the silky tofu to your heart's (and palate's) delight.
Goma Dofu, as I've mentioned before, is the craziest dish made of pounded sesame paste and kuzu starch, and it's sooo tasty. Though it's savoury (no sugar whatsoever), and served with soy sauce and wasabi, it satisfies dessert cravings weirdly and wonderfully enough. I think I probably saved this to eat towards the end of our meal.
I couldn't tell what these small bits of deliciousness was, but I could guess - to the left was probably some savoury-sweet marinated wheat gluten, followed by a lightly mustardy dressed nanohana or broccoli rabe; then the last bit was some seared mochi brushed with a soy-based sauce and wrapped in a small strip of nori.
Then there was the hirousu: a large ball of fried tofu stuffed with ginko nuts, yassai (vegetables), and cloud-ear mushrooms, steeping in a vegetarian, mushroomy dashi. Hearty, delicious and filling.
Then came a beautiful, light tempura of assorted yassai, served in the proper way with tempura salt. Note the tiny, beautifully-feathered bit of eggplant on the right.
The traditional clear soup, with a small tied bundle of yuba sheet, and some bits of shungiku, or edible chrysanthemum leaf.
And of course, it wouldn't have been a proper meal without ending with a bowlful of pearly rice and some beautiful pickles.
We did have dessert - vanilla-flavoured tofu soft serve!
All in all, though DD and I are dedicated and fervent meateaters, the lunch here was lovely, the staff friendly and fairly proficient in English (though we still tried our best with our poor Japanese). The proprietress chatted us up as we were leaving, offering us some pens as souvenirs and letting us know that she was a fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger (he's apparently visited the restaurant) upon learning that we were from California.
48-7 cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto 嵯峨天龍寺北造路