I knew the only chance I could get a table at Mishima-tei, the Kyoto
restaurant specialized in beef dishes, without a reservation was to go
for an early lunch just when the restaurant opens, so I did exactly
that. We have been here for dinner previously and loved their food and
the whole experience of dining inside the old building, and my sudden craving for beef brought me back
here last month when I was in town again.
The restaurant is located at the busy junction of Teramachi-dori and Sanjo-dori, a popular shopping district and a major tourist destination. Both the facade and interior was very old-school, probably didn't change much since the restaurant first opened in the year 1873. On the ground floor was the butcher shop offering top-quality raw beef for take-away, and through the small entrance into the first and second floors up the wooden staircase was the reception area, waiting room and the dining hall and private rooms in which meals were served.
Mishima-tei offers three different cooking styles for the beef - their signature Sukiyaki for which thin slices of beef and vegetables were cooked in special sauce; Oil-yaki which was thicker-cut steak grilled on an iron pan; or Mizudaki, aka shabu shabu which was a beef hotpot. While dinner was a much more elaborate affair with more substantial portion and a choice of beef of different grades, during the day they offered a simplified set meal which I thought was of tremendous value to experience their cooking at a fraction of price.
I was surprised they seat me in one of the private rooms - afterwards I realized the dining hall has been reserved for some corporate lunch function with a big group. The room wasn't particular big but definitely more than comfortable for one, and decorated with art pieces in traditional style. Soon after I ordered the Sukiyaki lunch course and a bottle of beer, the waitress started off the electric stove in the middle of the table and brought in the ingredients.
The food was cooked in 3 different rounds - starting with the beef with sugar and the special sukiyaki sauce, and served with a raw egg in the dipping bowl. The beef has excellent marbled texture and was super tender. I usually found their sauce a bit too sweet but that did work well with the fatty flavor of the meat. Then it's a combination of vegetables, including onions, eggplant, konnyaku, leeks and tofu, cooked with a slab of melted cow fat, sauce and a light sprinkle of sugar, and lastly more vegetables were added along with another round of sliced beef. Rice was served with assorted pickles and a small bowl of Shigureni, or finely chopped seasoned beef floss for which you could mix in with your bowl of rice. A slice of honey dew melon was served as dessert at the end of the meal.
Many visitors have come and swore by this is a must-go place in Kyoto. For me, there are simply way too many places to visit and too much good food to try in this town - to say something is "must-go" seems to limit your options to go around and explore new places. But the place is definitely more than decent and if you are a meet-lover, I would definitely recommend having a meal here some time. A sumptuous dinner will definitely get all your meat cravings satisfied and the simpler lunch was of great value and good quality too.
When? July 23 2015
Where? Mishima-tei, 405 Sakurano-cho, Sanjo-sagaru, Teramachi-dori, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto
Menu Highlights? Beef Sukiyaki