I know that tofu isn’t everyone’s favorite thing to eat so I was surprised to learn J was enthusiastic about trying out this tofu restaurant while he was in Tokyo. Then again, enjoying beer and baseball doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate healthy foods, right? The place I took him to isn’t a sophisticated top-notch kaiseki ryōri (Japanese haute cuisine) restaurant but it does give you a glimpse of what fine dining can be in Japan. This place is casual enough to not be too intimidating and at lunch time it’s easy on the wallet as well.
梅の花 Ume no Hana (plum blossom) is a restaurant I discovered 15 years ago and loved. I took all my visiting friends, and even took my Grandma there when she and I traveled to Japan 11 years ago. I think it started in Kyoto and now there is an impressive list of locations all over Japan (there is one in Ginza as well). I took J to their Aoyama restaurant on a weekday and had no trouble getting seated without a reservation. I speak enough Japanese to get by so we didn’t ask for an English menu but I think some English is spoken at this branch.
We ordered two different lunch sets to have more variety: 京の梅ランチ kyō no ume lunch (Kyoto’s plum) and 花ランチ hana lunch (flower lunch set). Here is our meal-
I’m missing photos of J’s croquettes from the hana set, which came when I received this fried tofu course below. That little contraption is to help you squeeze the slice of lemon to extract the juice from it and sprinkle over the fried tofu. You see how doing it this way you don’t get your hands messy…
As with most Asian meals, you know you’ve gone through the whole course when you see the rice dish presented. Mine (the plum course) was this rice with unagi (freshwater eel) that was steamed in a bamboo basket (there were three options to choose from and I chose the unagi but I can’t remember the other two choices). It was served with pickles and a bowl of clear soup that contained delicate yuba (tofu skin). J’s hana set had steamed rice with bamboo shoots and the tiniest little anchovies.
Both of our lunch sets included dessert as well. J’s hana set came with strawberry ice cream made with soy milk and strawberry yōkan, which is sweet bean jelly. Mine was green tea cake (it tasted like dense pound cake). They were all beautifully presented.
Our bill came to ~$50USD for the two lunch sets (hana set was slightly more expensive). FYI- their dinner courses run for about $40 – $100.
I enjoyed this meal a great deal but I have to admit that it wasn’t as amazing as I remembered it. I think maybe my palate has changed over the past decade?! I still think it’s a nice place to experience a casual version of Japanese haute cuisine and I’m sure I’ll be back again.