We took a day trip to Arashiyama from Kyoto, mainly to see the famed Bamboo Forest, but managed to fit in some pretty good meals as well.
Unagi Hirokawa specialises in all forms of unagi. Their signature unagi don features perfectly grilled unagi, seasoned with some sweet soy but not so much that you can't taste the unagi, over perfectly cooked rice.
In addition, their unagi and burdock stew, and grilled unagi liver, were really good too.
Just outside the Tenruji temple was a yuba shop that sold an awesome yuba soft serve ice cream, that set the standard for all other tofu ice creams that we subsequently tried on our trip. It had just the right amount of sweetness, balanced with the flavour of the yuba. The other ones didn’t even come close.
Tempura Matsu is slightly further out from the main centre of Arashiyama, but it was well worth the walk. Originally just a tempura restaurant, the chef's experiments soon became more popular than his tempura, and now they're known for an excellent, and very good value, omakase.
Some particular standouts in a very good meal were the fatty yellowtail that they lightly seared on hot stones right in front of us - smokey and almost buttery, this first course set the tone for the rest of the meal.
The rice duo was also amazing. 2 small bowls of rice, one topped with otoro, and another with crab meat mixed with crab brains. Heaven.
Another very interesting dish was the unagi hotpot. They heated a pot of eel broth, and cooked slices of unagi, shabu shabu-style, before giving it to us for dipping in a ponzu sauce. Tasting the unagi without the usual adornments of grilling and sweet sauce was quite an eye-opener - it had the potential to be very fishy but it was perfectly balanced.
Dessert was grilled mochi balls with kinako (roasted soybean) powder, which A fell in love with and again, no other version we ordered elsewhere even came close.
For such a tiny little town, Arashiyama certainly has lots to offer, food-wise. There's even, inexplicably, the only Arinco King outlet outside Tokyo – go figure.
Tempura Matsu was a highlight of our trip. Well worth the walk and getting lost by the river. The tofu skin ice cream was also a great eye opener. Approved.