A restaurant of freshwater fish cuisine is well known to special people and energetic softshell turtles welcome you.
Text : Keiko Nakamura / Photo : Kanako Takimoto
Hanami-koji Dori is the street which stands at the center of Gion area. I turned myself toward east around Kiyomoto-cho, a number of small paths showed up like a labyrinth. When you try to find where ‘Gion Ashida’ is and if you get lost on the way, the best clue to the restaurant is a sound. If you hear a sound of mixing pieces of mahjong, that’s the way you go. Actually, softshell turtles, which move marbles lively at the bottom of an aquarium, will welcome you. If you step inside the restaurant, then you can also meet eels as well.
‘Gion Ashida’ is the restaurant focusing on a softshell turtle and eel dishes mostly. The owner, Yasuji Ashida opened this restaurant in 1992 after he trained himself at a restaurant of freshwater fish cuisine and moved to where it is now 15 years ago. It costs 14,000 yen for 2 to 3 persons for a whole softshell turtle course. It comes with drinkable blood, sashimi, deep fried food, hot pot, and rice porridge and if you divided it into 3 persons, then about 5,000 yen per person. Softshell turtles are directly coming from Shizuoka and Saga Prefecture and eels are from Aichi prefecture, so that the can provide them in a very reasonable price.
I ordered ‘Suppon Konabe (softshell turtle small hot pot)’ (3,000 yen) today and I tasted a base of the filet called ‘Engawa’ and it was like a springy yam cake. I didn’t get overwhelmed to eat its meat because it was easy to eat even though it had a lot of bones inside and the taste was very simple and more like chicken meat or probably a blow fish. I ate it all even the last drop of ginger flavored soup with Umami from a suppon and collagen.
After I paid my check, the owner asked me, “Do you want to do it? only if you want”. He handed over a net slowly to me and he said, “Actually, this is the system only for the customers who ordered a whole softshell turtle course in order to have them catch the one they are going to eat”. I didn’t even order that course, but this could be only the chance I got, so I tried. I was watching inside of the aquarium, and I caught one of the softshell turtles’ gaze. I knew that softshell turtle is a fierce animal so that I cautiously caught one and felt kind of sorry, but it came into the next very easily. The owner said, “If you are lucky, some softshell turtles have its soft roe and eggs”.
If I ordered a course, Mr. Ashida is going to cook it immediately right in front of the counter seat. He will serve you its fresh blood with sake, wine, shochu, or apple juice and moreover you can enjoy the taste of fresh meat sashimi and its lever very much. He told me with his smiles, “There are a lot of fans of this a whole softshell turtle course from the ladies of the bars and clubs in Gion. They told me that their makeup sits very well when they eat this course. Unfortunately, man don’t understand that point though”. I told him, “I am going to order the course next time for sure” and I left the restaurant behind.
ADDRESS : 347-92 Gion-machi Kitagawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City (MAP)
PHONE : +81(0)75-531-6300
HOURS : 6:00 p.m. ~ 2:00 a.m. (till 10:00 p.m. on Sunday)
CLOSED : holiday