Sakyo-ku, Kyoto City is home to Kyoto University and other excellent university students from all over Japan. It is an area of Kyoto with many old customs, but on the contrary, it is also an area where Kyoto’s common sense does not prevail.
Chinese cuisine is no exception. Kyoto’s Chinese cuisine has developed in its own unique way based on the light-flavored Cantonese cuisine, but there is a restaurant in Kita-Shirakawa, Kyoto, that has become very popular for its authentic Szechuan cuisine with a spicy flavor that goes directly against this trend. It is located in Kitashirakawa, Kyoto.
Chinese Sichuan Cuisine Rakuda｜A popular authentic Sichuan restaurant that defies the trend of Chinese cuisine in Kyoto.
Chinese Sichuan Cuisine Rakuda (read “camel”) is located a minute’s walk from the main gate of Kyoto University of Art and Design. It is a small restaurant with a counter seating about 10 and one table. Although it is located right in front of the university, it is not a reasonably priced restaurant, with each dish priced at 1,000 yen or more. Even so, the restaurant is crowded with many customers, including students and university staff, and it is common to have to wait outside for a long time if you do not make a reservation in advance.
The secret of its popularity is its “relentless” seasoning. In Kyoto, spicy food and food with strong smells are generally frowned upon. However, at Rakuda, chili peppers and sansho are used sparingly to create a genuine spiciness, and spices with a unique aroma, such as octagonal pepper, are also used. This is a strong point of appeal compared to other restaurants, and is likely the reason why it attracts some customers who are not satisfied with the light taste.
Mapo Tofu｜A dish that is a representative of Rakuda’s cuisine, which will make your tongue numb and your mouth sweat!
The best way to experience the unrelenting spiciness of the real thing is to try this dish…
The Mapo Tofu (Bean Curd) is one of the several Rakuda sets (with free refills of rice, soup, and pressed greens) for 1,450 yen. The dark brown bean curd with a layer of hot oil floating on top. It looks like it would take a lot of determination to put it in your mouth. The inside is densely packed with minced meat and tofu, making it a very hearty dish.
The Bean Curd is as “as good as it gets! The spiciness is so strong that it goes beyond spicy to numb the tip of your tongue. Sweat pours out from your forehead and neck.
Not only is the bean curd spicy, but it is also very richly seasoned. In order to neutralize the taste, you will inevitably eat more rice. It is only when you put the bean curd and rice together in your mouth that it becomes a complete dish. A student could probably eat three bowls of this dish. This single dish will definitely make you feel full.
Unbai Meat｜Another representative dish of Rakuda’s menu with a pleasant pork texture
Next, let me introduce another signature dish at Rakuda, Unbai Meat. In Japanese, it is “thin slices of pork with spicy sauce. Together with mapo doufu, it is one of the most representative dishes of Sichuan cuisine.
The visual impression is of a solitary island floating in a sea of shiny black soy sauce sauce… Its surface is covered with thin slices of pork, while the inside is packed with cucumber slices.
This unbai meat is also a spicy menu item, but it is not as numbingly spicy as the mapo doufu. When you put it in your mouth, a sweet aroma peculiar to octagonal horns first spreads throughout your mouth. Then, the spiciness slightly stimulates the tip of the tongue, followed by the sweetness of the soy sauce sauce, which leads to the pleasant texture of the pulled pork.
This tender texture is the result of the skin-on pork, which cannot be reproduced with commercially available thin slices of meat. You may be wondering in your mind, “Is it really that different? If you have doubts in your mind, please give it a try.
Rakuda’s set menu includes a variety of side dishes!
For a small additional charge, you can add an item to the set menu offered at Rakuda. From a total of 10 side dishes, including mini tantanmen, mini stick chicken, and sui-gyoza, here I introduce two items: “fried chicken” and “fried tomato and egg” (both for an additional 600 yen).
Fried Chicken｜Are you a salt person? Mayonnaise? No, no, no…
First, we ordered the “fried chicken” as an addition to the mapo tofu set. Oddly enough, it was the same combination that I ordered at Shorai in Takatsuki.
The fried chicken wings served at Rakuda are bone-in…a bit difficult to eat, it is true, but it also reflects the restaurant’s policy of serving delicious food.
The meat does not shrink from the heat because it is bone-in, and is therefore tender and juicy. What is noteworthy is the dark brown powder hidden under the fried meat…when you bite into the fried meat, the flavor of octagon spreads in your mouth with a salty taste. This is salt mixed with powdered octagon…
It destroyed my head, which was stiffened by the standard seasonings such as salt and mayonnaise in a single dish, with a bullet. It goes extremely well with fried chicken. If you don’t mind the octagonal flavor, please give it a try.
Fried Tomatoes and Eggs｜A side dish for Rakuda with many rich flavors.
Another dish is “Fried Tomato and Egg. This is a basic dish that you can probably eat anywhere in China, but it is a dish that I personally have a deep attachment to, as it was a great help to me when I was backpacking.
This light dish, which makes use of the acidity of the tomatoes, is a good contrast to the rich flavors of many other dishes in the Rakuda cuisine. The blackish grains in the fluffy egg are probably chopped eggplant. The texture of the eggplant is accented by the crunchy texture of the eggplant. The light flavor is comforting and soothing, and may be good as a break from the hot bean curd.
Reservations are recommended even at lunch time…9 minute walk from Chayama Station on the Eizan Line to Chinese Sichuan Cuisine Rakuda.
Now, here are the details of the restaurant.
Address: 27-4, Kitashirakawa Senouchi-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
Phone number: 075-781-0306
Business hours: Lunch 11:30-14:00 LO, Dinner 17:30-21:00 LO
Closed: Monday, 1st Tuesday (open on national holidays)
Parking: 3 parking spaces available at a nearby parking lot
P.S. If you are looking for delicious Chinese food in Kyoto, please stop by this article…