A Japanese restaurant that draws a line out the door for a bowl of miso soup…you may be intrigued. There are many Japanese restaurants in the world, but I have never encountered one that has miso soup as its signature menu item.
Miso soup is something that every Japanese person drinks. It is no exaggeration to say that every household has its own particular taste in miso soup, with each household using its own miso paste and salt level differently. What kind of restaurant draws a long line for such miso soup?
Shiruko｜Soup specialty restaurant in Kawaramachi, Kyoto where customers never cease to come for a bowl of miso soup
Shiruko, a soup specialty restaurant in Kyoto, has been introduced on TV programs, portal sites such as Tabelog and Gurunavi, and numerous blogs and magazines. As the name of the restaurant, which was taken from the Heian-period custom “shiruko,” suggests, the restaurant’s policy is to put the spirit of hospitality into every bowl of soup, and always offers three types of soup (white miso, red miso, and sumashi) and more than 10 different ingredients.
The restaurant was originally the residence of Shuntaro Furutaka, a loyalist at the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate… The building is a structure that evokes a sense of history, but the interior is a bit cramped. When you pass through the curtain, you will see a small tatami room in front of you, but this is not a seating area, but rather serves as a conduit for the restaurant’s staff. Surrounding it are eight counter seats, and across the aisle behind them are eight counter-style seats, also on the wall.
The seating arrangement, which is modeled after the stage of Noh, a traditional Japanese performing art, is not suitable for a leisurely lunch with a few friends. In fact, the other customers are eating quietly and in silence, keeping conversation to a minimum (of course, they are not forced to do so by the restaurant). This makes it more accessible for one person, especially if you are looking for a quality Japanese lunch in a relatively short amount of time.
There is also a private tatami room behind the counter where you can relax and enjoy kaiseki cuisine in the evening with an advance reservation. Reservations are not accepted for lunch, so you must be prepared to wait in line, but the turnover time is relatively short for a high-end Japanese restaurant, so if your timing is right, you may be able to get in with a short wait.
Shiruko’s Rikyu Bento (bento) can be ordered for both lunch and dinner…we recommend changing the ingredients in the miso soup (otoshii momo) for an additional charge.
I ordered the standard Rikyu bento (bento box), which is ordered by an overwhelming majority of customers, for 2,500 yen. The price as is includes miso soup with white miso bean curd, but I asked them to change the ingredient to otoshi-imo (+650 yen)…
In the center of the serving platter is a fan-shaped bowl of kayaku rice. This is followed by five side dishes: simmered royal ferns, firm and elastic egg tofu, grilled fatty salmon, tender and elegant wakadori (young chicken), and cucumber with wasabi (Japanese horseradish) in a nuta dressing.
And at Shiruko, miso soup (white miso and otoshimono) is served with the main dish…
When you open the lid, the aroma of dashi broth spreads at once…white miso miso soup in a black lacquer ware… In it, snow white grated yam is dropped like a dumpling and topped with white sesame seeds atop the otoshimono. The miso soup has a comforting, gentle sweetness, a taste that is hard to find in households that normally use a combined miso.
Before coming to Shiruko, I had never had the image of “yam in miso soup,” but this bowl completely changed my perception of miso soup. The sweetness of the white miso paste and the softness of the yam go together very well. As you continue to eat, the yam melts into the miso soup, and the smooth soup gradually turns into a thick, sticky miso soup, and you can fully enjoy this process with this bowl of miso soup.
Frankly speaking, the Rikyu Bento alone is not enough for an adult male, and you may feel that it is too expensive. However, lunches in nearby Gion and Ponto-cho are about the same price, and it is well worth it to experience what Omotenashi Miso soup is like, which is not available at other restaurants.
There is more than just Rikyu bento on the lunch menu…there are also souvenir items to take home!
Most customers order the Rikyu bento for lunch at Shiruko, but Shiruko also offers other menu items. Just hearing the names of these dishes is enough to make you hungry, and just imagining eating them with miso soup is enough to make you hungry.
- Anago-don: 1,600 yen
- Sea urchin bowl from 2,300 yen
- Tai-meshi-don: 1600 yen
- Nori chazuke 850 yen
- Sea bream chazuke 2000 yen
- Ten chazuke 2000 yen
A take-out souvenir menu is also prepared so that you can enjoy Shiruko’s miso soup at home.
- Sea bream chirimen: 1,260 yen
- Vinegared miso 750 yen
- Shiitake mushroom kelp 500 yen
- Kyo no Shiro Miso Soup 1050 yen (4 servings)
In addition to these menus, you can also enjoy white miso zoni as a limited menu during the winter season. When New Year’s Day approaches, I will go there to try their ozoni (are they open during the New Year’s holiday?). (Are they open during the New Year’s holiday?).
Zoni: Shiruko’s familiar white miso soup with a hint of yuzu… a bowl that is unadorned but conveys high quality.
So, at the end of the year 2020, I revisited the restaurant for ozoni (priced at 1,100 yen plus tax). The recipe for ozoni, which is eaten at New Year’s in every household, differs from household to household, depending on where you are from. We were curious to see how Shiruko makes such a varied ozoni…
Shiruko’s familiar white miso soup is served with two pure white round rice cakes. The only other ingredients are a few dried bonito flakes, small green onions, and yuzu peels for aroma.
Shiruko’s white miso soup is still delicious. Compared to the miso soup with otoshiimo, the soup is lighter because the stickiness of the yam is not transferred to the miso soup, but it still has the same soothing, gentle sweetness. The addition of the yuzu aroma doubles or triples the unadorned, yet high-quality sensation that is conveyed through the bowl.
The unbaked, pure white rice cake also blends well without interfering with the high quality feel. This bowl of rice is a perfect example of the beauty of subtraction, or the fact that human beings can be happy without decorating their lives with various things.
Tai-meshi-don: A bowl of rice topped with a bowl of rice topped with flakes of sea bream…the aroma of sansho (Japanese pepper) gives it a Kyoto-like flavor.
And one more dish. I felt bad about ordering just the zoni alone… so I ordered the taimeshi rice bowl (priced at 1,600 yen plus tax). Shiruko’s tai meshi rice bowl is different from the tai meshi rice bowl that is generally imagined, and comes out looking like this…
Flakes of sea bream meat evenly spread over white rice…or rather, the meat is so fine that it is as fine as powdered snow. You can see small green grains in some places…the actual sansho (Japanese pepper) is scattered among them.
Don’t be disappointed if you see this and think, “What the heck. This is not the kind of tai meshi you would eat in Matsuyama or Uwajima in Ehime…” Don’t be disappointed. These fine, fluffy sea bream flakes are quite good.
The flakes penetrate the rice and evenly coat the rice, making the rice taste delicious without any unevenness in flavor. If you make ochazuke with this tai flake, I am sure it will be delicious. When I think about it, I feel a little bit of regret for not making tai chazuke.
Recipes for excellent miso soup and otoshimono open to the public? Access to Shiruko is a one-minute walk from the nearest station, Kawaramachi Station on the Hankyu Kyoto Line.
Now, here are the details of the restaurant…
Address: 100 Shinmachi, Nishikiyacho Shijo Kamigami, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
Phone number: 075-221-3250
Business hours: 11:30-15:00 (last entry at 14:00), 17:00-21:00 (last entry at 20:00)
Closed: Wednesday, irregular holidays
Parking: No parking
Credit card payment: Not accepted
It is located at the nearest station, Kawaramachi Station, exit on the Ponto-cho side and turn left down an alley one street to the north. It is also a 3-minute walk from Gion-Shijo Station on the Keihan Electric Railway Line, across the Shijo Ohashi Bridge, and a short walk from the Kyoto Station direction, getting off at the Shijo-Kawaramachi bus stop. It is also a 9-minute walk from Sanjo Station on the Keihan Electric Railway line.
According to Shiruko’s website, Shiruko used to publish a book titled “Seasonal Rice and Soup – Kyoto Shiruyuki. It seems to be sold only as a used book now, but if you are interested in his excellent miso soup and otoshimono recipes, you may look for it on Amazon or other sites.
As a side note, there seems to be a restaurant in Roppongi, Tokyo, called “Shirukaku” that looks just like Shiruko. Maybe I’ll drop by next time I’m in Tokyo…
P.S. If you are looking for delicious Japanese food in Kyoto, please stop by this article below…
P.P.S. The ozoni here was half as good…