If I had to name one really essential and omnipresent ingredient of the Japanese cuisine, I would say: the soybean! There are about one trillion variations how to prepare and eat it: just cooked, fermented as in natto, miso or tofu, as soymilk, mashed as filling of sweets, ground and roasted as kinako flour, etc.
No wonder there are restaurants specialized in products made of these little superbeans, even in one kind of soybeans, like the Kuromame Café in Kyoto which serves only black soybean dishes. Since these are all vegetarian (except for a little extra plate with dried fish, but this was easy to avoid), I had to check out the kuromame (black bean) set meal of course. And it was amazing! There was the obligatory miso soup, here made of black bean miso, with some vegetables inside. Then there were wonderful, crisp, tempura-like rolls of a thin sheet of seaweed, stuffed with mashed black beans, dipped in a light batter and fried - extraordinary delicious and a taste I never experienced before. They were to be eaten sprinkled with strong sea salt, that came with them.
Soft and fresh were the two kinds of homemade tofu, one made of black, the other one of white beans. This creamy tofu tasted gorgeous with the sweet preserved black beans. Accompanied and accomplished was all this with rice that was cooked together with - surprise, surprise: black beans. During lunchtime this set costed 1050 yen, definitly good value for the money.
On every table were big grindstones (you can see a part of one the first photo, on the right side), that are to be used for making fresh kinako just a few seconds before eating. Interesting, fun, and yummie!
For sure a place very worth a visit and conveniently located in the Ninenzaka & Sannenzaka area not far from the Kiyomizudera.
Kuromame Café 黒豆茶庵北尾 清水店
京都府京都市東山区清水寺門前産寧坂北入ル [please click for map and infos in Japanese]