844 is an organic and (mostly) vegetarian restaurant nestled between ramen shops and hostess bars in a back alley just off the main drag in central Kyoto. A cozy little place with soft lighting, the tables and walls are adorned with an eclectic assortment of decorations, such as Hello Kitty dolls, robot fans, handmade instruments, tiki heads, and an 8-foot tall papier mache giraffe.
Yamamoto Shinya, the owner and cook, opened the restaurant four years ago because he wanted to create the kind of place he would like to eat at. All of the food on the menu is made from organic ingredients – from vegetables to flour to seaweed – most of which are bought from local farmers and co-ops.
Shinya-san's culinary creations are as much pieces of art as his original paintings on the walls of the restaurant, or the 844 T-shirts he designed. Everything in the restaurant, including the staff, is a reflection of his personal philosophy and commitment to individuality. "I carefully choose the food I serve, and I carefully choose the people who work here. We are doing this business to say something."
If you should happen to be in Kyoto and dying for some wholesome, meatless food, stop by 844. The restaurant is a challenge to find because the streets have no street signs, but it's well worth a try!
hijiki, burdock & carrots, on rice ingredients
2 c water
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
6 cm square kombu (dry)*
4 T sake
4 T tamari
2 T umeboshi paste (pickled plum)
1 green onion
1/4 c hijiki (dry)*
2 c carrot
1 c burdock*
2 squares fried tofu or inari*
sesame oil, for sauteing
* Kombu is a thin flat seaweed, sold dry and in packages of large squares. Hijiki, known as the "strong one," is a black thread-like seaweed. Burdock is a long brown root available through the fall and winter. Inari, or aburage, are sweet fried tofu pockets, canned or fresh. All of these ingredients can be found in Asian markets or health food stores.
step one: making dashi (soup stock)
This is a basic dashi recipe and it can be used when preparing almost any Japanese dish. Use it in miso soup or just cook up some veggies in it.
step two: preparing the dish
- Soak the kombu and mushrooms in the water for 1 hour. (If you have the time and foresight, soak them overnight, as longer soaking enhances the flavour.)
- When the soaking is complete, put the water and mushrooms on the stove and bring to a near boil. Turn off the heat just before the water starts bubbling, remove the kombu and shiitake, squeezing out any excess liquid, and set them aside. You can use them in the mix later.
- Add the sake and tamari to the water. Now you have dashi.
- Soak the hijiki for 10 minutes and then drain. Place the hijiki in a pot with just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for 40 minutes.
- While the hijiki is cooking, cut the carrot into 2-inch- long julienne strips. Wash the burdock and cut into julienne strips; immediately put the pieces in a bowl of water and let soak for a minimum of 15 minutes to avoid discolouration and remove bitterness.
- Wash the fried tofu by dipping it in boiling water. Cut it into long thin pieces.
- Cut the kombu and mushrooms (discarding the mushroom stems) into strips.
- In a pan, saute the carrot and burdock in sesame oil for one minute, and then add half of the dashi. Simmer away until most of the dashi is absorbed (about 10 minutes). Add the cooked hijiki, fried tofu, mushrooms and kombu plus the rest of the dashi. Again, simmer until the rest of the dashi is absorbed.
- Finely chop the green onion and mix it together with the umeboshi paste.
- Serve veggies on top of rice. Mix in the umeboshi paste. A true Japanese feast.
844 (the Japanese pronunciation is ha-shi-shi), 1F Reiho Building, 366 Kamiya-sho, Nishikiyamachi, Shijo Agaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, Japan.