By Mandy Bartok
Have you ever cooked Japanese dishes by yourself? Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could do that at home for your friends and family? If so, Ai's Cuisine is the place for those who are passionate about food as well as learning how to cook authentic Japanese dishes.
"Good ingredients make me want to cook", Ai tells me with a smile, while deftly pairing ingredients, such as simmering sardines with ginger which is the best friend of steamed rice. She also speaks English and French, having taught Japanese cuisine in Paris and having lots of experiences with people from different cultures. However, it wasn't always like this. Ai started her career in a bank, but one day, she stumbled across some recipes from her late grandmother who passed away when she was only five years old. These recipes were from another era, but somehow spoke to her more than all those years studying and working as an engineer. One thing led to another, and she found herself teaching Japanese cooking to fashion houses in France.
A machiya townhouse transformed for the cooking class
Ai's cooking studio is a beautifully renovated Machiya which she has dedicated as her cooking studio. The design is a combination of tradition and modern, giving an authentic backdrop to learn Japanese cuisine.
Everything is perfectly prepared for the visitors
We were welcomed with Japanese tea and sweet. "We teach cooking classes but tea is also something we care about in order to welcome the guests", Ai reminds us. Being with her is like being invited to her home, but as she has already prepared everything in perfect order; the cooking time was filled with lightness and joy. At the same time, she taught very clearly and we felt confident that we can really replicate her cooking when we are back home cooking for our friends.
Memorable experience with satisfied stomach at a good price.
There are two types of classes. The breakfast class from 8-10 am is ¥4,000 and is best if you want to spend rest of the day for other activities. The afternoon class from 3pm offers a more complete Japanese menu and costs ¥8,000. It lasts 3.5 hours including time to enjoy the meal. Considering the service and experience as well as amount of delicious food you can eat, you don't feel expensive at all.
More than full course menu
The menu changes depending on the season and Ai can also adjust her dishes to suit different food preferences. We had a mainly vegetarian course, which included:
• Rice • Miso soup • Japanese layered omelette • Simmered Hijiki seaweed with green soy beans (This was really delicious!!) • Stir fried Kyoto pepper (a kind of bell pepper originated from Kyoto) seasoned with bonito flakes • Teriyaki Chicken stir fried with Japanese leek (which you can replace with green onion back home)
Ai also let us try a sample of Sake from local breweries that goes perfectly with her recipe. We finished the meal with Japanese tea and a local sweet.
This is something I would totally recommend for those who visit Kyoto
At Ai’s cooking class, her grandmother’s wisdom and generosity is never far away, with her heirloom and handmade ceramics a quiet reminder of a slower time.
Ai's Cuisine is located in the heart of Higashiyama district. It is two minutes walk from either Higashiyama-Sanjo bus stop, or Higashiyama subway station on the Tozai line. It is eight minutes walk if you are coming from Gion. You can walk along beautiful Shirakawa river while heading to Ai's cooking studio.
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