Kinatei – Exquisite Vegetarian Dining in Nara

Nara was the capital of Japan in the 8th century and is a popular place to visit when in the Kansai area. It’s a little over an hour from Osaka and Kyoto and perfect for a day trip. It’s home to hundreds of deer that roam the city freely and Todaiji Temple, one of my favorite temples that houses 3 large Buddha statues.

On my recent trip to Nara, I was lucky to visit Kinatei, a cosy vegetarian restaurant. The restaurant serves Japanese and Chinese style vegan dishes, and everything is homemade and organic. I got off at Kintetsu Line’s Nara Station and did a little sightseeing before coming, so the walk was a bit far. However, the restaurant is much closer if you get off the JR Nara Station.

The owner, Yoshiko, immediately greeted us in English. She was very cheerful and welcoming. There wasn’t really a menu to look at when we went for lunch, as Kinatei serves only a set menu for 1500 yen. The set includes four small dishes, unlimited soup and rice, a drink, and dessert.

The food was delicious. Our lunch set started off with a really tasty miso soup, and a bowl of rice. The miso soup was made with locally sourced vegetables, and I was delighted that I could ask for a second bowl.

The four small dishes were also great. The first was a salad, and the second was Japanese style pickles. I am a huge fan of Japanese pickles, and the owner assured us that unlike other places, there was no dashi (fish broth) used here. The third dish was a mushroom topped with a type of vegan omelette with soy meat. It was garnished with homemade sauce. My favorite was the fourth dish, a potato croquette and a piece of organic friend tofu on the side, also topped with the same homemade sauce. I wish I had taken more notes, because before brining each item out, the owner told us where the vegetables and other ingredients were sourced. It was very impressive to hear that she uses mostly local farms.

The lovely meal was finished off with coffee or tea, fresh fruit, and a sweet bean jelly made from agar.

If you are looking for healthy but delicious Japanese style, definitely come to Kinatei when you are in Nara. There aren’t very many other options in Nara, and you will not regret eating here. The offerings change daily, so I am excited to go back and see what else is being served!

Aside from the great food, the whole experience was very memorable. As I mentioned above, the owner Yoshiko was very cheerful. While our food was being prepared, she took the time to talk to us. (She is fluent in English, Japanese, Mandarin, and can speak a little Spanish) Afterwards, she offered to drive us to Todaiji Temple. It was raining hard that day, and after a while we took her offer. She surprised us by first bringing us to a nice park and giving us sliced apples to feed the deer in Nara. Then she drove us to the temple. Before leaving, she told us that if we ever come back to Nara, give her a call and she can pick us up fro the train station. Yoshiko was very kind, and her kindness made Kinatei and Nara a memorable visit.

Kinatei is a great place to visit when you’re in Nara.

Kinatei (喜菜亭)
25-1 Surugamachi
Nara-shi, Nara-ken 630-8357

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