It was the end of a lazy Sunday afternoon in mid October.
Good friend, and longterm Kyotoite, Liz and I had made the most, of the last, of the year's warmer evenings by lolling beside the Kamogawa.
In the romantic glow of the lingering afternoon light, we bore witness to much canoodling (holding hands and leaning) at the same time noting the amount of older men hovering on their bikes clearly hoping for a cheap glimpse of something more, but it was the tiny flying mushi (insects) which finally drove us away.
We were seeking sustenance, and a glass of wine, somewhere casual - and vegetarian friendly.
Within minutes of leaving the river we discovered Hinata, in a lane way just off west off Kiyamachi street, a few streets north of Sanjo dori, and it fit the bill perfectly. They specialise in Kyo-yasai (revered Kyoto vegetables) and seasonal varieties featured in both vegetarian and meat based dishes. There was certainly enough vego and seafood choices to keep Liz happy (and, well there was wine so we were always going to be OK really...) and they had some great sounding meaty/piggy/offally bits too - quite the contrast ... I'll have to head back without Liz!!
As soon as we entered the restaurant we noticed there were quite a few foreigners - the place is in the heart of the city and they have an English menu so it is an easy joint for a casual but very decent meal with reasonable prices. (the lot including wine cost us around $60 AUD). We ordered drinks and within minutes a small plate of pumpkin terrine and tofu with dashi was set down before us - for a casual joint this was a lovely surprise.
Arancini above, pumpkin and chicken gratin with a deliciously rich chicken jus. There was also a shellfish dish which I must have been too busy scoffing to photograph.
Everything was flavoursome, fresh, well executed, and pretty simple. There was a distinct Italian theme but also some Japanesey flavours too. Easy fare for the fussy eater or for those who may need a change break from traditional Japanese food.
Here's a link to a sample menu - don't forget to use google translate!
Look out for the logo above on the building sign board at street level ( there are quite a few businesses in this tall, skinny building) - and please note that the restaurant is on the third floor. There is a lift.
If you are coming from Kawaramachi street - this restaurant is the first little street south of the Kyoto Royal Hotel and Spa.
As it happens - there are a couple of other cosy looking Italian and Spanish restaurants on this street too including one excellent woodfired pizza joint. - about half way along but possibly just closer to the Kawaramachi end of the street. I love Da Yuki in Higashiyama and have always rated it as the best pizza in Kyoto but this place is right up there. Must head back and try the pasta! Sorry no name but will grab it next time I'm in town...