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Girljin in Japan By Rachel Tranter Davies
tan
Turning Traditional Kaiseki on its Head



Opened by chef Yuko Kuwamura, famed in Japan for her ultra-high-end kaiseki ''Wakuden'' restaurants, Tan is a refined take on traditional Japanese homecooking, washoku, offering a more casual dining experience than her other establishments.



Wakuden apprentice, chef Yasunori Kitajima, runs the show at Tan, who's open-kitchen workstation at the end of the communal 10-seat table, offers a theatrical aspect with which to gaze upon during your meal. Aside from the sharing space, there are two small tables of two and an upstairs area that lends itself perfectly to relax over some sencha tea. The decor is simple, modern and airy, full of light on both floors, from the huge front-facing windows that overlook the beautiful willow-lined Shirakawa canal.



There is a wonderful blend of sharing dishes and personal plates at Tan. Once seated, guests choose from a selection of seasonal course options, each starting with a large platter of colourful, steamed veggies, all organically grown in northern Kyoto Prefecture, many of which are from the Tango Peninsula, where the restaurant gets its name.



The plates of perfect veg are accompanied by a communal bowl of barley miso and a pot of salt, to add just a touch of seasoning to the delicious offerings. Small plates of gobo (burdock root) and Kyo-ninjin carrots dressed in a creamy sesame sauce appear halfway through finishing the veg and, depending on the course selected (I opted for the seasonal fish lunch set), a selection of fresh sashimi with local soy sauce soon follows.



A highlight of the individual dishes was a satiny green soup of nanohana (rapeseed), the slight bitterness contrasting perfectly with the sweet oyster submerged at the bottom of the bowl. The main crab and potato dish with a rich sauce made of dashi (Japanese bonito and konbu stock) was outstanding, accompanied by local rice, Ohara pickles and special-Kyoto-miso soup.



Bite-sized morsels are offered up on locally-produced crockery that radiates rustic charm and the sight of the food makes the mouth water. Everything is seasonal too. If you can't grow, harvest or catch it that day, you won't be eating it. That's the Tan ethos and one that is clearly embraced by many as the place is almost always full.



Inspired by the seasonal farm to table approach at Tan, head to Ohara in the mountains on the outskirts of Kyoto city, to the north east. An area rich in agriculture (nearly all pesticide free) and famed for its crisp and delicious pickles, every Sunday the village holds a market, where local farming families set up stalls selling fruit or veg plucked from their gardens that morning or dried lovingly in the sun. Open from 6:30 a.m., it's a trip for early risers, as the stands only stay until everything is sold out - which can happen quite quickly some days.



Breakfast: from 8:00 or 9:00; Lunch: 12:00-14:30 (L.O. 14:00), Dinner: 18:00-22:00 (L.O. 21:00); Closed Mon.; tan.kyoto.jp



Rachel is a food, drink and travel writer. Originally from England, she recently relocated to Japan and is now finding her feet in Kyoto. You can find her blogging tweeting and instagramming her experiences at Girljin in Japan.