We ate great vegetarian food in Kyoto. There's Buddhist cuisine, including Shojin Ryori, macrobiotic, and delicious, places if you know where to look. You certainly won't starve, but it isn't necessarily cheap either.
Tuesday 25th of July 2017 06:32:16 PM

About The Authors

Ken Goldberg and
Kathryn Kefauver Goldberg
Berkeley, California, USA
"Watashitachi wa bejitarian desu." (We are vegetarians.)

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08. Miko-an, we love you 彌光庵 (Downtown Kyoto)—Kathryn

Without my Personal GPS Unit, otherwise known as Ken, I never would have found this place. We'd actually looked at its inscrutable (for us, no English) website before leaving Berkeley, and the wonderful people at the Hyatt helped us print a more detailed map.

The restaurant is near Shijo-dori and the South entrance of the Teramachi covered arcade, off a small street, and down an alley between two buildings that's no wider than an airplane aisle. Following signs, we ducked into the small, heavily cluttered room with a bar that would seat no more than ten. "Upstairs?" we asked. Two women gestured for us to choose two stools instead . . .

Kathryn finds the sign to Miko-an
Kathryn finds the sign to Miko-an. Note the hours.

The front door.
Through the alley, across the courtyard, up 2 steps and in we go.

After we did our our no-meat/no-fish theme song the older woman knew the drill. Possibly the only English we heard her use was to tell us, "No meat. No fish." Then the two women set to clattering pans on a four burner stove. We would get "the tofu set." We were stoked! Jazz played softly in the background: Bud Powell Live.

While we waited for our sets, we studied chotche-based decor that was equal parts dense, eclectic, and feline. Aung San Suu Kyi "Courage" pins were heaped alongside a two-inch koala bear toy with grippy arms. Books, paper and notebooks oozed off chairs and shelves. Calligraphy, postcards and maps of Sardinia hung side by side. The ceiling was tiled with posters of foreign shores. Two fluffy cats roamed the place before settling into shoe boxes side by side. Not only was every surface smothered, but stuff even claimed a mid-air position: a stuffed-animal sperm whale hung from string! (Maybe we can try this in Ken's office at home.)

Wait! Have I mentioned the food at Miko-an made this perhaps my very favorite place? Two mismatched trays with six small dishes each constituted our "sets." They included tofu cutlets, piled mini-noodles with seaweed greens, balls of sesame, miso soup, and an array of small yummies which we devoured and enjoyed.

--Kathryn

Ken says:
This is a great place to come on a date. Although we ordered the same thing, we each were given completely different items and encouraged to share. Which we did in a Jack Sprat kind of way--yet guarding some items with chopsticks when necessary. How it's possible for this tiny kitchen to churn out 9 or 10 different small dishes simulaneously boggles the mind. But they did. And when we came back for a second dinner, they did it again with 9 or 10 completely new dishes. For 1000 Yen, you just can't beat the price for what you get.

Miko-an kitchen
Perched on the end of the bar, you can watch all the action. But unless you "onegaishimasu" you might not get the attention of the older woman when your water runs out.

Dinner #1
Ken's dinner. Yes, those are tofu and sweet-potato croquettes.

Ken and Kathryn at Miko-an
Kathryn's set included tofu spring-rolls.

Hard at work at Miko-an
I imagine that's the menu on the wall in the center of the photo. We watched her change the items, presumably as things ran out.

Guiness on tap!
Guiness? I'll have the sake please.

Cats love boxes
As we left dinner on the second night, we lingered a while and knew we wouldn't be back for a long time.
The kitchen pace had slowed down, and the older woman came around the bar to say goodbye to us. Actually Kathryn asked about buying a Miko-an t-shirt. The cats were asleep in their boxes, and I knew enough Japanese to ask their names. All I can remember now is that the one on the left is "Chibi." Kind reader, R. T. Warfield, tells me that the one on the left is "Toro-chan."

Posted on Sat, Nov 3, 2007 at 9:26 PM