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This traditional izakaya serves sushi and traditional Kyo-ryori (Kyoto cuisine) in a relaxed and unpretentious atmosphere. Located in a residential neighborhood, we never would have found it on our own. We were treated to dinner here by a family friend and arrived on a chilly autumn evening. The simple storefront was lined along one side, fronted by a fish tank and then an open kitchen, where two chefs were busy at work. The fish tank served as a (very) temporary home to a huge tai (sea bream) and several fugu (blow fish). The other side had several small tatami-matted rooms with hori kotastu seating (low tables with space down below for your legs, for comfort). Here, we enjoyed a relaxed and leisurely meal, accompanied by plenty of shochu and sake. The food arrived out of order, but we hardly cared.

To start, we enjoyed a single piece of terrine made of aspic, fugu skin and slivered green onion, followed by dobumushi, which was served in small individual teapots and tiny cups. The object is to enjoy the savory and fragrant broth, and then lift the lid to consume the seasonal ingredients in the pot. The autumn offering contained shrimp, hamo (pike conger), fresh shiitake mushroom and gingko nut, and was redolent with mistuba.

Next, a bowl full of Kyoto vegetables arrived: yuba (tofu skin), gingko nut and satoimo (mountain potato), followed by the grilled course, which was especially delicious: amadai (sweet sea bream) marinated in sake lees.

The otsukuri platter of sashimi, which normally is served near the start of the meal, arrived next. Here, a few slices of kampachi were served with salt (not soy sauce) and yuzu. This was accompanied by tai (sea bream) and wonderfully fresh and flavorful uni (sea urchin). We then enjoyed a hollowed-out yuzu rind filled with steamed shirako (fish semen— yes, you read that right!) The shirako looked like brains and had the creamy consistency of tofu, and melted in our mouths with a rich and robust flavor.

The appetizer tray then arrived. This was actually supposed to be served first, (or second) but we could understand the delay due to the complexity of the arrangement. A brilliant red persimmon leaf was placed artfully on a black lacquer tray. On top of this was a magnificent autumn arrangement of smoked salmon sushi, dried persimmon, sweet rolled omelette and baby daikon. Of particular note was a single gingko nut pierced with a cha-soba (tea soba) pine needle. The ends of the needle were stuck together with nori (seaweed) and the whole was edible. It was a perfect still life of autumn, and was so stunning it was a shame to eat.

To finish, savory maitake mushroom rice was served with pickles, and dessert was a simple persimmon filled with stewed apple.

We didn’t notice that the other tatami rooms were getting boisterous until it was time to leave, but Yamano is just the sort of place where you can relax and enjoy good food without worrying about the level of conversation or even your table manners. This is a notable difference from other restaurants with food of this caliber.


Above: Dobumushi of autumn mushrooms and vegetables
Address: Takeyamachi Moromachi Higashi-iru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto
Hours: 11:00-14:00 and 16:00-20:30
Closed: Open every day except during the New Year’s Holiday
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