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Hale, Nishiki-dori, 198-1, Kyoto, Japan (inside the Nishiki Market)

What: Vegetarian restaurant, mostly vegan, in the Nishiki Market in Kyoto. Difficult to find even when you are already in the Nishiki Market. It has a very narrow glass door with red writing on it and is wedged between two other shops. If you enter the market from the west end it will be on the left hand side (the north side of the market). Opening times are confusing, best have a Japanese speaker call to make a booking for you.

 Prices: Very expensive, as most everything is in Japan. A meal for two with four glasses of ginger ale cost in the region of €75 euro.

 Vegetarian menu: Typical Japanese food, most of it is vegan. They offer a set menu as well as a la carte.

Drinks: They (rudely) insist on a one drink minimum per guest and each drink costs around €6, whether it’s alcohol or a soft drink. They have beers, juices and soft drinks. The ginger ale and grapefruit mix was very nice.

 Service: A little English is spoken, thankfully they have an English menu (very unusual in Kyoto). They are very anxious to force customers into buying drinks but apart from that they were helpful and polite.

 Comfortable? It’s a very small, typical Japanese restaurant complete with a little Zen garden. The architecture and the tables are quite charming. You must take off your shoes before entering, of course. I found it cold. As with most everywhere in Kyoto it was perfectly quiet, no blasting music. Still, if you go there during colder months be sure to wear very warm socks and to take a few extra layers — the heating was on but I didn’t find it adequate.

 Was the food good? Yes, it was delicious. I’d advise people to go a la carte rather than having the set menu as some of the items on the set menu, such as steamed cauliflower, etc., don’t make for an exciting Japanese experience.

 Toilets: You have to enter the little Zen garden to reach it. It’s Japanese style, very clean, lovely tiles. Water from the tap in the sink seems to fill up the cistern so don’t be startled when you can’t manage to turn off a tap — it’ll stop by itself.

 My advice to the chef: Keep up the excellent work.

 My advice to the manager: Quit standing over people to force them into ordering a drink — we would have done so anyway. It was way too cold, the heating needs to be addressed. Otherwise, excellent.

 Overall: Vegans and vegetarians will have a hard time in Kyoto, especially if they don’t speak Japanese. If you want to have the whole cultural experience it’s worth throwing money at the problem and going to Hale. Once you accept the cost of it before you go it’ll be a great experience.

Taking photos is not allowed.

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