Recommended restaurants to enjoy vegetables dishes
Due to its variety of geographic conditions and rich soil, Nara grows many delicious vegetables and fruits. Do you know what kind of agricultural products Nara is famous for? Rice, tomatoes, eggplant, spinach, persimmons, green tea leaves, plums, figs, shiitake mushrooms, and much, much more!
Not only is it enriched with general vegetables, Nara is also the mother of many unique varieties that are only available here. These are called Yamato Yasai. Yamato is the old name of Nara that has been used since ancient times. There are two categories of Yamato Yasai, one of which is “Traditional Yamato Yasai.” Nara Prefecture has designated nineteen unique vegetables that are known to have been grown in Nara before the war as “traditional”.
Some examples of traditional Yamato Yasai are: Yamato Mana (leaf vegetable), Yamato Sanshaku Kyuri (large 90-cm cucumber), Tsutsui Renkon (lotus root from the Tsutsui region), Yamato Imo (a kind of taro), etc. The other category of Yamato Yasai is Yamato Kodawari Yasai. This variety of vegetable is original to Nara and takes more time and special care before being harvested.
The names represent the uniqueness of vegetables and indeed, Yamato Yasai all have distinctive characteristics in their appearance and taste. However, because production is quite limited and each Yamato Yasai is grown only during the best season of the year, it is very rare to encounter them outside of Nara. So while you are here take this opportunity to experience the taste of Nara’s rare vegetables and gather some energy from her soil.
Nara’s Unique Yamato Yasai
Himo Togarashi (Thin Pepper) is harvested from summer to autumn. It has a relatively mild taste for a pepper and a soft outer skin. The pepper is only 5mm thick, and what is curious is that the color changes from green to deep purple as they are heated.
Hanshiro Kyuri (Half-white Cucumber) attracts attention due to its color. As the name suggests, this cucumber variety appears to be still immature as it is half white, but it actually tastes delicious when eaten fresh or in a salad.
Yamato Maru Nasu
Yamato Maru Nasu (Nara’s Round Eggplant) is one of the oldest Yamato Yasai grown in Nara. Shiny deep purple color and thick thorns on the head is a sign of quality. Popularly eaten grilled or simmered in sauce.
Yamato Kanjuku Horenso
Yamato Kanjuku Horenso (Nara’s Spinach) is grown in a severe cold climate in the highlands that allows the spinach to grow more slowly and thus produces thicker and tastier leaves. This kind of spinach is stored during the winter months.
Try Nara Vegetables Here! – Great dining choices for vegetable lovers
Ban INOUE offers a monthly changed lunch set and dishes using an abundance of Nara’s seasonal harvest. Due to their direct network connection with farmers in Nara, freshly harvested vegetables of the day are brought to the restaurant to be transformed into delicious dishes. Even their condiments, like soy sauce and miso (soy bean paste) are from Nara. The staff considers how they can make the best use of Nara’s ingredients every day and never spare themselves in searching out new menu items. Their Healthy lunch plate is the best recommendation. Choose one of the main dishes of the day which is served with rice, soup and a variety of side dishes.
Recommended: Healthy Lunch Plate: 1,200 yen (vegetable dishes of the day, main dish, rice, soup) / Curry and rice: 900 yen
Tel: 0742-27-1010 / 16 Kasugano-cho, Nara, in the Yume-Kaze Plaza / map A, B-4, pg 6 / Open: 10:00-19:00 (lunch: 11:00-14:00) / Closed: Irregularly /
Hana, meaning “flower,” is in a quiet local residential area a little away from the main tourist area of Nara City. All the dishes you will enjoy at Hana are extremely healthy and will appeal to both your body and mind. They use vegetables that are directly brought from local farmers and a variety of millets with some meat (vegetarians welcome too!). Instead of sugar and salt, they use a special salty fermented rice (shio koji) which takes more time and effort to cook, but will make the dishes even more tasty. Each dish is served separately on a small plate. Take time to fully enjoy Hana’s special taste and hearty food.
Recommended: Lunch set: 1,450 yen (seasonal veg & shio koji dishes) / Lunch course: 1,800-4,300 yen / Dinner course: 2,900-4,500 yen
Tel: 0742-24-2178 / 228 Byakugoji-cho, Nara / map A, D-5, pg 7 / Open: From 11:30, from 17:30 (dinner open only Fri., Sat., Sun. & Nat’l holidays) / Closed: Wed. & Thurs. /
The main feature of Hiyori’s dishes is its vegetables. However, Hiyori’s vegetables go far beyond your expectation. Everyone who has experienced their dishes can’t help being amazed with their deep, rich taste using produce grown on their local and directly contracted farm. In addition to the vegetables, the owner traveled around Japan and carefully selected the finest quality meat and fish. From a full volume course menu to à la carte, (vegetables, meat, fish, etc.), you can decide how to best enjoy what Hiyori has to offer!
Recommended: Yasai-biyori (lunch only): 1,575 yen / Dinner: Yamato Yasai kaiseki course: 3,675-8,400 yen (about 7 vegetable dishes with 1-3 main dishes: river fish/chicken/shrimp)
Tel: 0742-24-1470 / 1F of Uzuraya Club Bldg., 26 Naka Shinya-cho, Nara / map A, C-3, pg 6 / Open:11:30-14:30 (L.O. 14:00), 17:00-22:00 (L.O. 21:00) / Closed: Tues. /
Café Kotodama nestles in the quiet and rural village of Asuka. The owners, Mr. & Mrs. Kato, love this ancient village and decided to move here and open their café. As proof of their fondness for the village, their ingredients are mostly from Asuka or Nara. There are several farmers markets in the village so that it’s so easy to select fresh and delicious vegetables every day. Simple and hearty are their keywords and their wish is represented in every dish they serve –salad, fried, simmered, or soup, etc. Feel the power of vegetables that come from the soil of this ancient capital.
Recommended: Kotodama Lunch set: 1,575 yen (a selection of vegetables dishes, main dish, rice, miso soup, dessert, drink) / *Dishes in the lunch set are changed every two weeks.
Tel: 0744-54-4010 / 540 Koshi, Asukamura, Takaichi-gun, Nara / map D, pg 7 / See pg 10 for more information about Asuka village / Open: Lunch: 11:00-13:00 (L.O.), café: 14:00-17:30 (L.O.) / Closed: Tues. & 3rd Wed. / http://loveasuka.jp/kotodama/