Hidden away in the quiet backstreets of Azabu-Juban, Itosho is a self-effacing little restaurant that has been serving shojin ryori (Buddhist temple cuisine) for 40 years, remaining — until recently at any rate — one of the city's better kept secrets.

But even now, with a Michelin star to its name, Itosho has not changed an iota. Nor has owner-chef Hiroharu Ito himself. He hails from Takayama, in the uplands of Gifu Prefecture, and he has an approach to temple cuisine that is refreshingly wholesome and uncomplicated, especially when compared with the more sophisticated Kyoto tradition.

Our lunch last week comprised six courses, ranging from delicate zensai starters to a hearty bowl of soba noodles topped with smooth, slithery grated tororo yam. In between, we sipped on ineffable suimono clear soup, containing a single chestnut dango dumpling and decorated with swirling fronds of scallions as fine as baby chives.