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Tsugu is located a few corners from Shijo Karasuma, the main intersection in downtown Kyoto. That said, even when a digital map is just a tap away, finding it through the side streets may prove a little difficult, so look for a statue of a tanuki, the raccoon dog that graces so many stores and restaurants around the country. The giant tanuki outside the door of Tsugu, next to the noren curtains, is nestled between a few potted Japanese maples. It’s a nice bucolic setting, on a pretty and narrow laneway filled with eateries. However, the verdant theme stops at the front door and, once inside, Tsugu is sleek and dimly lit, with seating split between the counter, which looks on to the kitchen, and a bank of low tables also facing the counter.

Tsugu is in many ways like any other upmarket izakaya (Japanese pub) you’ll find across the country: The food menu is wide and varied, and complemented by a strong showing of sake, but there’s a few subtleties in decor that make it memorable. One is the wood floor, beveled by a chisel, literally giving it a groovy surface. It’s a little thing, but it’s well considered. Another more noticeable element is that all the staff — the waiting staff and chefs — are male. The serving staff, all dressed in black, could pass as hipsters, but thankfully don’t create an ironic or insouciant air. In fact, they are downright helpful, ferrying questions back and forth to the kitchen.

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