One of the prized ingredients of Kyoto cuisine (and the bulk of my meal at Okina) is kamonasu, an eggplant named after the Kamo River, which runs through the city center. This variety of aubergine is more bulbous that other eggplants and when it ripens, its deep purple skin glistens. At Okina my kamonasu was served as dengaku nasu: cut in half, smothered in white and red miso, and grilled. I don’t think I have eaten a vegetable as beautiful (the burnt umber tone of the miso should be bottled for painters) and the sweet miso-laced taste of the eggplant’s flesh would be enough to make the most defiant carnivore switch teams. The meal format at Okina observes the rhythm and rules of kaiseki ryōri (traditional multicourse meal) but they have been serving food this way for so long that it feels unaffected and unhurried.
In line with the nationwide state of emergency declared on April 16, the government is strongly requesting that residents stay at home whenever possible and refrain from visiting bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.