Finding good places to wine and dine in the countryside can be a challenge. An abundance of locally grown and raised farm fresh goods eliminates this problem in Nara Prefecture’s Asuka-mura. There are a couple of restaurants in the area serving up healthy and delicious dishes using Asuka’s local fares. One such restaurant is Kotodama Café right in the middle of Asuka.
Kotodama took over a historic building once occupied by the Matsuboshi Sake Brewery. The old time wooden architecture and décor from when the building was built is preserved, and the wooden tables, chairs and other furniture items that allow the restaurant to function, blend perfectly into their historical background. They almost look as if they’d been there since the building’s construction.
Kotodama went to great lengths to preserve an image of old time hospitality while putting its own unique twist on things. The wet “oshibori” cloths at Kotodama aren’t the standard white mini-towel cloths but colorful handkerchief-like cloths scented with mint, folded carefully and presented to you in a small woven bamboo basket. The chopsticks are similarly presented in a decorative origami-like paper sheath made in-house by Kotodama’s staff. Each table also has its own unique decorative end or centerpiece or pieces making for a very authentic and classy feeling dining experience.
Lunch was served with care and attention to detail in a Japanese “kaiseki” course meal-mirroring style. It included a summer vegetable salad, red bean rice with a drizzle of miso, a fried croquet and slice of Japanese squash, a mountain potato and vegetable gazpacho, all served in their own separate bowls, and then a slice of vegetable quiche, herb seasoned chicken slices on a bed of shredded vegetables, and a bowl of fresh tofu topped with a cherry tomato and an in-house dressing all served on one long plate. Each item offered a different flavor that meshed well with the accompanying items. The cold tofu and gazpacho were also very refreshing to eat after having spent time outside in the summer heat.
Dessert and coffee was a double treat. My glass of iced coffee and a red three-piece box containing my dessert were served on a tray of beautiful light colored wood. The dessert box reminded me a little of an old music box a friend of mine had when I was a child. Disassembling the box and revealing the dessert within, a piece of white cake with a slice of kiwi, fresh watermelon jelly in one section of the box and a scoop of vanilla ice cream in another section, was very charming and beautiful.
It’s not often that I experience a restaurant’s atmosphere that isn’t relegated to the background by the food. That Kotodama’s atmosphere plays such a great supporting role is wonderful. I’ve already been back for seconds. Happy travels!