August 20, 2015
by Yuki Nakajima, Kasumi Sakamoto, and Momoko Fukui
When it comes to unique Kyoto restaurants, Kamo is one of the most famous, mostly because it uses over 30 different types of locally grown organic vegetables (miyako yasai) to make its dishes, which are served in a buffet style to customers. In order to learn more about what can be done in the kitchen with miyako yasai, we visited Kamo and this is what we learned.
Examples of Miyako Yasai
The onions with leaves that Kamo provides come from the Momoi Plantation in Kyoto prefecture. These vegetables are harvested before growing up completely, so they have no bitter taste. They are steamed without any spice, so we can enjoy their natural taste (see image 2).
Purple Sweet Potatoes
The purple sweet potato served in Kamo is from Kameoka City, Kyoto Prefecture. This is a kind of tuber that contains a lot of anthocyanin, which gives it its purple hue. Anthocyanin is also known for its antibacterial properties. At Kamo, the purple sweet potato is also steamed without spice, so it has a naturally sweet taste and very delicious (see image 3).
The turnips that are served at Kamo are grown in the Kyo-tanba region, in the North part of Kyoto Prefecture. The variety of turnip is called the hakurei turnip, which is sweeter than other kinds of turnips. Kamo uses it as a salad ingredient to make best use of its taste, color, and texture.
The white radish at Kamo is also grown in the Kyo-tango region. White radishes have a light taste and contain lots of vitamins.
Rocket lettuce is called rukkora in Japanese. The rocket lettuce Kamo serves is grown on the Mizuho Plantation. It is rich in vitamins and minerals. Some people say that rocket lettuce tastes a little bitter, but the version served in Kamo is without this bitter taste. Like turnips and white radish, it is served as an ingredient for making salad.
Potatoes in Kyoto are a little different from the purple sweet potatoes at Kamo. Potatoes are rich in vitamin C, and their texture changes according to the boiling time or level of moisture. Potatoes are also included in the dish called oden at Kamo, which is like a boiled stew of vegetables and meats. The texture of the potato is just right for oden. Also, chefs at Kamo leave the skin on the potatoes when cooking because it is healthy, delicious, and doesn’t contain any pesticides. In this way we can enjoy potatoes the way they were meant to be eaten.
The black radish in Kyoto is a little different from the usual radish. The skin is black and tough, and the inside is white. The difference is not only in the looks, but also in the taste. The black radish is very spicy, so we can enjoy our salad with a slice black radish. Boiling the radish is another is the good way to enjoy it.
The kinbi carrot is one of the rarest and most unique vegetables Kamo serves its customers. It colored vivid yellow like lemons. Its claim to fame is its taste, which is sweeter than normal carrots, and without that carroty smell. Moreover, it the kinbi carrot is soft, even without being cooked. For this reason it is recommended for those who don’t like the flavor of normal carrots.
Orange Chinese Cabbage
Normal Chinese cabbage has cancer preventative properties and protects DNA. However, the Orange Chinese cabbage grown in Kyoto is even higher in nutrition than the normal cabbage. For example, its vegetable fiber is about six times higher; 0.1% is normal and orange Chinese cabbage is 0.6%. It is also delicious.
Miyako Yasai Salad Bar
The main feature of Kamo is its salad bar. It is called the Hateke Bar. ‘Hatake’ means ‘field’ in Japanese. You can choose miyako yasai there as if you were harvesting vegetables on a farm. The hatake bar offers various kinds of seasonal miyako yasai, including unfamiliar vegetables, such as specific kinds of green leaves. Kamo only serves vegetables grown exclusively in Kyoto. All the miyako yasai in Hatake Bar are just cut to eat, so you can enjoy their tastes as they are. In other words, you can taste “Kyoto” by eating from the Hatake Bar.
Also, if you want to enjoy another flavor with your meal, you should try Kamo’s original dressings, such as the onion dressing or the Japanese white radish dressing. It is very interesting to season vegetables with other vegetables. Another way of changing the flavor is with pitapan, which is a kind of thin bread. According to one of the Kamo’s staff members, pitapan is very popular among regular customers. You can put your favorite miyako yasai and seasonings on top of Pitapan and enjoy the delicious flavors and textures.
You can eat particularly fresh miyako yasai at Kamo. Every morning, the vegetables are directly transported from local farmers. Then, the vegetables are soon used for dishes. This is one of the most appealing points of Kamo, for you probably cannot encounter such fresh, local dishes using exclusively miyako yasai at any other restaurants in Kyoto.
Another attractive point of Kamo is that the miyako yasai they serve is seasonal. Since they try to feature vegetables that are in season, you can see their brightness and freshness. They also taste great. Finally, Kamo’s chefs make the best use of vegetables they use when they cook. Therefore, very few ingredients are thrown away during the preparation process. This is most important in the minds of cooks.
Eating miyako yasai in Kyoto supports local production for local consumption, which is a good thing for several reasons. First, we can eat fresh vegetables soon after being harvested. These taste the best. Second, we reduce our carbon footprint because the vegetables do not need to be transported from other prefectures or countries. Third, we can eat safe vegetables. In Kamo, they display photos and descriptions of the farmers right next to the vegetables you are going to eat. In this way, you can know exactly who grew and harvested the vegetables, so there is no worry of contamination from pesticides, for example.
Finally, eating miyako yasai is healthy. Fresh, organic vegetables are good for our body. They contain a lot of vitamins. People who go on a diet or take care of their own health can also eat dishes without thinking about calories because all dishes are very healthy and low on calories.
During your stay in Kyoto, make sure you try eating miyako yasai at least once. You are sure to like it.
Access to Kamo
There are three Kamo restaurants in Kyoto city.
1. Kamo at Shijo-Karasuma. It is where we visited to interview. You can find the black building, Kamo at Shijo-Karasuma on Higashi-no-toin street. It is convenient to get off at Hankyu Karasuma station or at Shijo station of city subway.
2. Kamo in front of the Kyoto aquarium. It is located on Omiya street and in front of Kyoto aquarium. You can easily get there by using city bus and getting off at Nanajo-Omiya.
3. Kamo in Kawaramachi-cho. It opened this spring and newest Kamo restaurant. You can get there in five minutes after getting off at Hankyu Kawaramachi-cho station.