Good Eats

Good Eats: Kyorai-an (Kamakura)

I’d walked past Kyorai-an many times, but never got farther than the beautifully gated entrance.

It was a standard on my walks around Kamakura – start in northern Kamakura and visit my favorite temples, amble down the road to the center of town, and take the quaint seaside tram to Hase for photo ops of the Big Buddha and one of my favorite traditional gardens, and catch the train home to Tokyo from Kamakura station. Somewhere in there I would pass Kyorai-an, a villa on a hill in northern Kamakura, and the smells wafting out would tempt me to an early lunch.

The entrance gate to Kyorai-an

But I never went in, at least not until my visit this past June, when a marathon flower-gawking session at the nearby Meigetsu-in Temple left me with a hankering for some sustenance before the long walk into town. So for the first time in many visits, I climbed the stone steps to the country villa and took my place in the already-growing lunch line.

Kyorai-an serves only one dish, a succulent beef stew with locally sourced carrots in a biting wine sauce. You can have it by itself (around ¥1800), with a side of bread or rice (a few yen more) or as a set lunch with the carb options and a salad as well (¥2675). For large appetites, it won’t go a long way to filling you up, but that just leaves room for some of Kamakura’s sweet potato ice cream or sable cookies once you hit the town center.

Kyorai-an’s main dining room looks out onto a classic garden

There IS an English menu but I never had a chance to see it. During the lunch crush, a waitress will come outside and write down everyone’s order so by the time you get your table, your stew is only two minutes behind you. Service is efficient and you’re not really expected to linger, but no one was rushing me out the door either. And don’t leave before you take a good look at the restaurant – it’s a restored villa with beautiful sliding screen doors that open up onto a pleasant garden. I felt like I was visiting someone’s rustic country home with about 40 of my closest friends.

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