in a food-obsession country like japan, where you'd have to try really hard to find a bad meal, this was my favorite food experience of the trip, without question.
i met up with an old friend from yokohama while in kamakura and she took us to matsubara-an, based on her friend's recommendation who had dined there before.
let me just say, had we not gone with her, we never would have found this place on our own. she used google walking instructions, and perhaps if you were coming straight from the train station it would be easier, but this restaurant is located on a very residential street and if you don't read japanese, from the outside it could be confusing that it is even a restaurant and instead just someone's home decor.
once inside, there is a small stand to check in and benches where you are expected to sit and remove your shoes, since it is tatami. the place was very crowded, even though it was already rather late for lunch, but fortunately we got a table within a few minutes.
seating was traditional, as in you sit on the floor, and the restaurant is divided into a number of rooms. the interiors are stunning, yet minimalist, which mirror the style of cooking. we all had the set meal for lunch, two of us the "basic" option with hot soba, and my husband had the more elaborate meal with hot soba as well. since it was january and chilly, none of us were interested in the cold soba, but it is an option. they did offer us a translated menu in english, although some of the dishes that were part of the set menu were not in english. luckily for us, we were dining with someone who could translate, but even if you had no idea what you were about to eat when ordering, you would know upon first bite that it tastes delicious and that's all that matters.
from start to finish, the meal was perfection. while it isn't cheap (about $30 for the cheaper of the set lunches), the artistry, quality of the ingredients, attentive service and soothing interiors make it an amazing value and more than justify the cost, which would probably be more than $200 for a comparable experience offered in new york or london. also, it was a lot of food, something i wasn't expecting upon arrival.
the outdoor garden offered seating too (along with the necessary heat lamps in january), which looked like a lot of fun if this wasn't your first time at the restaurant.
make it a point to find this gem while in kamakura. i dream of the day i can return!
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