Opened back in September 2008, Bonzō (梵蔵) is a Michelin-starred hidden gem tucked away in an intimate and rustic setting in the Zaimokuza area of Kamakura, overlooking Sagami Bay.
Located in a seemingly nondescript, quiet, residential neighbourhood a few minutes from Sagami Bay, Bonzo excels at handmade 100% buckwheat soba, known as juwari. Perusing the menu, you can be assured Bonzo really does look after you when it comes to all things soba.
You can opt to go à la carte or for the set menu (which will require reservation in advance). Some of the menu's entrées highlights include Soba Miso Sugi-ita Yaki (grilled miso soba), homemade sesame tofu, sesame tofu tempura as well as a wider tempura selection, grilled duck. Moving onto the mains, try a variety of soba dishes including Kikouchi seiro soba (using pure buckwheat flour), tenzaru soba (tempura with chilled buckwheat noodles), kamo seiro (cold soba in hot broth with wild French duck) and sarashina soba (thin, light sakura-coloured noodles).
I opted for the lunch-time set which combines a large number of dishes for a very reasonable ¥3,500: homemade sesame tofu, mizu soba, Jomon soba rice cake, Soba Miso Sugi-ita Yaki (mesmerising flavour combination of grilled miso/soba served on cedarwood), tempura selection with soba, Kikouchi seiro soba with dipping tsuyu sauce, followed up by Matcha ice-cream. Whilst the soba here tastes superb, I was most surprised by the miso/sugi yaki starter (a completely new kind of dish for me but unbelievably good) and the tempura tofu (which virtually melts on the inside).
All the dishes here were incredibly fresh and flavourful. It really felt like a different league visually with everything presented impeccably via gorgeous earthenware crockery. Even the chilled beer in its ceramic tankard tasted that much better than normal (though admittedly we had trekked here on an unusually warm autumnal day).
The soba is handmade on the day and if you visit at the right time, you'll even see soba being prepared in the small studio to the rear-left of the restaurant, which is fully on display to customers and a sight to behold. Menus will differ depending on the season.
Bonzo is about a 20 minute walk south of Kamakura Station, although several buses (11, 12, 40) also serve the surrounding neighbourhood and can ferry you to and from the station.
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