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Bistro ING

Excellent set lunches in northern Kumamoto City

Sojo University staff and students, and the hardy few who venture to the northern edges of Kumamoto city, have an excellent alternative to the school cafeteria. Bistro ING, a short walk from the university and equally close to the Sojodaigakumae train station, is a cozy bistro with a European feel and lunches that make the trip worthwhile.

Bistro ING's menu is entirely in Japanese but you can't go wrong with some of the daily lunch plates. My favorite is the fish lunch, a large offering of white fish (usually accompanied by a few shrimp and scallops) cooked in a delectable balsamic vinegar reduction, with some seasonal vegetables on the side. The full set includes salad, rice, a clear soup, a plate of pickles and a small dessert, usually something yogurt based.

If fish isn't your forte, the steak set is also a tasty choice, as is the daily hamburger. There is a selection of curry-based dishes on offer as well, most of them labeled spicy so be aware of what you may be getting yourself into! Another solid choice is the doria, a gooey dish of rice, melted cheese and seafood.

The prices for dinner rise significantly, but you have much more range of choice. Pastas, salads and soups are all on the menu or you can sample it all with one of the bistro's course menus. They range in price from ¥2500 to ¥4000 - most sets include salad, a bowl of mushroom soup, kimchi, vegetable sides, the day's recommended cuts of beef, rice and dessert.

You have your choice of seats at Bistro ING. Should you come alone, there are a few stools at the counter right inside the door. Otherwise, slide your shoes off and take you pick of either one of the three western style tables or one of the sunken tables in the back of the room. Despite the lack of English on the menu, foreigners may appreciate the restaurant's music selection - a mix of classic American tunes from the 1980s.

For drivers, Bistro ING has two parking spots right in front of their property, as well as two more places in the gravel lot a few meters past the door. If you come by public transport, it's an 8-10 minute walk north of Sojodaigakumae train station.

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