Most travelers to Kumamoto never venture beyond the city's two major arcades. With the wealth of shopping and dining options along those main streets, it's no surprise that other neighborhoods are overlooked. If you're looking for lunch at a bargain price, however, it pays to leave the crowds behind and check out Giardino at the Second Sight Building.
Second Sight is actually home to a number of recommended restaurants - an upscale Chinese eatery and a Swiss bakery are just two of the additional choices on offer. For lunch, however, the buffet at Giardino is a deal that can't be beat. Climb the iron staircase and step through the curtain to take a seat in either the mellow dining area or the couch-filled lounge. There is an a la carte menu available, with a decent selection of pizza and Italian-inspired pastas. However, it would be a shame to miss the lunchtime buffet, which covers two tables near the bar at the end of the restaurant. For vegetarians, this is the prime option - lots of locally sourced veggies prepared in a variety of cold salads, tofu, soup and a few fried morsels were on offer the day I went. The food is replaced as soon as it runs out so there's never a shortage or a long wait for a second round. Some of the choices may be a bit unusual for foreign taste buds - natto (fermented soybeans) and goya (bitter gourd) featured in a surprising number of dishes the day I was there - but the offerings change with the season, so you'll rarely be served the same thing twice.
Perhaps the best deal is the price of it all. I went with a friend and the waitress was kind enough to explain to us that if I ordered the buffet and included a pizza or pasta, all my friend had to do was pay ¥500 for her own access to the buffet. The pizza was not huge but filling enough for the two of us, once we factored in all of the additional vegetables from the buffet. All total, the two of us ate a fairly sizable lunch for about ¥1400. The price also included complimentary coffee and tea (hot or iced) and juice.
While Giardino will fill you up without breaking the bank, it's nice to leave a little room for dessert at the Swiss bakery downstairs. You can purchase a pastry and sit outside around the Second Sight fountain, a rather calming option in a busy part of the city.