Stepping into Hotel Kanra is like stepping into an art gallery and a fashion show, all at the same time. The clean angled lines, the warm mood lighting and even the perfume transport you to another world, like you have woken up in your dream inside a tall forest. Mesmerized by the soft eucalyptus and ginger scent, I asked the receptionist who carefully explained the hotel’s in house room fragrance. Called minus one degree, it would give the feeling of coolness on a summer’s day. It is their idea of welcoming guest back after a long day of sightseeing. How considerate!
Kitchen Kanra is their signature restaurant next to the quiet lobby of this boutique hotel. Well versed with serving guests from around the world, their middle of the road international fare treads carefully to keep everyone happy. The Japanese influence is ever so subtle, with no pickles, sushi or sashimi appearing on the English and Japanese language menu. Instead they play tribute to the country gardens of Kyoto by selecting the best local vegetable produce. The miso soup only makes an appearance in the lunch menu, while local wines, such as Tamba Hock, a dry white, are highlighted in a very exclusive wine list.
The meals here are deceptively simple, yet so beautiful in its presentation that they look like works of art. I almost had to look twice when presented with the salad, with the water beads gleaming in the soft, warm, red and golden yellow mood lighting. It reminded me of Etsuko Kawamura’s paintings at the Imura Gallery the day before, her hyper-realistic portrayal of glistening water beads in the dawn grasses fooling me into almost touching the leaves to see if they are really wet.
Kitchen Kanra prides itself on super fresh organic produce, with the greens greener, the multi-faceted shades of orange in the pumpkin tempting you to sit back and admire nature’s bounty before ever so tenderly putting your fork into this sculpture. The risotto and char-grilled scampi is unadorned and the scallops succulent and allows the natural juices to shine.
In some ways you do not want to be too hungry when you arrive here. Not that the food takes long to arrive, but with the whisper quiet décor, and the genteel crowd of twos so elegant that you cannot tell they are eating or not, that any fast or noisy chompers will stand out like a bulldozer. While you do not have to come here on a date, families are nowhere to be seen, with most tables set up for couples in this small and intimate space. This is a sophisticated restaurant for those in the know, but do not want to shout it from the rooftops.
Kitchen Kanra is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with the four course lunch set at amazing value at 1500 yen, serving degustation quality vegetables and delicate small serves of pork or fish that even fashion models can enjoy guilt free. Their salads and juices carefully blend ten different varieties of vegetables, making eating super foods a treat here.
Located in the Gojo Karasuma district of Kyoto, this area is better known for its offices than tourists or geishas. When we came here on a Saturday evening, long after the worker bees have gone home, the streets almost eerily quiet. At the same time, it is just 15 minutes’ walk from either JR Kyoto station to the south or from the Department Stores in Karasuma Shijo to the north, making it a good pit stop between the two. This is a hidden gem that would soon be discovered, so reservations are recommended to avoid disappointment.