Hozanji Temple is affectionately called “Ikoma Shoden” by the locals. Did you know that there is a slightly, or rather quite unusual space along the approach to the temple?
Nyahbinghi｜Gentle vegetarian food made with local pesticide-free vegetables from Nara Prefecture
It is a cafe and restaurant called “Nyahbinghi. It was originally a lodging house of Hozanji Temple, and the building has been used as it is to turn it into a restaurant. As you can see in the photo below, the exterior is the old ryokan itself.
Bob Marley playing in a former temple inn and the mismatch of African cuisine…the reason is in the meaning of the restaurant’s name ” Nayabinghi”!
A brown-haired lady in slightly ethnic clothing greeted us in the restaurant. I was shown to a seating area on the second floor, which is a former ryokan (Japanese inn) and all rooms are private. Some rooms have a spectacular view of the entire Nara Basin, so if you can afford it, I recommend making a reservation in advance. On summer nights, it might be nice to have dinner while watching fireworks from here.
The room we were shown was along the approach to the temple, just above the entrance. It did not offer a spectacular view, but that could not be helped. But what I saw instead was a guitar designed to resemble the flag of some country, and ethnic percussion instruments…obviously a mismatch with the old ryokan and kotatsu.
As I sit under the kotatsu and listen to the background music of Bob Marley and other reggae music with unique rhythms, the lunch menu includes African stew and couscous, which remind me of Africa.
At this stage, my thoughts went into chaos for a moment. It sounds good to say “stateless,” but I honestly don’t know what I want. I was about to end up with only the impression of “some kind of strange restaurant”… until I googled the name of the restaurant.
According to Wikipedia, the name of the restaurant, “Nyahbinghi (spelled Nyahbinghi in English)” refers to a religious congregation in Jamaica and the music played there. The Rastafari movement, which advocated African regressionism and vegetarianism…and the difficult story goes on, but just by reading this far, reggae, Africa, and vegetarian food are all connected in one line. It’s a proper concept, isn’t it?
There are 10 small dishes that change with the seasons! Nyahbinghi’s lunch menu is completely vegetarian slow food for Muslims and vegans!
Now, let’s get to the important part of the meal. Reservations are required for the lunch menu… The 10 small potted dishes included in the menu for the day are as follows.
- Deep Fried Soy Meat with Hozanji Miso Tatsuta and Seasonal Vegetables
- African Stew of Soybeans and Couscous
- Soy Milk Sesame Tofu with Hozanji Miso
- Steamed Vegetables with Soy Milk Mayonnaise
- Gratin of Tofu Cream Sauce
- Vegetable salad
- Seasonal Vegetable Salad with Homemade Dressing
- Vegetable Ajillo
- Homemade Pickles
- Pickled Vegetables
This includes an appetizer, beans and rice, vegetarian soup, after-dinner dessert and a drink for 1,950 yen per person. The menu is said to change with the seasons. All the dishes are slow food using ingredients from Ikoma, but the portions are quite large and some women may not be able to finish them.
It would be difficult to review all 10 dishes, so I will limit myself to a review of the main dish, the soymeal.
Soy meat may be new to some of you. In a nutshell, it is meat made from soybeans. The fried tatsuta-age on the menu this time is crispy and has a texture similar to that of chicken breast. If served without being told, few people would probably be able to tell the difference. That is how similar they are.
The seasonal vegetables such as eggplant, maitake mushrooms, and potatoes that surround it. As you can see from the image, the batter is very thin, so you can fully enjoy the flavor of the vegetables themselves. It is more like a half fried dish than a fried Tatsuta. As one would expect from a restaurant that claims to serve natural vegetarian food (aital), the vegetables seemed very gentle in the mouth.
As for the remaining nine items, please, please imagine from the attached images. Like the Tatsuta-age introduced above, I had the feeling that my body was asking for it when I ate it.
If your body is craving vegetables, by all means, go for it. You can bring your friends here, whether they are vegan or Muslim, without any concern at all! (Although it may be a bit hard to bring children because they don’t have a children’s menu…)
Please note that there is no parking lot, so please be careful when visiting by car! To get to Nyahbinghi, walk 1 minute from the nearest station, Kintetsu Ikoma Cable/Hozanji Station.
Here are the details of the restaurant.
Nyahbinghi Out of 5.
Address: 12-9 Monzen-cho, Ikoma-shi, Nara-ken
Phone number: 0743-73-0805
Business hours: 12:00-21:00
Parking: No parking lot
When actually going there, it is more convenient to take the Ikoma Cable from Kintetsu Ikoma Station. The approach road in front of the temple is not passable for cars. If you are driving, please go up the mountain along the cable from Ikoma Station and use the free parking lot at the entrance of the toll road. From there it is about a 5-minute walk. The clerk will give you detailed directions when you make a reservation.
P.S. If you are looking for a stylish cafe in Nara Prefecture, please stop by this article…
P.P.S. Near Nyahbinghi, you can also find these stores…