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From Farm to Table: Exploring Saga’s Vegetarian Delights – Part Four

In our journey through Saga’s culinary landscape, we’ve highlighted the region’s verdant bounty—vegetables, beans, and the art of plant-based cuisine, paired with exquisite tableware. As we wrap up this series, we turn our focus to three must-visit dining destinations, each renowned for their culinary excellence.

From Farm to Table: Exploring Saga's Vegetarian Delights - Part Four, 食材の宝庫・佐賀の素晴らしきシェフ達

The notion that vegetarian and vegan fare lacks allure is a common misconception. True, working exclusively with plant-based ingredients presents its challenges, narrowing the palette from which chefs can draw. Yet, it is within these constraints that creativity flourishes. Chefs, in collaboration with their producers, are inspired to push the boundaries of culinary innovation, crafting dishes that are as inventive as they are delightful.

Nestled between Arita Town in Saga and Sasebo City in Nagasaki, along the tracks of the Matsuura Railway, stands the venerable “Zoushuku” Station—home to the oldest wooden station building still in use. Within this historical edifice, built in 1913, operates “Makino Yado Kara,” a café that serves up a bounty of vegetable-based delights.

From Makino's Lodging, 薪の宿から

Seishiro Takaoka, the café’s proprietor, has created a dining experience that extends beyond the conventional, offering meals not just inside the cozy confines of the station but also in its waiting room and on the platform-side outdoor seating. Influenced by his tenure in a Japanese restaurant and a six-year sojourn in California—where he was inspired by “Chez Panisse,” the cradle of California cuisine—Takaoka’s creations are a homage to local produce.

From Makino's Lodging, 薪の宿から

The café has become a beloved spot for locals, who revel in seeing the fruits of their labor transformed on their plates, enjoying leisurely lunches and relaxed café moments.

The core of the menu features plated meals. Highlights include a California salad plate, accompanied by campagne bread fresh from the wood-fired stone oven, and a hearty brown rice risotto plate. Complementary set menus round out the offering with soup, dessert, and a beverage. The dessert selection, featuring robust American-style vegan cakes and classic soy milk puddings, satisfies with both richness and portion size.

From Makino's Lodging, 薪の宿から

The beverage selection is thoughtfully assembled, showcasing wood-fired roasted coffee, oat milk chai, banana leaf tea, natural wines, and organic beers, each chosen for its commitment to quality and sustainability.

Makino Yado Kara
Zoushuku, Arita Town, Saga (inside Matsuura Railway Zoushuku Station)
• Hours: 10:30~17:00, Saturdays 11:00~17:00
• Closed: Thursdays and Sundays
• Vegetarian Menu (tax included): California Salad Plate ¥1,650, Brown Rice Risotto Plate ¥1,650, Vegan Cake ¥610

Karatsu, graced by the tranquil waters of the Genkai Sea and Karatsu Bay, the majestic Sefuri mountain range, and the verdant plains along the Matsuura River, is a veritable treasure trove of culinary ingredients.

y's kitchen, ワイズキッチン

It is here, amid this picturesque backdrop, that Yoshiyuki Nakae, a native son of Karatsu, crafts his culinary expressions. His establishment, Y’s Kitchen, is a secluded gem operating strictly on a reservation basis, where each ingredient’s provenance—from local farms to the bustling fishing ports—is meticulously documented on the menu.

y's kitchen, ワイズキッチン

Our experience was rooted entirely in the vegetable kingdom. The meal was an homage to the local harvest, with plant-based ingredients presented on the elegant canvas of Karatsu and Arita ware.

y's kitchen, ワイズキッチン

The day’s vegetable-centric lunch menu was a parade of local agriculture and aquaculture:

• Juicy tomatoes from Karatsu paired with silky cotton tofu.
• Fragrant rice from Imari alongside crisp carrots from Hizen town.
• A medley of Italian vegetables, fresh from the fields of Itoshima.
• Tender carrots and vibrant sprouts, both Karatsu’s pride.
• A comforting soup of Jerusalem artichoke and brown mushrooms from Hamatama.
• Crunchy green asparagus from Hamatama and sweet paprika from Itoshima.
• Earthy shiitake mushrooms grown on logs and protein-rich soybeans from Ouchi town.
• The dessert: succulent Amaou strawberries and creamy soy milk yogurt from Itoshima.

Each dish was a symphony of flavors, thoughtfully prepared to spotlight the inherent taste of the vegetables. The variety of cooking techniques employed ensured that each ingredient’s unique flavor profile was preserved, creating a harmonious balance on the plate.

Y’s Kitchen
3-36 Watadanishiyama, Karatsu City, Saga
• Hours: 12:00~15:00, 18:00~22:00
• Closed: Sundays
• Vegetarian Menu (tax included, additional 10% service charge): Vegetable Lunch Course ¥7,700, Vegetable Dinner Course ¥12,100
• Reservation required 3 days in advance, same order for each table

In the heart of Takeo lies a place so enchanting, it feels like stumbling upon a hidden miracle.

“Mifuneyama Rakuen,” a sprawling Japanese garden established in the shadow of Mt. Mifuneyama during the waning years of the Edo period (1845), cradles this extraordinary spot.

Daisuke Kajihara, a culinary visionary born and nurtured in Saga, encapsulates the essence of this miracle through his restaurant, Kaji-Synergy, unveiled in 2018. Fusing Italian inspirations with creative flair, Kaji-Synergy is Kajihara’s homage to the profound bond between location, ingredients, cuisine, wine, and service, inviting guests to immerse themselves in the harmony of these elements.

Kajihara’s journey to Italy in his younger days, fueled by a dream to master the art of coffee, instead led him to a deeper appreciation for the region’s heartfelt hospitality and local cuisine. This pivotal experience now guides his approach to sourcing—handpicking ingredients directly from trusted farms and waters, ensuring that the shape or size never dictates the quality of the dish but rather enhances its authenticity.

Kaji Synergy Restaurant, カジシナジーレストラン

This commitment to genuine flavors gives birth to “Spinach,” a standout dish that exemplifies Kajihara’s culinary philosophy. Each component, from root to leaf, undergoes a distinct preparation method, culminating in an unparalleled gastronomic experience. Inspired by an unexpectedly flavorful variety of spinach discovered at a local farm, which now enjoys an extended cultivation period, this creation has emerged as a signature offering during the winter months at Kaji Synergy.

Kaji Synergy Restaurant, カジシナジーレストラン

The menu, a testament to innovation and sophistication, unfolds with nearly ten vegetable-centric dishes. Each course is a revelation, subtly interwoven with surprises that elevate the natural essence of the ingredients.

Kaji Synergy Restaurant, カジシナジーレストラン

The selection primarily features Arita ware, complemented by ceramics from surrounding locales, to serve as the canvas for this culinary artistry.

Kaji Synergy Restaurant, カジシナジーレストラン

Highlights from today’s menu include:

1. A soul-warming soup of Jerusalem artichoke and bergamot.
2. A homemade coconut oil bread, subtly perfumed with cinnamon-flavored sake lees and plum.
3. “Inca’s Awakening” – a medley of potato, lentils, dried maitake mushrooms, kumquat, crown daisy sprouts, and a drizzle of herb oil.
4. The signature Spinach dish.
5. A trio of turnip, butterbur sprout, and rape blossoms.
6. A duo of corn and aged young corn, showcasing the depth of flavor.
7. Broccoli transformed through a stem puree and its flowers, with radish flowers for a touch of elegance.
8. A hearty blend of pumpkin, Anno sweet potato, soybeans, enoki mushrooms, and cilantro.
9. Handmade pasta adorned with Kouju tomatoes.
10. A refreshing citrus dessert, cleansing the palate.
11. A soothing finale of Ureshino roasted tea.

Kaji Synergy Restaurant
4239-1 Takeo, Takeo Town, Takeo City, Saga
• Hours: 12:00 or 13:00 (Group Seating Starts), 18:00 or 19:00 (Group Seating Starts)
• Closed: Mondays
• Featured Menu (tax included, additional 10% service charge): Vegan Course ¥16,500 (reservation required)

Kaji Synergy Restaurant, カジシナジーレストラン

Fukuoka Now x Saga Prefectural Tourism Federation.
Support for restaurants that can accommodate vegetarians.
Official website: Enjoying Vegetarianism in Saga! Vegetarian Guidebook

Vegetarian Friendly Saga Prefecture – In Four Parts
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Vol. 01 Plant-Based in Saga: A Traveler’s Guide to Vegetarian Eats in Kyushu!
Vol. 02 Savoring Saga: A Vegetarian Journey Through Soybean Cuisine and Onsen Yudofu
Vol. 03 Crafted to Taste: The Artful Intersection of Saga’s Vegetarian Cuisine and Ceramics
• Vol. 04 From Farm to Table: Exploring Saga’s Vegetarian Delights
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Food & Drink
Saga Prefecture
Published: Mar 29, 2024 / Last Updated: Apr 5, 2024

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