Nara (central)
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"Everybody does Nara wrong," wrote Jay and Sumi Gluck in the classic travel guide Japan Inside Out. They lamented day-trippers who rushed through Nara's attractions and almost certainly missed out on its food.

Cha-gayu - rice flavored with green tea and seasonal vegetables - is the dish most Japanese associate with this very old city. Nara-zuke, the Nara-style pickles served with cha-gayu, can be sampled throughout the city, their zesty flavor a product of the sake used to preserve them.

For those short on time, many restaurants adjoining Nara Park serve a lunchtime mini-kaiseki menu for under Y4000. If you're staying overnight, have a full kaiseki dinner, served with the hospitality Nara is known for. And be warned: Nara is the domain of some two thousand divine messengers - the deer who roam the park and nibble at everything.

Most Nara restaurants take cash only and the locals dine early, so last orders are often taken between 7:30 and 8pm.

Nara (central)

Hiraso - Sushi [ Open 11am-8:30pm. Closed Mondays. ]
At Hiraso try kakinoha-zushi, sushi wrapped in a persimmon leaf, eaten whole. Takeout sushi is available from 10am-8:30pm. The rest stop behind the Nigatsu-do is a retreat for picnickers who wish to...
Mizutani-chaya - Soba/Udon [ Open 11am-4:30pm. Closed Wednesdays. ]
At the foot of Wakakusa-yama and down some stone steps is Wakakusa-yama Mizutani-chaya, an old thatched-roofed farmhouse. You can order simple noodle dishes and matcha here. Alternatively, enjoy a...
To-no-chaya - Japanese [ Open 11:30am-9pm. Closed Tuesdays. ]
To-no-chaya means "tearoom of the pagoda" and was named for its views of the Five-Story Pagoda of Kofuku-ji. During the day To-no-chaya serves a light meal of cha-gayu with sashimi and vegetables,...
Tsukihitei - Kaiseki [ Open 11:30am-3, 4-10pm daily. ]
If you have a few hours to spare, take the wooded path up to Tsukihitei deep in the forest behind Kasuga Taisha Shrine. From the privacy of your own tatami room experience the beautiful presentation...
Uma no Me - Kaiseki [ Open 11:30am-2:30pm (LO), 5:30-8:30pm. Closed Thursdays. ]
Uma no Me is in a 1920s farmhouse just north of Ara-ike pond in Nara Park. The pottery-lined walls afford a glimpse of pre-tech Japan. Everything at Uma no Me is prepared in the time-honored way and...
Yamazakiya - Kaiseki [ Open 11:15am-9pm. Closed Mondays. ]
Pungent nara-zuke will lure you off the street into this well-known shop and adjoining restaurant. Inside the shop, immaculate white-capped staff prepare packages of pickles to take away. Don't miss...
Yanagi-jaya - Tea shop [ Open 11am-5pm. Closed Mondays. ]
From the outside Yanagi-ja-ya looks unassuming, but the signs for warabi mochi lure tourists and entice the locals. Morsels made from warabi (bracken fern root) are tossed in soybean flour and...

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