- Frank Striegl
monk - Wood-Fired Pizza in Kyoto
monk, featured on Netflix's Chef's Table: Pizza, has taken the world by storm. Their wood-fired pizzas and modern course meals are a vibrant blend of East meets West.
monk - Some Background
monk is the brainchild of Yoshihiro Imai. Although originally from Ibaraki, it was in Kyoto that Imai found a love for pizza. His journey started at restaurant enboca Kyoto. After honing his skills as a pizza chef there, he eventually decided to go solo.
This culminated in 2015 when he opened monk in Kyoto. Seven years later, the Netflix show Chef's Table: Pizza featured monk, fetching it worldwide attention. Today, it's gotten to the point where getting a reservation at monk isn't exactly easy.
But I was fortunate enough to recently secure one!
Often associated with Kyoto cuisine, "Kaiseki" refers to a traditional Japanese multi-course meal. monk does kaiseki, but with a modern, pizza-centered twist.
On any given night, you may be treated to as many as 8 courses. The dishes will regularly change too, relative to what's available in the nearby Ohara mountains or in markets around Kyoto.
There's naturally an emphasis on fresh ingredients and this is clearly visible in each intricately prepared dish. On the day I visited, one dish was buri (yellowtail) sashimi with a yuzu vinaigrette salad. There was also a dish with Ise oysters, Kyoto kujo negi (leeks) and six other vegetables.
The meat dish showcased beautifully singed pork from Kagoshima and Kinjo carrot.
Earthy, Delicious Pizza
All these individual dishes lead the way to the grand finale, the pizza! There were six different styles of pizza on the day to choose from, with the ability to go half and half. I went with the Margherita pizza and shunjiku (edible Chrysanthemum) pesto pizza.
The acidity from the fresh tomatoes was a welcome contrast to the savory mozzarella cheese and soft dough. But to me, it was the the other pizza that stole the show. The shunjiku and pesto harmoniously came together to produce wonderfully earthy flavors.
In addition, the wood-fire oven ensures that all their pizzas have a slightly charred crust and overall smoky flavor.
Dessert was sweet potato and yogurt with amazake (a sweet drink made from fermented rice).
monk is located near Ginkakuji, Kyoto's famed Silver Pavilion Temple. They're right on the Philosopher's Path, a calm, scenic road that leads up to the temple.
This choice of area was an appropriate one - the zen-like environment and how it matches monk's culinary philosophy.
If you're able to secure a reservation, I'm sure you'd feel a certain sense of zen when enjoying their pizza and other dishes.