The juxtaposition of tradition and modernity: Eating your way to health in a West Hollywood bar-like atmosphere at Kimomoki restaurant
Written by Rinko Kawakami
As the old Chinese saying goes, “good health starts with good eating (医食同源).” Ah, another trite expression of common sense, you might think. However, this saying may take on a fresh meaning after you have tried some Chinese herbal medicinal dishes served at Kimomoki (きももき) restaurant in Fukuoka. Located in the fashionable neighborhood of Josui Dori ( 浄水通り) along with high-end interior showrooms, boutiques, cafes, and spas, Kimomoki is the kind of place where Madonna would want to stop by if she were to visit Fukuoka. Diners can experience the Asian tradition of good, healthful eating with natural herbs and novel ingredients in a West Hollywood bar-like, sophisticated atmosphere. After enjoying your porridge and hot pot meals enriched with traditional herbs while listening to jazz, you may gain a better understanding about the Asian appreciation of nature, seasons, and food all working in harmony with us in the circle of life.
Before I can convince you to try this fine restaurant located in proximity to the Fukuoka municipal zoo and botanic garden, I need to clarify what ‘medicinal dishes’ involve. While the word ‘medicinal’ may evoke the image of food that tastes too bitter or too stale to be enjoyable, everything I tried at Kimomoki was mild and tasty with a subtle hint of flavor and the aroma of herbs and fresh ingredients. I assure you that nothing actually tastes like medicine at Kimomoki. In fact, no single ingredient or herb speaks too loudly; everything complements each other in quiet harmony. What is ‘medicinal’ about dishes here is instead the prescription that comes with each menu. Based on the season you visit Kimomoki and what is bothering you at that time, the owner and chef, Hiroko Oda (小田裕子) can suggest what drinks and food you should order. For example, kumquat wine infused with rose buds (‘rosa rugosa’) and special citrus (‘citrus medica’) should alleviate stiffness in your shoulders by moving congested energy that flows within your body. Porridge with tofu skin called Yuba (湯葉) boosts your immune system with astragalus roots（黄耆）and cools down excess heat.
Hiroko worked at a pharmacy chain for over 10 years before venturing into Kimomoki. Although she had all kinds of drugs and remedies at her disposal while working at the pharmacy, she suffered from headaches, stiff shoulders, and pain in her eyes, toes, and leg joints for quite some time. No doctor of modern medicine was able to pinpoint what was wrong with her. However, a doctor of Chinese medicine she met through work told her that all her problems originated from her liver and prescribed two spoonfuls of Chinese herbal medicine. Much to her surprise, all her symptoms miraculously disappeared afterwards.
After that, she became a staunch believer of Chinese medicine and sought lessons from the doctor about seasonal food remedies. She learned the importance of understanding one’s physical constitution and maintaining balance of the body through good eating appropriate for each season. Hiroko told me that, precisely speaking, there are actually a total of 24 different seasons（二十四節気）in Japan, and there is an appropriate food remedy for each season. Hiroko wanted to apply what she had learned and to spread the good word of Chinese herbal medicine in an entertaining, affordable, and approachable way, so she opened Kimomoki restaurant in May 2011.
For those readers interested in making your dining experience at Kimomoki even more memorable by making the history come alive, I suggest you watch the epic South Korean television series Jewel in the Palace (Japanese title: 「宮廷女官チャングムの誓い」) before dining at Kimomoki restaurant. It is one of the most popular and highly-rated television series in Asia, featuring the story of an orphaned apprentice palace chef, who grows up to become the king’s first female physician during the Chosun Dynasty (朝鮮王朝), 500 years ago. During the time of year when the cherry blossoms start blooming in Minami Park, you are sure to feel like the king from Jewel in the Palace while enjoying Kimomoki’s porridge dressed up with jujube, Chinese wolfberry, and pine nuts after a relaxing walk through the park to the fashionable street of Josui.