We entered Japanese restaurant (こいまりや) Koimariya in Kyoto spontaneously, largely because we had located a ramen restaurant near Beppinya in Kyoto but it was closed. To be fair, the food was decent, but the chef was very unkind to his female assistant. During the 30 minutes while we were there, he scolded her several times for the slightest mistakes – ranging from not giving us the English menu, to serving a plate of tempura in the wrong direction. Here is our honest review of the food at Koimariya in Kyoto.
Non-Japanese speakers are only entitled to the English menu
When we first entered, The Assistant of こいまりや greeted us. After showing us to our seats, she brought us the Japanese menu which had like 100 options on it. I believe it was a yakitori sort of set up. Seconds later, The Chef realised that we couldn’t speak Japanese, and started scolding her for giving us the wrong menu. The Assistant then arrives with the English menu, which has only three options for a dinner set menu (¥2,200/ SGD27/ USD19.80). We were not allowed to order the ala-carte options. It was most limiting, but to avoid having The Assistant get scolded even more because of us, we decided to have the set menu.
S and I got the sashimi as an appetiser, while S got the grilled chicken and I had the tempura. S had the bowl of rice and miso soup, while I had the beer. We wanted to order the oden, but of the limited choices we already had, it was unavailable too. ʕ ᓀ ᴥ ᓂ ʔ
To be fair, I thought the food was decent. The sashimi was nice, while the tempura was done well. The Chef further told The Assistant off when she tried to serve the tempura, as she had held the plate in the wrong direction.
The Travelling Squid’s Take
Would you visit a restaurant where the chef is unkind to his staff?
Well, I am aware that in Japanese restaurants, chefs scolding their staff and apprentices is not uncommon. But to scold a person until he/she is on the verge of breaking down is unnecessary. It is perfectly fine to be intense while seeking perfection. My beef is, if the person is not up to speed, find a replacement. There is no need to be unkind, or disrespectful. I also felt that he was scolding her because she was woman, and therefore, in a patriarchal society like Japan, was an easy target.
What made it worst (in my view) was that The Chef was super chummy with his Japanese customers, making small talk and bantering with them. All while scolding The Assistant by the sidelines. And all this while the Japanese customers didn’t seem to be affected by his constant berating of the poor lady.
S did correct my naivety but saying that bullying is also quite common in the kitchens of the world’s most famous restaurants. My bottom line is this – if I am not aware of the bullying, then there’s nothing I can do about it. But if the bullying happens right in front of me, I have that option of taking my business elsewhere. And I will encourage you to do the same. Thus far, I have written a review on Google and Facebook to inform non-Japanese speakers to avoid this restaurant. I think you could get a better experience amidst the numerous restaurant in Kyoto. Our favourite will definitely be Beppinya – not only is the food and drink good, the staff actually look happy working there.