monk Cookbook Review

monk Cookbook Review
By The Cooking World, Editorial Staff
August 23, 2021

monk: Light and Shadow on the Philosopher's Path

Here we are again with another restaurant cookbook review, this time with the monk Cookbook Review.

monk is the story of Yoshihiro Imai's 14-seat, seasonally inspired restaurant, set on the cherry blossom-lined Philosopher's Path in Kyoto. Through personal essays, reflections, recipes, and photography, Yoshihiro describes stories of the farmers, makers, and exceptional ingredients – from foraged vegetables to herbs and flowers – that inspire his omakase-style menu, explains why cooking with fire is central to the restaurant, and traces the evolution of the unpretentious, innovative, and flavorful pizza for which he is now renowned globally.

Monk Cookbook Review

The Philosopher's Path

Set on the Philosopher’s Path, a stone pedestrian trail lined with cherry blossom trees and ancient temples in Kyoto, monk serves inventive contemporary cuisine using local ingredients cooked in a wood-fired stone oven, which is at the center of Yoshihiro’s small open kitchen. At monk Yoshihiro brings a unique perspective to traditional Japanese dining - his approach perfectly balances the dual mentalities of respecting tradition, while seamlessly adapting to contemporary life. 

The surprising start show at the monk is Yoshihiro’s pizza. Yes, a pizza in a Japanese restaurant! It all started when Yoshihiro picked up a book on bread baking by chance at the library during college. He discovered a particular magic in baking from scratch using a mother yeast. The formative years he spent working in a specialty pizza restaurant in Japan, called enboca, cemented his obsession.

monk Cookbook features the results of Yoshihiro’s passion for the craft of making pizza that is unpretentious, beautiful and flavorful; toppings range from simple tomato garnished with wildflowers to salted mackerel or wood-fired nori. Yoshihiro presents all his dishes simply, with humility, tranquility and openness rippling through every element of monk - every ingredient, every dish, every serving plate, holds significance and has meaning.

Monk Cookbook Review
Summer. Abalone. Photography by: Yuka Yanazume (p. 82)

Nature's Flow

monk: Light and Shadow on the Philosopher’s Path is structured by season. Its starts with spring and then it follow the natural flow of nature with summer, autumn, and winter chapters. Personal essays by Yoshihiro alternate with beautiful photography of his plated food, foraged ingredients, and the surrounding landscapes. In these chapters he introduces us to a new breed of young organic farmers; he shares his inspirations as a chef and father; he describes the highs and lows of owning your own restaurant, and of the deep connections between his life and work.

The recipes chapter is at the end of the book, and it's here where you can find all the recipes of the dishes displayed throughout the book. Dishes range from the classic and simple, including Mushroom Pizza, and Assorted Roasted Vegetables, to contemporary dishes with uniquely Japanese flavors, such as Ayu and Kamo-nasu Eggplant Pizza and Nukazuke Salsa.

An interesting fact about this book is that the recipes are fairly straightforward to execute if you have a wood fire oven and if you find reasonable substitutes for the ingredients that Yoshihiro sources locally in Kyoto. Some dishes, including slow-roasted napa cabbage; tomato soup, and the pizza dough recipe could even be adapted for a domestic oven, with a bit of tweaking.

However, like it's normal with many restaurant cookbooks, the majority of home cooks will use this book as a reading book, rather than using it to replicate its recipes at home. Professional chefs are more likely to have the skills resources and suppliers to make more practical use of the book, especially those based in Japan.

Monk Cookbook Review
Autumn nuts and egg yolk sauce. Photography by: Yuka Yanazume (p. 114)

At the End of Monk Cookbook Review

monk is a gorgeous cookbook that capturesYoshihiro’s distinctive, individual, and inspiringly soulful culinary expression. For travel lovers, fine dining restaurant-goers, chefs, cookery students, and foodies, it is an exquisite, escapist, and joyful balm of a book that will transport readers to a little spot in Kyoto with a monumental impact. 

In the end, monk is an evocative and personal chef monograph - and an ode to wood-fired cooking - from Japan's exciting emerging chef.


For us, monk is one of the best restaurant cookbooks we ever review, its elemental simplicity and captivating essays make it one of the most unique cookbooks on the market.









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