The Brilliance Behind Kyo-to
A restaurant’s brilliance and success is greatly reflected in the personalities of its chefs. This case is no less true for a restaurant such as Kyo-to, a venue of welcome tranquility at the heart of Metro Manila’s bustling Makati district, and its head chef, Ryohei Kawamoto, whose career has embodied patience and mastery in the face of adversity.
Chef Kawamoto’s love for food and its simple yet artistic possibilities began when he was just a child—he held his mother’s dishes with high regard—and would prevail throughout his arduous yet meaningful journey to become Kyo-to’s head chef. A former resident of Kyoto, Japan, he began his culinary career as a dishwasher in Kitcho, one of the city’s most famed restaurants. He would clean tables and mop floors for three years before being assigned the responsibilities of a prep cook. Eventually, his training paid off, earning him the honor of preparing Kitcho’s finest mukozuke, a dish of sliced seasonal sashimi.
After working in Kitcho for eight years, Kawamoto moved to Tokyo and was employed as a buyer’s assistant at Tsukiji Market, a marketplace renowned for sporting the freshest and most various ingredients—any chef’s paradise. The future chef had dreamed of opening his first restaurant in Tokyo, but when an earthquake and tsunami ravaged Japan on March 11, 2011, he was forced to postpone that dream for a while longer.
Fate intervened with a helping hand when Kawamoto, with the aid of an associate from Kitcho, moved to the Philippines and served as the private chef of the country’s Japanese ambassador for three years. Afterwards, a meeting with private investors would finally grant him his wish of opening a kaiseki restaurant at the heart of Makati City—Kyo-to.
The restaurant’s name, Kyo-to, is derived from that of Japan’s former imperial capital for over a thousand years, Kyoto. The wordkyo (京) means “capital,” as the prefecture was formerly nicknamed until the eleventh century, when it was later called Kyoto, retaining its meaning, after the Chinese word jingdu (京都).