Cover Image: The Kamogawa Food Detectives

The Kamogawa Food Detectives

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Member Reviews

The Kawogawa Food Detectives is the first in a new series by Hisashi Kashiwai--a translation from the original Japanese book. I was enchanted by the idea of someone being able to re-create a special dish from a person's past. The food descriptions were so interesting, I found a few dishes I hope to try when the soon-to-come Japanese restaurant opens in our small town. The author presents each food case in a snapshot story. I really enjoyed the main characters, a retired from the police father, who investigates, and his thoroughly modern daughter, the cook. I do look forward to more in this series.

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The Kamogawa Food Detectives was just what I needed to get through a cold January. A cozy compilation of heartwarming stories, told with mouth watering descriptions of Japanese delectables, I couldn’t put this one down! Each story quietly got under your skin, and I found myself reflective yet touched by its warmth. I loved the characters in this book - there wasn’t as much depth to the protagonists as I usually enjoy but the stories of the characters they encountered made up for it. If you liked Before the Coffee Gets Cold, this maybe up your alley! If you’re a foodie, be warned this book will be the ultimate tease 😊

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This book is sweet but repetitive. 6 chapters, each one split in 2: first a guest arrives at the well-hidden restaurant/detective agency, is interviewed about the food they’d like to re-experience, and then they come back and are served the requested dish along with some tidbits about the detective work. The book has 2 things going for it: it is comforting and it is really well translated, with particular attention to the ingredients. There is no overarching plot, and not much character development, but there is a cat.

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Unfortunately, The Kamogawa Food Detectives is a DNF for me. I know "food" is in the title but it was way too much food talk for me and the detective portion was not enough for me to be entertained. I was interested in the premise but it just didn't work for me.

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When I saw this book, I didn't expect a gritty mystery and thought it would be something like The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith with a little bit of mystery included in a beautiful story. However, I wouldn't classify The Kamogawa Food Detectives as a mystery at all. It is more along the lines of the Before the Coffee Gets Cold series with a series of different stories connected by a common theme. 
Koishi Kamogawa and her father Nagare, who is a former police detective, run a small restaurant in Kyoto, Japan, and occasionally help special customers who want help recreating an important dish from their past. The book has six chapters, each telling the story of a different customer. Most of the stories are touching and bittersweet. The book starts with a man who wants to taste a certain dish his late wife used to make before moving on in his life in a new marriage and ends with a successful young man who wants to taste a specific stew that his deceased mother used to make for him. Each story is brief, so I didn't connect with most of the characters.

Each chapter follows the same formula with a customer locating the hard-to-find restaurant and giving as much information as possible about the dish and their memories of that special food. Koishi is the one who interviews the customers and she can come across as abrupt and sometimes judgmental. She then passes the information on to her kinder and wiser father who leaves the restaurant to ask questions and source the necessary ingredients. 

I wish we got to see Nagare's "food detecting" unfold, but instead when the customer comes back to the restaurant, he serves the meal and explains the research he did to recreate it.  This makes the book more passive and less engaging than it could be. There is a very brief overall ending to the book with a sweet scene between Koishi and her father. This book wasn't what I thought it would be, but I enjoyed most of the chapters even though I wish there was more to them. Most of all, it was an interesting look at some of the customs of Kyoto and Japanese cuisine. (3.5 stars)

I received an advance copy of this ebook at no cost from NetGalley and Putnam Books. My review is voluntary and unbiased.

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Set in Kyoto, Japan, this quick read focuses on a nondescript restaurant specializing in recreating impactful dishes that individuals describe from their memories. It’s not necessarily the meal itself, but the circumstances surrounding the meal that burn in people’s memories. The father-daughter “food detectives” create a past food memory for those who visit the restaurant, oftentimes leading their customers to clearer understandings. and to move into the future. This book, the first in a series, is pegged for those who enjoyed the series When the Coffee Gets Cold - I would describe this book as a much, much lighter version of that series. WTCGC series is more layered and delves more deeply into the relationships in each “episode” than in this book. Overall, this was a light and quick read - enjoyable but not as memorable. Many thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

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So delightful!

Talk about food for the soul! An out of the way, humble diner in Kyoto that serves up the most wonderful traditional Japanese meals. The place is not easy to locate. There’s no signs or directions. You really have to want to find it. Nagare Kamogawa and his daughter Koishi run the small eating house. Nagare is the chef, Koishi waits tables. On the detecting side of the business, Koishi takes down the information for people who are searching for how a particular dish from their memory is cooked. Nagare is the detective. All the client has to go on is a one line advertisement in the Gourmet Monthly magazine. At the end of each case Koishi and Nagare ask their client to pay into an account how much their solving of the case was worth to them. Nagare cooks the dish the client has sought.
People come to find the dish their mother might have cooked, the meal they remember as a child with their grandfather, a myriad of unusual requests.
The dishes are sublime. I’m spending an inordinate amount of time looking them up (in my own cookbooks and online) The dishes are served on designated plates and types of pottery ware from all around Japan. I’ve also been looking some of those up in my fav. Japanese tableware shop.
This is just such a wonderfully encouraging read. You can feel the texture of the dishes arrayed, almost taste them. The color and movement, the descriptions of places I’ve visited are so evocative. Swoon worthy! The people find understanding, warmth and friendship. Some return.
A startling, yet humbly sumptuous read that made me long for such a place.

A Putnam ARC via NetGalley.
Many thanks to the author and publisher.
(Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.)

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What an absolute charmer! This is truly the comfort food of detective novels. Translated from the Japanese, it is the story of Nagare Kamogawa and his daughter Koishi who endeavor to re-create favorite memory-filled recipes from people’s past, all of which they do from their restaurant, advertising their detective business via cryptic ads in the local culinary rag.

It was fun reading about the lengths to which they would go in order to do so to present their client with exactly what he or she was looking for. I have to admit, being unfamiliar with Japanese food as I am, that the names of food stuffs and vessels frequently sent me googling, but I came away from this book feeling as though I had learned a great deal not only about the culture and the people of Japan, but about the cuisine as well.

The book is made up of six individual sections, each of which reads like a short story. I struggled a bit with the names because, being immersed in western culture as I am, none of them were familiar enough to me to be able to 100% keep the characters straight, but I managed well enough. I loved being immersed in Japanese foodie culture, and where else would I find a phrase like “itinerary tofu salesman.” I loved every morsel of this book. As an aside, I must say that the translation is brilliant. Clearly, it was done by an Englishman, because phrases like “chalk and cheese,” “let’s tuck in,”and “mum” appear throughout, brought me a smile every time they did.

If you enjoy learning about other cultures, or appreciate truly fine food writing, this is absolutely the book for you. You will fall in love with Nagare and Koishi. I highly recommend it.

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This was perfect warm and cozy reading for a day when I was down with a cold and needed something light and soothing.

An enigmatic advertisement in Gourmet Monthly brings people to the Kamogawa Diner where they meet up with Nagere and his daughter Koishi, food detectives. The clients are in search of a specific meal from their past, but, of course it is not just food they want to rediscover, “nostalgia is just as vital an ingredient.”

Each chapter is a different case and could easily stand alone, though there are a few recurring secondary characters. However the collection as a whole builds up a charmingly comforting rhythm. The food descriptions are evocative, the clients’ responses are joyful, and the relationship between Koishi and her father is delightful.

This is a book that possibly on any other day I would have found to be too slight and simple but was perfect for a day curled up in bed craving any one of the delicious meals that Nagere conjured up.

Thanks to Putnam and Netgalley for the digital review copy.

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Down a quiet backstreet in Kyoto is a very special restaurant. run by Koishi Kamogawa and her father Nagare. Although the Kamogawa Diner serves up deliciously extravagant meals, that's not the main reason customers stop by . .The father-daughter duo are 'food detectives'. Visitors come to them, describing a dish they would give anything to have just one more time. Through ingenious investigations, they are able to recreate dishes from a person’s treasured memories – dishes that may well hold the keys to their forgotten past and future happiness. The restaurant of lost recipes provides a link to vanished moments, creating a present full of possibility.

This book is reminiscent of "Before the Coffee Gets Cold". The book is told in a collection of stories, with each story being a different patron to the restaurant, looking to recreate a memory from their past. Nagare sprinkles little life lessons and bits of wisdom along with the dishes he serves up. This is book one of the series.

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While I appreciate that this book is more like 6 short stories than a complete novel, I found them all to be SO identical that I was annoyed. Legitimately could have summarized each one with the exact same 5 steps.

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NetGalley ARC

This is the coziest of cozy books. A father and daughter restaurateurs team up to replicate beloved dishes from their client's pasts. They are Food Detectives.

Their clients come to them to find childhood dishes, a dead wife's recipe and everything in between. The stories of the different clients are full of nostalgia and are very poignant. Often times, it's an exercise in moving on.

The descriptions of Japanese food are amazing, it feels like you're there. This is a special book that will really lift your mood.

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This was a really great read. Touching and easy to digest. My only complaint would be that the translation felt a bit formal at times and some of the phrasing used seemed a bit too modern for the time the book was written. But I’m willing to overlook that because the story itself was so enjoyable to read.

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A sweet novel that will make you hungry. Former police detective Nagare Kamogawa has turned his talents to helping people relive and taste again food that's been in their minds for years. He, along with his daughter Koishi, run a small, unassuming restaurant in Kyoto where they make those dreams come true. Each chapter features a different client reminiscing and the results of the Kamogawa's efforts. There are small gems here. Nothing dramatic, nothing horrid, nothing distressing - this is the sort of read that is perfect for when you need a positive. Thanks to the publisher for the ARC. It was, understandably, a hit in Japan and it's nice to see it published in the US- a good read.

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I adored the premise of this book. Our senses of smell and taste can evoke strong memories when our mind fails us. We follow the father and daughter Kamogawa food detectives as they “investigate” six different nostalgic dishes that their customers can’t seem to place: nabeyaki udon, beef stew, mackerel sushi, tonkatsu, napolitan spaghetti, and nikujaga. Interwoven are stories of childhood, romance, death, and at the core of it, the importance of food and who we share it with. I loved the sensory descriptions of unique Japanese dishes.

Thank you to G.P. Putnam’s Sons, NetGalley, Hisashi Kashiwai, and Jesse Kirkwood for the advanced readers copy of The Kamogawa Food Detectives.

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I thought this would be more about cats. I didn’t really like Before the Coffee Gets Cold either as I’m not big on short vignettes. I’d rather a full story. It was a bit more simplistic than I’d go for normally but I got sucked in by the cat.

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This book was a fast and comfy read. This completely charming book is about a father-daughter duo who runs an unmarked restaurant in Kyoto. The secret behind the tiny place is that it also is a detective agency where people come to have a dish from their past recreated. I enjoyed reading this book so much and recommend it to everyone, I enjoy Japanese literature.

Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Group Putnam for an advance copy of this manuscript in exchange for an honest review.

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The Kamogawa Food Detectives is a charmingly diverting example of the Japanese food story genre by Hisashi Kashiwai. Due out 13th Feb 2024 from Penguin Random House on their Putnam imprint, it's 208 pages and will be available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout.

This is such a comforting, nostalgic, and sweetly uplifting collection of related stories. Originally published in Japanese in 2013, the translation work by Jesse Kirkwood is seamless and manages to flow very well in English without losing the indelible Japanese cultural and food-related nuances.

The stories are related by a common thread: seekers find the restaurant run by a father and daughter duo who specialize in recreating meals for their clients from the clients' own memories and recollections.

Despite the lack of danger or dramatic tension, the stories are moving and told effectively. Food manga and food-centered narrative is a popular subgenre in Japan, and this is a wonderful collection.

Four and a half stars. Utterly charming.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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This is like a Ghibli movie mixed with Grantchester. Chapter-long cases are filled with warm people who are not just looking for food but for connections to their past. The main characters are a lovable father and daughter and they work in tandem to uncover food recipes that people remember from an important part of their lives. There are no murders or bad guys, just a lot of interesting tidbits about Japanese culinary history. A word of warning, though, do not read this book hungry. If you do, make sure you have your local Japanese restaurant on speed dial.

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I have to admit it was the cat on the cover of this book that caught my attention. I was surprised to find out it was translated from Japanese and was a bit skeptical when I started reading the book. The character's names were confusing and I had a hard time remembering who was who. But the further I got into the book, the more I found it quite enjoyable. Nagare and his daughter Koishi are the proprietors of The Kamogawa Diner. This is not an ordinary restaurant and Nagare and Koishi are not ordinary chefs. They are food detectives and help their clients by recreating dishes and recipes they remember from their past. The cat, by the way, was named Drowsy and made an appearance in every chapter. This was a strange but interesting novel. Thanks to the author, Hisashi Kashiwai, PENGUIN GROUP Putnam, and NetGalley for this quirky read. I received a complimentary copy of this ebook. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

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