The Ultimate Guide to Kyoto's Specialties and Where to Eat Them

Publish-date: Oct 04 2018 Update-date: Nov 16 2018
Author: SAVOR JAPAN

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The Ultimate Guide to Kyoto's Specialties and Where to Eat Them

There are many local ingredients and regional dishes in Kyoto that have come about as a result of Kyoto's natural features, as well as its thousand-year-long history, including a time when it was the capital of Japan. If you're in town, these are the specialties you must try and the best restaurants that serve them!

What Are Kyoto's Specialties?

What Are Kyoto's Specialties?

Kyoto's traditional cuisine, resulting from centuries of history, is referred to as "Kyo-ryori". In its recipes, the top priority is to fully enhance the qualities of the vegetables, the main ingredients, and then arrange them gorgeously. This is related to the geographic conditions of Kyoto, which is not a seaside town. The most representative examples of Kyo-ryori included the following: the so-called "Kyo-kaiseki" - a traditional course wherein, from appetizer to dessert, you're served several dishes in a specific order; "obanzai", which refers to home-cooking recipes passed on since ancient times; and specialties of the strict vegetarian diet of some Buddhist temples, such as yuba (tofu skin) and yu-dofu (boiled tofu). On the other hand, you can also find a few typical seafood delicacies referred to as "hamo-ryori". Hamo (daggertooth pike conger) is considered the most iconic and beloved summer food in Kyoto. In addition, Kyoto has always been renowned as a tea growing area, so don't miss its fantastic matcha (powdered green tea) based desserts!

Taste the Flow of the Seasons with Kyo-kaiseki

Taste the Flow of the Seasons with Kyo-kaiseki

Kaiseki refers to traditional Japanese course cuisine. It consists of a sequence of delicacies, with 1 soup and 3 plates as main servings, accompanied by side dishes and dessert. It's considered as an extremely formal meal. Originally, the term used to indicate the food served to tea ceremony guests, but eventually, its meaning changed to a Japanese food-based course meal. Always seen as the heart of Japanese culture, Kyoto is where the rules of the cuisine were born and developed. Moreover, the area is blessed with several unique products like tofu, yuba, and Kyo-yasai (Kyoto vegetables) that are used seasonally in kaiseki, which is what gave rise to the concept of Kyo-kaiseki (Kyoto-style Kaiseki). Taste the highest level of Japanese cuisine, and you'll be amazed by the sophisticated flavors and beautiful colors!

Tankuma Kitamise Main Branch (Kawaramachi, Kaiseki)

Tankuma Kitamise Main Branch (Kawaramachi, Kaiseki)Tankuma Kitamise Main Branch (Kawaramachi, Kaiseki)

This long-established Kyo-ryori restaurant is soaked in the typical Kyoto atmosphere of Kawaramachi. Since founded in 1928, it's been serving stunning Kyoto dishes to gourmands for 90 years. For dinner, you can order their [Kaiseki Course] (from 17,820 JPY) to enjoy carefully selected and cooked products of the season. Start with an appetizer, marvel at the deliciousness of fresh fish and the knife skills of the chef with sashimi, indulge in the deep flavor of the main dish served in a bowl, and enjoy savory grilled vegetables - one by one, all the beautifully arranged plates will color your table and please both your eyes and taste buds.

Tankuma Kitamise Main Branch

Open: Lunch 12:00 pm - 3:00 pm (L.O. 2:00 pm), Dinner 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm (L.O. 8:00 pm)
Closed: Irregular
Average price: [Dinner] 20,000 JPY / [Lunch] 6,000 JPY
Address: 355, Kamiya-cho,  Shijo-agaru, Nishi Kiyamachi-dori, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto (Map)
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Kappo Chihiro (Gion-shijo, Kaiseki)

Kappo Chihiro (Gion-shijo, Kaiseki)The Ultimate Guide to Kyoto's Specialties and Where to Eat Them

Kappo Chihiro is a famous Japanese restaurant in Gion, Kyoto's iconic shopping district, that many food experts praise. You can savor the high-quality and seasonal delicacies that earned it two stars in a world-famous gourmet guide through course meals starting from 12,000 JPY. Food connoisseurs are particularly gluttonous for the [Grilled Eggplant], one of their signature dishes. The recipe is pretty simple, as the eggplant is "grilled without even touching water and then peeled," and it's not even seasoned. Nevertheless, the result is a superb dish where the chef manages to truly enhance the deep flavor of the high-quality eggplant by choosing the perfect cooking temperature and time!

Kappo Chihiro

Open: [Tuesday - Sunday, National Holidays, Day before National Holidays]Lunch 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm *Reservation required up until the previous day, Dinner 5:00 pm - 8:30 pm (L.O. 8:30 pm)
Closed: Monday
Average price: [Dinner] 20,000 JPY
Address: 279-8, Gion-machi Kita-gawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto (Map)
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Teramachi Yoshikura (Demachiyanagi, Kaiseki)

Teramachi Yoshikura (Demachiyanagi, Kaiseki)The Ultimate Guide to Kyoto's Specialties and Where to Eat Them

The chef of this restaurant has displayed his skills in important kitchens like the ones at the Japanese Prime Minister's official residence and at the State Guest House. In addition to Kyo-ryori prepared with seasonal products, he also serves dishes made with the famous beef brand, Yonezawa. If you're here to taste Kyo-ryori classics, have the [Ume Kaiseki] (5,000 JPY). It's an authentic full course meal, starting from an appetizer to soup, sashimi, grilled delicacies, takiawase (food cooked in a soy sauce-based soup), rice, and even dessert.

Teramachi Yoshikura

Open: [Monday, Wednesday - Sunday, National Holidays, and the Day before National Holidays] Lunch 11:00 am - 2:00 pm (L.O.), Dinner 5:00 pm - 9:00 pm (L.O.)
Closed: Tuesday
Average price: [Dinner] 5,300 JPY / [Lunch] 1,350 JPY
Address: 1F, Corpo Shimoyama, 102, Shinyodomae-cho, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto (Map)
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Enjoy Kyoto's Home Cooking with Obanzai

Enjoy Kyoto's Home Cooking with Obanzai

Everyday food served on the tables of Kyoto's homes is called "obanzai". It consists of locally harvested, seasonal ingredients that are cooked in simple ways and can last for days. Obanzai are mainly stewed delicacies whose delicate flavor is given by dashi (broth) made from Kyo-yasai, katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), kombu (kelp), and shiitake (a type of mushroom). This type of stewed dish is called "Taitan" in Kyoto dialect. Another perk of obanzai is that all its dishes are healthy and low in calories, so it's also renowned as a perfect diet food!

Rokkakuya (Kyoto, Japanese Cuisine)

Rokkakuya (Kyoto, Japanese Cuisine)The Ultimate Guide to Kyoto's Specialties and Where to Eat Them

You can find this popular and easily accessible eatery just 5 minutes from Kyoto Station on foot. As you step inside the softly illuminated interior exuding Japanese vibes from every corner, the various obanzai dishes lined up in front of the counter will instantly grab your attention. Made with seasonal products, simply cooked dishes like the [Kyo-yaki Tofu 3-color Dengaku] (480 JPY) and the [Manganji Capsicum and Ojako Taitan] (480 JPY) are also delicious with alcohol!

Rokkakuya

Open: Dinner 5:30 pm - 11:00 pm (L.O. 10:30 pm)
Closed: None
*Except for the beginning and end of the year
Average price: [Dinner] 3,500 JPY
Address: B1F, Neo Bldg., 172, Higashi Sakai-cho, Shichijo-dori Karasuma Nishi-iru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto (Map)
Source: hitosara (Japanese)

Kyoto Mamehachi (Gion-shijo, Creative Japanese Cuisine)

Kyoto Mamehachi (Gion-shijo, Creative Japanese Cuisine)The Ultimate Guide to Kyoto's Specialties and Where to Eat Them

Head to this creative Japanese restaurant to enjoy their highly appreciated obanzai and healthy tofu-based dishes. Their rich obanzai menu is comprised of delicacies like [Great Burdock with Black Sugar Syrup Dressing] (500 JPY) and [Meat and Potato Beer Stew] (650 JPY), the flavor of which makes them a great match with alcoholic drinks or rice. For lunch, you'll find daily special obanzai, but if you like tofu, make sure you don't miss one of their flagship menu items, the [Mamehachi Lunch] (2,400 JPY)! 

Kyoto Mamehachi

Open: Lunch 11:30 am - 3:00 pm, Dinner 5:00 pm - 10:30 pm (L.O. 10:00 pm)
Closed: None
Average price: [Dinner] 4,500 JPY / [Lunch] 2,000 JPY
Address: Shijo-dori Ponto-cho Agaru Nishi-gawa, 210-4, Nabeya-cho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto (Map)
Source: hitosara (Japanese)

Healthy and Popular! Yuba and Yu-dofu

Healthy and Popular! Yuba and Yu-dofu

Among all the typical ingredients of Kyoto's food culture, tofu and yuba are absolutely worth trying. They have been eaten in Japan since ancient times as a precious source of protein for monks who, for religious reasons, couldn't eat meat or fish. Tofu is firmed soy milk curd, while yuba is the thin skin created by boiling soy milk. Soybeans and water play a decisive role in the flavoring of these two delicate products, as they are basically the only ingredients. Yuba and tofu are both protein-rich and low in fat that it is especially recommended for healthy and light recipes!

Yuba Higashiyamayuuzu (Gion-shijo, Japanese Cuisine)

Yuba Higashiyamayuuzu (Gion-shijo, Japanese Cuisine)Yuba Higashiyamayuuzu (Gion-shijo, Japanese Cuisine)

Yuba Higashiyamayuuzu is a restaurant specializing in yuba dishes that is directly managed by a manufacturer that supplies yuba to hotels and restaurants. A popular dinner option is their course menu, starting from 5,000 JPY, which contains lots of delicacies made with yuba, a key ingredient for Kyo-kaiseki. Enjoy yuba in many different variations, like in the [Tuna and Yuba Sashimi], where it's served with freshly grated wasabi and soy sauce, and the [Soy Milk Hot Pot], in which it's cooked in thick soy milk with seasonal vegetables. If you go there for lunch, their [Yuuzu Ozen] (2,000 JPY) will give you the opportunity to enjoy yuba at a bargain price.

Yuba Higashiyamayuuzu

Open: Lunch 11:00 am - 3:00 pm (L.O. 2:00 pm), Dinner 5:30 pm - 9:30 pm (L.O. 8:30 pm)
Closed: Thursday
*Irregularly closes around twice a month
Average price: [Dinner] 5,000 JPY / [Lunch] 2,000 JPY
Address: 570-218, Gion-machi Minami-gawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto (Map)
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Nanohana (Kiyomizu-gojo, Japanese Cuisine)

Nanohana (Kiyomizu-gojo, Japanese Cuisine)The Ultimate Guide to Kyoto's Specialties and Where to Eat Them

Nanohana sits inside the main gate of Otani Mausoleum (Otani Honbyo), which is the tomb of Shinran, the founder of the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist school. Here, not only worshipers but any visitor of the mausoleum can enjoy a casual yuba-based meal. The highly recommended [Shokado Bento (Take)] (1,850 JPY) is a convenient set meal comprising of yuba sashimi and takiawase (simmered dish). You may also like the upper-class flavor of the soy milk-based soup used in their [Soy Milk Yuba Ramen] (750 JPY).

Nanohana

Open: 10:00 am - 4:00 pm (L.O. 3:30 pm)
*You can order food from 11:00 am
Closed: None
*At least 2 closing days in February
Average price: From 900 JPY
Address: B1F, Otani Hombyo Main Hall, 6-514, Gojohashi Higashi, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto (Map)
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Kyoto's Summer Food - Hamo-ryori

Kyoto's Summer Food - Hamo-ryori

Hamo is a key ingredient in Kyoto's summer cuisine. The popular Gion Festival occurs when hamo is at its peak deliciousness, which is why it's also called "Hamo Festival" by Kyoto people, as to honor their strong affection for this ingredient. Hamo is a saltwater fish similar to unagi (eel) in shape, and it's caught mainly in the coasts of western Japan. It can be savored in many different ways: passed through hot water (otoshi/yubiki), in a soup, as a sushi topping, fried, or even "kabayaki" style (thinly sliced, grilled, and served on a rectangular plate with sauce).

Nakagawa Sanjo Kiya-machi (Sanjo, Japanese Cuisine)

Nakagawa Sanjo Kiya-machi (Sanjo, Japanese Cuisine)The Ultimate Guide to Kyoto's Specialties and Where to Eat Them

Located in Kiyamachi, an evocative area that still holds the atmosphere of the old Kyoto, Nakagawa Sanjo Kiya-machi is a Japanese restaurant renowned for its hamo-based Kyoto cuisine. Their top dish, the [Hamo Shabu], consists of a hot dashi made from hamo and kombu. The way you eat it is by dipping the thinly sliced hamo in a homemade sudachi ponzu (citrus-based soy sauce) after quickly cooking it in the dashi. It's available from March to December. You should also try one of their many a-la-carte options, like the [Hamo Otoshi] or the [Hamo and Matsutake Soup].

Nakagawa Sanjo Kiya-machi

Open: Lunch 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm *Reservation required for 2 or more customers, up until the day before, Dinner 5:00 pm - 10:30 pm (L.O. 9:30 pm)
Closed: Monday
Average price: [Dinner] 11,000 JPY / [Lunch] 7,000 JPY
Address: B1F, Forum Kiyamachi Bldg., 532-20, Kamiosaka-cho, Sanjo Kiyamachi-agaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto (Map)
Source: hitosara (Japanese)

Sakayasu (Kyoto, Kaiseki)

Sakayasu (Kyoto, Kaiseki)The Ultimate Guide to Kyoto's Specialties and Where to Eat Them

South of Honan-ji, one of Kyoto's major temples, at a 15-minute walk from Kyoto Station, Sakayasu offers relaxing private rooms and delicious Kyo-ryori. The menu focuses on traditional kaiseki, but the summer-only [Hamo Kaiseki] (from 8,640 JPY), available from June to October, is what captured the hearts of many food lovers. You'll be served fresh hamo from the sea surrounding Awaji, meticulously selected by the owner and cooked in various manners, such as parboiled or in a soup.

Sakayasu

Open: Lunch 11:30 am - 2:00 pm (L.O. 1:30 pm), Dinner 5:00 pm - 9:00 pm (L.O. 7:30 pm)
Closed: Thursday
Average price: [Dinner] 7,000 JPY / [Lunch] 3,500 JPY
Address: 124, Daiku-cho, Shichijo-dori Omiya Higashi-iru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto (Map)
Source: hitosara (Japanese)

Savor the Aroma of Matcha with Matcha Sweets

Savor the Aroma of Matcha with Matcha Sweets

Japanese tea is generally steeped in hot water, but in the past, tea leaves used to be ground and turned into a soluble powder called "matcha". That's why, even today, matcha is the tea used for traditional tea ceremonies in Japan. South of Kyoto, there is a major Japanese tea growing town called "Uji", and its tea, known as "Uji matcha", is considered top quality. Other than dissolving it with hot water and drinking it, matcha is nowadays often used as an ingredient for food and sweets. In Kyoto, there are tons of cafes where you can enjoy matcha-based sweets, so make sure you taste at least one of these Japanese-style desserts!

Tsujiri Cafe (Kyoto, Cafe)

Tsujiri Cafe (Kyoto, Cafe)The Ultimate Guide to Kyoto's Specialties and Where to Eat Them

Tsujiri Cafe is directly managed by a tea factory and shop that's been in business in Kyoto for more than 150 years. If you like matcha-flavored soft serve ice cream, order the [Tsujiri Soft Kyo-Parfait] (594 JPY), their most popular menu item. Here, a tasty matcha soft serve ice cream is topped with anko (sweet red bean jam), black sugar syrup, and shiratama (rice flour dumplings), resulting in a creative Japanese-style dessert with a delicate sweetness and deep flavor. Also, the [Kyo Tea Rusk Assortment] (10 pieces in a pack, 1,166 JPY), which contains thin baguettes coated in matcha-flavored chocolate and hojicha-flavored chocolate, makes a great souvenir!

Tsujiri Cafe

Open: 9:00 am - 9:00 pm
Closed: Irregular
*Follows Kyoto Tower's closing days
Average price: 500 JPY - 600 JPY
Address: 721-1, Higashi Shiokoji-cho, Karasuma-dori Shichijo-sagaru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto (Map)
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Malebranch Kyoto Tower Sando Branch (Kyoto, Sweets)

Malebranch Kyoto Tower Sando Branch (Kyoto, Sweets)The Ultimate Guide to Kyoto's Specialties and Where to Eat Them

Malebranch Kyoto Tower Sando Branch is a Western confectionery renowned for its chanoka (tea sweets), which are considered to be awesome Kyoto souvenirs. Inside, there is also an eat-in space, so you can grab a seat and enjoy many of their exquisite desserts on-site. The most popular one is the [Raw Chanoka Ice Bar] (270 JPY), an ice cream made from plenty of koicha (an especially dark tea) from Uji, Kyoto. Dip it into koicha espuma (a type of mousse) and enjoy!

Malebranch Kyoto Tower Sando Branch

Open: 9:00 am - 9:00 pm
Closed: Irregular
*Follows Kyoto Tower's closing days
Average price: 2,500 JPY
Address: 721-1, Higashi Shiokoji-cho, Karasuma-dori Shichijo-sagaru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto (Map)
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Did you enjoy this guide to Kyoto's specialties? If you want to savor the taste of Kyoto, there are many more restaurants waiting for you! Do your research beforehand and try the most appealing ones!

Disclaimer: All information is accurate at time of publication.

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Publish-date: Oct 04 2018 Update-date: Nov 16 2018
Author: SAVOR JAPAN

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