Located in the Kansai region, Kyoto is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. It’s popular not just for its lovely gardens, stunning temples, and iconic attractions, but also for its world-class dining scene. With a wide range of dining establishments, we’ve narrowed down the top 10 Japanese restaurants in Kyoto for you.
Kyoto ranks third in most Michelin stars in the world, just after Tokyo and Paris. When planning to go on a food trip, make sure you’re ready. (Pro tip: Make your gastronomic experience a hassle-free one by storing your baggage at a luggage locker in the city.)
The city of Kyoto is acknowledged as the birthplace of the traditional multi-course meal known as kaiseki, which is widely regarded as the pinnacle of Japanese cuisine. Those who want to experience this incredible dining tradition in Kyoto should definitely visit Kikunoi. The restaurant, which boasts three Michelin stars, is located in Higashiyama and offers classic kaiseki in a fine dining setting. At Kikunoi, expect to be served dishes such as sashimi served on chrysanthemum petals and citrus-infused matsutake mushroom soup.
Established in 1837, Hyotei is one of the most historic restaurants in the city as well as a world-renowned dining institution. With three Michelin stars to its name, Hyotei is known for serving traditional kaiseki centered on fish and vegetables in private seating rooms. Apart from its kaiseki menu, Hyotei also serves a range of other Japanese favorites, including asagayu (savory porridge), grilled ayu (sweetfish), and sashimi. Because of its popularity, reservations are highly encouraged and can be done online (book here).
Owning the title of the oldest restaurant in Kyoto, Honke Owariya is arguably the city’s most popular soba restaurant. Founded in 1465, the restaurant is located near the Kyoto Imperial Palace and Nijo Castle, just a 5-minute walk from the Karasuma-Oike Station.
Though it has been in existence for over five centuries, the restaurant is largely unchanged and has retained its culinary traditions over the years. The menu at Honke Owariya ranges from plain soba bowls to set menus with varying toppings and sides. Diners also get to enjoy their meals while seating on the tatami mats arranged on the floor.
Another restaurant known for its kaiseki menu, Giro Giro Hitoshina is one of Kyoto’s most beloved restaurants. Located near the Kiyomizu Gojo Station, the restaurant sets itself apart from other kaiseki eateries in the city by serving traditional set menus without the strict conventions that kaiseki is known for.
The best part is that, unlike all the other kaiseki restaurants in the city, a meal at Giro Giro won’t cost you an arm and leg (most meals cost no more than ¥5,000).
Often regarded as the best tempura restaurant in Kyoto, Tempura Yoshikawa is a definite must-try when in the city. Situated in central Kyoto, this former tearoom now functions as a ryokan (Japanese inn) and restaurant that specializes in tempura kaiseki cuisine.
Customers during lunchtime get to watch the chefs whip up their food while they sit at the counter while diners at dinner time are taken to private tatami mat rooms where they get served Japanese delicacies such as tempura and sushi.
Found along the bustling Shijo strict in Gion district, Chihana is among the most frequented restaurants in Kyoto by both locals and tourists. The small and minimalist restaurant is tucked away in a side street and may be a little difficult to find for those not in the know.
But don’t let its simplicity fool you, Chihana serves some of the most excellent kaiseki menus in all of Kyoto (which is why the restaurant earned three Michelin stars). The restaurant prides itself on serving inventive meals using only the freshest and finest local ingredients.
Sushi is arguably the most popular Japanese food and you’d be remiss not to have some during your time in Kyoto. Sushi in Kyoto has a long and colorful history and is quite different from the nigiri-style sushi famous in other parts of Japan and all over the world.
If you’re looking to sample Kyoto-style sushi in the city, the best place to go to would have to be Izuju. Located in the busy district of Gion, it is Kyoto’s oldest sushi restaurant and serves only local-style sushi. Some of the specialties at Izuji include sabazushi (mackerel sushi) and inarizushi (deep-fried tofu skin).
Nishiki Market is a traditional market with over 100 different food stalls and vendors of fresh produce and is one of the best places in Kyoto to sample local delicacies. Among the most prominent restaurants in the area is Nishiki Warai, located just outside the market.
Although small in size, this dining spot is well-known among locals and visitors because of its freshly-made okonomiyaki (savory Japanese pancake) that comes with a variety of toppings. Nishiki Warai also serves a mean yakisoba (fried noodles) that goes well with their signature dish.
When the majority of the diners in a restaurant are locals, you know that you’ve hit the jackpot. Honke Daiichi Asahi is a hole-in-the-wall restaurant near Kyoto station that serves some of the best ramen in the city.
Established over five decades ago, this ramen joint serves only one style of ramen – the pork tonkotsu. Diners also have the option to order sides such as gyoza (Japanese dumplings), tempura, and local beer.
Located in downtown Tokyo, Sumibi Yakitori Chabuya is a retro-style restaurant and one of the best places in the city to get a good yakitori meal. Yakitori is a traditional Japanese meal that features chicken in skewers and at Chabuya, you can get a whole range of options – from fried chicken cartilage to vegetable yakitori. Pro tip: Order their chicken ramen to go along with your yakitori meals.