Paul Fournier
By Paul Fournier

Kyoto’s 9 Best Restaurants, And 3 Must-Eat Sushi Places

Kyoto’s restaurant scene is wide ranging. From elaborate kaiseki fine dining, to tiny neighborhood ramen and gyoza shops, you’re bound to find places that fit your style or mood. It’s also the place to try the unique Kyoto-style sushi, which is made with cured fish instead of raw, fresh fish.

That said, on this page I show and describe 12 of the best places to eat in the city, categorized by budget. Once read you should have a very good idea about where to go to taste some of the city’s most delicious foods.

Budget Restaurants

Dining in Kyoto doesn’t have to break the bank – in this section I list some of the best restaurants that will keep you satisfied on a low budget.

Gyoza Hohei

Gyoza Hohei

Picture by Kent Wang

Located in the geisha district of Gion, Gyoza Hohei is a small restaurant with a straightforward menu. Ground meat dumplings are available in two options: ginger, or leek and garlic, along with several other side dishes.

Due to the restaurant’s popularity, putting your name in for a queue at the door is to be expected. However, the affordable prices and excellent gyoza make up for the wait 🙂

Okonomiyaki Katsu

Okonomiyaki Katsu

Located just a short walk away from the Ryoan-ji temple, Okonomiyaki Katsu is a small resto run by a friendly couple. Get a seat at the counter, and watch the chef make your meal in front of you on a huge “teppan” iron griddle!

Their okonomiyaki is a popular dish in Kyoto. The base consists of batter and cabbage, and a wide variety of toppings can be added to your liking.

Yakitori Daikichi

Yakitori Daikichi

If you’re looking for a cozy dining place with an authentic Japanese atmosphere, the Horikawa Takatsuji branch of Yakitori Daikichi is the place to go!

The restaurant offers delicious skewers in a wide variety – chicken, chicken skin, pork, and mushroom are just some of the examples. It’s also open till late, which makes it a convenient option for a late-night snack.

Mid-Range Restaurants

If sticking to a tight budget is not one of your concerns, here are some reasonably affordable restaurants that promise an unforgettable dining experience.

Shishin Samurai Cafe & Bar

Shishin Samurai Cafe and Bar

Shishin is tucked away in a quiet street in downtown Kyoto, and offers a unique dining experience for those curious about samurai culture.

The restaurant is decked out in replica samurai swords and armour, and you’ll also enjoy a brief history lesson on the samurai by the English-speaking staff, along with your meal. The restaurant also offers generous vegetarian options, for those on vegan and vegetarian diets.

Yamafuku

Agotsuyu Shabu Shabu Yamafuku

Located in the charming Pontocho district, Yamafuku is one of the best places to enjoy shabu shabu, or Japanese style hot pot.

Enjoy freshly sliced meat, seafood, vegetables, mushrooms, tofu or even noodles, dipped into aromatic “daishi” fish stock broth. The staff take time to explain every step of the meal, so you won’t feel lost even if it’s your first time having shabu shabu!

Steak Otsuka

Steak Otsuka

Japan may be known worldwide for its Wagyu beef, but Steak Otsuka is one of the few places in Kyoto where you can enjoy Murasawa beef, also known as “Legendary Beef”. It’s a rather rare type of Wagyu, as very few of these cows are exported.

Steak Otsuka is a short walk from Arashiyama train station, making it the perfect lunch stop before exploring the Bamboo Forest. Get there before 11am, and do get the Murasawa set for affordable, tender, juicy Wagyu steak that melts in your mouth!

Fine Dining

If you’re on a top-dollar budget, head over to one of these restaurants where you can enjoy some of the very best Japanese cuisine that Kyoto has to offer.

Roan Kikunoi

Roan Kikunoi

For those in search of the finest cuisine in Kyoto, Roan Kikunoi in Kiyamachi is a worthy choice. Like their main branch boasting a 2 Michelin Star ranking, the Kiyamachi branch serves kaiseki style meals with a variety of seafood.

You can feast on dishes like duck liver pate, abalone, sea urchin, tuna, and squid, best enjoyed with some sake. If you’re with a Japanese-speaking friend, get a seat by the counter for a chance to be entertained by the chef!

Shoraian

Shoraian

This picture and the featured one at the top of this page were shot by Grace and Jason

Tucked away in a quiet corner by the riverside, Shoraian makes an impression even before you get there, since getting there requires a walk through a beautiful bamboo grove.

They serve kaiseki, or traditional multi-course Japanese meals, with a focus on tofu. The meals are varied, flavorful, and best of all – presented in arrangements so impressive, you’ll almost be sorry to dig in.

Hafuu Honten

Hafuu Honten

With their signature “Original” meal starting at 1000 Yen/~$9.5, dining at Hafuu Honten may not be the cheapest, but you get what you pay for.

Located near the Imperial Palace, Hafuu Honten is known for serving up beef of the highest quality. The English-speaking staff are also friendly and attentive, and are always happy to answer any questions you might have about your meal.

Sushi Places

Visiting Kyoto without trying their signature delicacy of sushi would be a sin! Here, I’ve shortlisted a few restaurants offering sushi at varying price points to suit every budget.

Izuju

Izuju

Izuju is one of the best places to get traditional Kyoto-style sushi. Cured fish is used, as it was hard to get fresh fish in the landlocked city before refrigeration became common.

Izuju’s “Sabazushi” is a good example, where cured mackerel is wrapped around rice, and held together with a thin seaweed sheet. I recommend the box set, so you’ll be able to taste a wider variety of sushi.

Sushi no Musashi

Sushi No Musashi

Conveniently located in the transport hub that is JR Kyoto Station, Musashi is a good option for an affordable meal after a whole day of sightseeing.

They serve their sushi on conveyor belts, with accompanying description cards so you’ll know what you’re getting. The wide variety of sushi here also means you’ll find something beyond the usual salmon sushi – give the horse meat or roast beef sushi a try 😉

Matsudaya

Gion Matsudaya

Located in the beautiful Gion district, dinner at Matsudaya is an intimate affair, as the chef only prepares food for a maximum of four to six people at a time.

They bring in the freshest fish from Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market, and prepare the sushi and sashimi meticulously. Because of this, it can be enjoyed with just the slightest dab of wasabi for seasoning.

Conclusion

From hearty yakitori skewers, to tasty sushi, to delicate kaiseki meals, Kyoto offers a wide range of cuisine that will satisfy even the most discerning foodie. All there is to do is pick a restaurant that fits your budget, head out, and tuck in! 🙂

P.S. If you’re having breakfast, you may also want to check out Kyoto’s Top 12 Things To Do to make an itinerary for the day. Or if you’re having dinner, have a look at The Ultimate Guide To Kyoto’s Nightlife to finish your evening with a fun night out.

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