The best places to go for Japanese degustation in Kyoto
With local, hyper-seasonal ingredients and delicate dishes, Kaiseki is Japanese feasting at its finest. And it was born in Kyoto. Here are the best degustation dining experiences in this historic city.
- January 2020
Looking for a traditional degustation dining experience in Japan? Look no further than Kyoto’s must-try culinary experience.
Each element of the ceremonial kaiseki dining experience is designed to delight the eyes before the palate. And this warm, informal space is a great introduction. With just 10 seats around the counter, you’ll need to reserve a spot, but it’s worth it for the elegant but unpretentious dishes, all prepared in front of you. Every season has its specialties and spring’s freshly picked bamboo shoots is a must-try.
Although the lunch courses are half the cost of dinner, if you can stretch your budget, visit this restaurant at night for the full effect. Walk down the narrow, lantern-lit alley of the traditional wooden machiya house and you’ll find a gorgeous, modern space over two floors. Starting with delicate, cold seasonal appetisers, the meal builds through richer, simmered dishes such as eel with fresh gingko nuts and ends with a refreshing sorbet.
Giro Giro Hitoshina
Watching as the staff arrange each dish with the precision of surgeons, the anticipation is rewarded by amazing flavours and classic local ingredients such as sweet white miso and Kyoto pickles. After about 10 small courses (which are pleasantly light on the wallet), the night turns into a bit of a party around the open kitchen, where diners can interact with Kyoto’s up-and-coming chefs – who sometimes drop by for a guest shift. The restaurant is in a small converted house overlooking the Takase River. Bookings are a must for one of the prized counter seats.
Newly opened Aman resort brings its minimalist luxury to town with the elegant Living Pavilion for kaiseki feasts.
Kyoto is famous for its tofu and this is the perfect place to try it, relaxing in a traditional country retreat amidst the bamboo forest at Arashiyama. After a bit of Zen relaxation, meditate on the meaning of sustenance with a feast of delicate tofu dishes such as deep-fried agedashi tofu in a slightly smoky dashi sauce and yuba – silky sheets of soy milk skin. Go at lunchtime to fully enjoy the views of Oi River and the tranquil forests beyond.
Chef Toshiro Ogata is devoted to the highest-quality ingredients and if that means getting up before dawn to pick the day’s bamboo shoots, or being the first at the fish market, so be it. This elegant space has two Michelin stars and your stomach will thank you when you try seasonal dishes such as sweet crab from Taiza and rare matsutake mushrooms. Expect around 13 small courses over a leisurely few hours.