Kyoto's top restaurants for traditional Japanese cuisine
Looking for melt-in-your-mouth authentic Japanese food? From farm-to-table dining to temple cuisine and tofu tasting menus - in Kyoto, delicious local flavours are guaranteed.
- February 2020
It’s not surprising the historic city of Kyoto is famous for food with centuries of tradition behind it, from the vegan offerings inspired by Buddhism to hyper-local obanzai.
This family restaurant gets to the heart of obanzai cuisine – a farm-to-table concept that uses locally sourced seasonal ingredients. There, vegetables are fresh harvested from selected farms and cooked simply. Don’t miss the fresh yuba, the delicate skin lifted off cooling tofu, with a texture like burrata cheese. The day’s specials are piled up on platters along the counter, watched over by an impressive selection of sake bottles.
For a modern take on shojin-ryori, this beautiful space above an art gallery could convert the most obstinate carnivore to the joys of vegan food. Sit at the long communal table with locals and tuck into a lunch set of seasonal delights such as miso-marinated eggplant, baked sweet potato and veggie curry. You’ll leave feeling satisfied and just a little more virtuous.
Shojin-ryori, developed by the temples as the ultimate vegetarian cuisine, nourishes the soul as much as the body. And one of the best places to try it is inside the grounds of Tenryu-ji Temple. Take a seat on the tatami floor and enjoy the views of the surrounding gardens and temple roofs as you await your red lacquer tray of seasonal treats. You’ll get six or seven dishes including white miso soup, simmered vegetables and sesame tofu. Dessert is simple: a perfectly ripe piece of fruit.
Just before you’re enveloped by the cool green of the bamboo forest in Arashiyama, you’ll find the northern branch of this restaurant dedicated to tofu. Meal sets include different crispy tempura vegetables and velvety miso soup. Satisfy your sweet tooth with some tofu doughnuts.
Perched over the Kamogawa River is a restaurant that has been popular for some 220 years and the main building has been preserved pretty much as it was in the Edo period. Specialising in traditional cuisine, the draw here is mizutaki, a chicken hot pot full of chicken meat and local vegetables in a rich stock. Ask for a table on the wide, tatami-covered deck.
Meet a real maiko (apprentice geisha) at traditional restaurant Yasaka-Dori Enraku. Watch the classic dance as you eat obanzai dishes, then chat with the maiko and try some drinking games. Translators are on hand to aid communication.