It may be overwhelming to choose a restaurant from among Kyoto's vast selection of restaurants. Many are intimidating to walk in if you don't speak Japanese, so we narrowed down the list to delicious restaurants you can easily walk into. Here are the top 12 restaurants to try in Kyoto!
Ton Shabu Hide offers sumo wrestler style shabu-shabu (literally made by a sumo wrestler!), with all-you-can-eat options that we love AND that aren't too hard on your wallet.
Apart from training, a very important part of every sumo wrestler's routine is mealtimes, when they focus on eating energy and nutrient-filled food; a LOT of it! The quality of the ingredients is of utmost importance, so Ton Shabu Hide takes great care to choose only high-grade vegetables and meat for the nabe served here. You can enjoy Japanese brand meats of Awa pork and chicken for instance.
Ton Shabu Hide is located in a very convenient location, near the famous Nishiki Market and within 5 minutes walking distance from Karasuma and Shijo Stations.
Looking to have a high-end Michelin-starred sushi experience in the heart of traditional Japan? Then Gion Sushi Tadayasu may be exactly what you're seeking. There are two gorgeous wide wooden counters on two floors with a total seating capacity of 12. From your counter seat, you see the chef prepare each piece and then serve it to you directly at your seat. This is the 'edomae' style of sushi, which also means that you are expected to eat the piece pretty much as soon as it is served to you. This is not to rush you but simply because the piece is at its best right upon being served.
The sublime sushi is not the only reason you'll have a wonderful experience at Tadayasu. Indeed, the chef here is known for his great hospitality and kindness. If you do not speak Japanese, even though the staff's English is limited, they will go out of their way to make you understand what they are serving and make you feel welcome. Make sure to get a reservation in advance if you plan to eat here! You won't regret it.
Gion Karyo, located in traditional Gion, is the perfect place to enjoy a gorgeous kaiseki meal. The restaurant is the embodiment of Japanese aesthetics: the location, the building itself, the presentation of the dishes, etc. What is more is that lunch is actually relatively affordable for a kaiseki meal. Gion Karyo has a lunch course for ¥5,000, and a dinner course starting at ¥10,000.
'Tenyu' is a world-class tempura restaurant that serves tempura that is delicious enough to have earned it a Michelin star. The tempura is cooked expertly and served to the customer one-by-one as it is taken from the hot oil. The tempura is wonderfully crispy, light, and not at all oily, and is a joy to eat. On top of the amazing food, Tenyu is located inside of a beautiful and well-known ryokan (traditional hotel) called 'Tawaraya.' The atmosphere adds to the meal, giving guests a truly 'Kyoto' experience. If you plan your trip far enough in advance, this is one of the nicest places you can stay in the city!
Iida is an incredible kaiseki restaurant with 3 Michelin stars. Every food served to you is stunningly beautiful and tasty. The restaurant is famous for going the extra length for the presentation of its items. They use antique dishes from famous Japanese potters. This is a very high-end restaurant that earned many accolades from the culinary world so dining there is expensive (over ¥30,000 for an omakase course).
Wadachi is a bar which specializes in Japanese sake but also serves delicious food. Sake lovers, this place is awesome for a sake tasting and great food to accompany it. You can have tapas here and head somewhere else, or you can just as easily stay for dinner and relax, as you probably have been busy exploring the whole day. It's really a great spot for tasting a variety of sake at a reasonable price.
Izuju is a lovely restaurant located in the Gion district that specializes in sushi. Traditional Kyoto sushi is different from the sushi we can find abroad, both in shape and in taste. The price is affordable and they have an English menu, so don't be intimidated to walk into this lovely traditional sushi restaurant. Set courses start at just 2,500 yen.
If you want to try Kobe beef while in the Kansai region, you definitely need to stop by this restaurant for an incredible meal. The service is amazing and the price is reasonable compared to what you would pay abroad for the same quality. If you've had sukiyaki in Tokyo, you should try it in Kyoto as well, as they have different regional variations. You can also have teppanyaki, which is an amazing experience, as you can watch the chef grill the ingredients in front of you on an iron plate. "Nabe" dishes (sukiyaki, shabu shabu) start at 11,000 yen, and teppanyaki courses start at 15,500 yen.
Again, if you want to try a Japanese classic with a regional twist, you should definitely try this okonomiyaki restaurant. Even if you've had it in Tokyo, you should try it again in Kyoto because it is quite different; the okonomiyaki is much thinner in Kyoto and jam-packed with fillings. This restaurant has a traditional feel and tasty food. What's more, it's cheap! For example, shrimp okonomiyaki is just 1,150 yen! If you're in search of a tasty and authentic, yet reasonable meal, Gion Tanto is a great option.
Issen Yoshoku is an interesting okonomiyaki place with very interesting pre-war decor. You can try the okonomiyaki from the stall outside or dine-in in the restaurant. They serve only okonomiyaki (650 yen) and matcha red bean jelly (580 yen). It is a very casual restaurant, but it is a nice place to have a light meal with a beer or an afternoon snack.
Teppan Tavern Tenamonya is a casual teppanyaki bar with super friendly staff. The couple who run the restaurant speak great English and are very welcoming. They serve teppanyaki cuisine (food cooked on an iron plate), and the menu includes okonomiyaki and A5 quality beef. Everything is great, and the course is only about ¥3,000 - ¥4,000.
Musoshin is a ramen joint in Gion where you can have a cheap and quick bite. If you're wondering what to try, you might want to go for the much talked about black ramen, or, if you're hesitating between "karaage" (fried chicken) and ramen, have them both...together! When you walk in, you will have to place your order from a vending machine. You then hand your ticket to the staff and shortly after, they will bring you your delicious bowl of hot ramen. The soup is known for being super thick and rich.
Itoh Dining is located 5 minutes away from Gion Yonjyo station. You can enjoy the atmosphere of a Kyoto style house at this restaurant, while enjoying delicious Kobe beef. You can enjoy seasonal and special courses, or just order a la carte dishes. It is rare for a teppanyaki restaurant to have an a la carte menu, but you can just order one or two dishes if you are on a budget. The lunch course starts at ¥ 3,000, and the dinner course starts at ¥ 7,000. Can you imagine eating incredibly tender Kobe beef grilled on the iron plate right before your eyes by a trained chef!
Tempura Kyoboshi is arguably the most famous tempura restaurant in Kyoto. It is located a 3-minutes walk from Gion Shijo station.
This restaurant is two starred Michelin restaurant, which means their food is amazing, albeit slightly expensive. Customers can enjoy perfectly battered tempura that is presented in an elegant and beautiful way. The tempura almost looks too sophisticated to eat!
As it is such a well-known and popular restaurant, be sure to make a reservation before you go!
After filling up on delicious Japanese cuisine, you probably have some extra room for a traditional Japanese dessert: a luxurious matcha parfait. Many Japanese people say they have a "betsu bara", which means a separate stomach for dessert. I love this expression because it's always true for me. The Japanese parfaits are about 1,000 yen and made with matcha ice cream, matcha cake, mochi, etc. If you haven't had it yet, this is incredibly tasty!
For you foodies out there looking for an authentic experience, this might also be an interesting option. The tour by Magical Trip takes you off the beaten tourist path to some of the best spots in Kyoto to experience the local cuisine. The restaurants depend on the guide but you can be sure you'll learn a lot about Kyoto and its wonderful food culture.