43 Best Restaurants in Kyoto, Japan

Giro Giro Hitoshina

$$$ | Shimogyo-ku Fodor's choice

Popular Giro Giro has a lively atmosphere, excellent food, and great Takase-gawa River location. Sit at the counter to watch the busy chefs, many of whom have studied at the owner's Paris location, or grab a table upstairs. The set menu changes monthly to showcase seasonal ingredients. The chef's style has been described as "punk kaiseki ryori" cuisine; what this means is that you can have a multicourse, kaiseki-style menu without the strict convention. Expect an elaborate hassun (appetizer) tray followed by seven more courses. You will be hard-pressed to find a better high-end value than these meals. Giro Giro is easiest to find by walking the narrow lane along the Takase-gawa; look for the glow of the massive window a few blocks north of Gojo-dori.

420--7 Nanba-cho, Kyoto, 602-8027, Japan
075-343–7070
Known For
  • Ever-changing menu
  • Innovative dishes
  • Convivial atmosphere
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: No lunch, Reservations essential

Kikunoi

$$$$ | Higashiyama-ku Fodor's choice

The care lavished on every aspect of dining is unparalleled here, thanks to the conscientious attention of Kikunoi's owner, Yoshihiro Murata, a world-renowned chef and authority on Kyoto cuisine. A lifetime study of French and Japanese cooking, a commitment to using the finest local ingredients, and a playful creative sense make every meal hum with flavor. Once seated in a private dining room, you are brought a small sakizuke, or appetizer, the first of a multicourse meal, all of whose selections are seasonal and decided by the chef. Each is exquisitely presented and unfailingly delicious. Dishes like cedar-smoked barracuda fillets, citrus-infused matsutake mushroom soup, or sashimi served on chrysanthemum petals keenly accord to the nuances of each new season. This restaurant is on the northern edge of Kodai-ji Temple. Lunch is about a third the cost of dinner.

Mankamero

$$$$ | Kamigyo-ku Fodor's choice

Since 1722 Mankamero's specialty has been yusoku ryori, cuisine intended for members of the Imperial Court. Every step of the meal is incredibly elaborate, down to the ceremonially dressed chef who prepares your dishes using specially made utensils. A dramatic if oddly named course is the "dismembered fish," in which each part of a single fish is prepared and served on pedestal trays, and prices reflect the aristocratic experience. A wonderful take-kago (bamboo box) lunch set contains a series of steamed surprises and is much cheaper than the full dinner. Mankamero is on the west side of Inokuma-dori north of Demizu-dori. Look for the white noren (short curtain) hanging in the doorway.

Recommended Fodor's Video

Shigetsu

$$$ | Ukyo-ku Fodor's choice

If you visit Tenryu-ji at lunchtime, consider dining at Shigetsu, within the temple precinct. The tenzo, a monk trained to prepare Zen cuisine, creates a multicourse meal that achieves the harmony of the six basic flavors—bitter, sour, sweet, salty, light, and hot—attributes necessary to balance body and mind. Although you won't partake in the monk's daily helping of gruel, a salted plum, and pickled radishes, you will try vegetarian Zen cuisine at its tastiest. The price for lunch in the large dining area overlooking a garden does not include admission to the garden, however. Open from 11 am to 2 pm. Reservations are required and can be made online.

Somushi Tea House

$$ | Nakagyo-ku Fodor's choice

Dark-wood furnishings create a provocative and intimate environment for sampling the bountiful brews at Kyoto's top Korean teahouse. Unlike Japanese and Chinese teas, which pull flavor from leaves or powder, the house favorites here are brewed full of berries, spices, and herbs. The intense aromas are complemented by a menu of vegetable stews, stuffed fritters, and innovative versions of Korean staples like organic bibimbap (a rice bowl topped with various ingredients). Reserve ahead to sample the Gozen menu, with nine bronze pots filled with royal cuisine good enough to leave you wishing you were an ancient Seoul nobleman. Seating is in a cozy private room at the back, on cushions at floor-level tables or at the sturdy wooden counter with a better chance to chat with the convivial proprietors. The restaurant closes at 8 pm, with the last order taken at 7 pm.

73 Mikura-cho, Kyoto, 604-8166, Japan
075-253–1456
Known For
  • Unique interior
  • Please add one more known for here.
  • Imperial Korean dishes
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed Wed

Arashiyama Yoshimura

$$ | Ukyo-ku

This old-style soba noodle shop two blocks south of Tenryu-ji Temple sits right in the thick of things and has a splendid view of the river. Feel free to relax on a cushion and face the river while you recharge before visiting your next temple. The tempura comes highly recommended. An English menu is available.

3 Susukinobabacho, Kyoto, 616-8385, Japan
075-863–5700
Known For
  • Tasty soba noodles
  • Delicious tempura
  • River views
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: No dinner

Baan Rim Naam

$
The two well-trained Thai chefs here prepare several dozen of their country's dishes at very reasonable prices. Spicy green papaya salad, hot-and-sour prawn soup with rice noodles, and green curry with chicken are all on the menu—there's a version in English—and vegetarian dishes are served. The restaurant is on the Kamo River, so the view, especially in good weather on the outdoor terrace, is as splendid as the food and friendly service.

Bunnosuke Chaya

$ | Higashiyama-ku

On the road to Kiyomizu-dera, a wooden archway plastered with senja-fuda (name cards pilgrims affix on the entryways to shrines and temples) is the entry to this charming courtyard teahouse that opened in 1910. The specialties here are amazake, a sweet, nonalcoholic sake often served hot with a touch of ginger, and warabimochi rice cakes. The interior is adorned with an eclectic collection of kites and folk dolls.

373 Yasaka Uemachi Shimogawara-dori, Kyoto, 605-0827, Japan
075-561–1972
Known For
  • Relaxing atmosphere
  • Traditional sweets and desserts
  • Authentic and historic setting
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed weekdays

Ca' Del Viale

$$ | Nakagyo-ku

The signature dish at this well-regarded trattoria is handmade pasta topped with a flavorful tomato sauce. Carefully selected organic vegetables and fine Italian ham are among the antipasti stars. Entrées that might include tender pork steaks or grilled fish in orange-infused balsamic vinegar are uniformly excellent, and the decadent desserts are a great way to finish a meal: the lychee mousse alone is worth the visit. Savoring your multicourse meal on the terrace is a delight in this trendy, bustling area of town.

Kitagawa Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, 604-8415, Japan
075-812–2366
Known For
  • Skilled and knowledgeable chefs
  • Outdoor terrace
  • Authentic Italian food
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed Mon., Reservations essential

Café Bibliotic HELLO!

$$ | Nakagyo-ku

Leafy banana trees visible from several blocks away mark this airy two-story town-house café that's especially popular at night with young people. Lunch options that include sandwiches, rice dishes, and curries change regularly. All go well with Moroccan chai or imaginative seasonal smoothies like one with strawberry, mint, and ginger. Among the desserts are mango and coconut cream and French toast with candied almonds. While waiting for your meal, you can browse the wall of books. Attached is an art gallery. The cafe is a 10- to 15-minute walk from either the Oike or Marutamachi subway station.

650 Haremeicho, Kyoto, 604-0951, Japan
075-231–8625
Known For
  • Stylish and cozy
  • Casual atmosphere
  • Reasonably priced menu
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed Mon.

Gahojin Kappa

$ | Higashiyama-ku

In contrast to the expensive restaurants favored by tourists, residents seek out just-plain-folks places like this fun one. It's a late-night izakaya specializing in robata-yaki, which is to say it's a casual bar-restaurant with a charcoal grill and great selection of meat, poultry, and vegetable dishes. Here it's common to order several dishes to share. If no tables are available, find a seat at the long counter. The restaurant is two blocks north of Shijo-dori in the heart of Gion. Everything here is ¥390, even the drinks. The friendly men who work here enjoy using their broken English with tourists.

Sueyoshi-cho, Nawate-dori Shijo-agaru, Kyoto, 605-0085, Japan
075-531–1112
Known For
  • Popular with tourists and locals
  • Casual atmosphere
  • Large à la carte selection
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed Mon. No lunch

Ganko Nijyoen

$$ | Nakagyo-ku

The estate of a former prime minister has been turned into a kaiseki (multicourse-meal) restaurant, and the stroll garden by landscape artist Ogawa Jihei ensures wonderful views by day or night. The century-old traditional structure, between the Kamo and Takase rivers, suits the delicate tasting courses served by kimono-clad women.

In the Green

$
This combination trattoria, pizzeria, and café in a contemporary glass, metal, and wood space borders the northern side of the Kyoto Botanical Gardens. Both the location and the food make it popular, so it is wise to make a reservation by phone or in person and see the gardens first. The chefs fire up thin-crust Neapolitan-style pizzas in a tile-covered wood-fired oven, and simple fish and meat dishes are also on the daily-changing menu.

Indépendants

$ | Nakagyo-ku

A great backpacker hangout, this café is especially popular midday, when a devoted clientele of students and artists comes for the cheap, bountiful plate lunches (including curries, salads, and soups), friendly service, live music, and convivial atmosphere. The setting is the former Mainichi Newspaper Building, with its brick-and-plaster basement, colorful mosaic tiles, and exposed masonry. If the scene here is too frenetic for you, head up to the pleasant Cafe Chocolat, on the second floor.

Sanjo-dori and Gokomachi-dori, Kyoto, 604-8082, Japan
075-255–4312
Known For
  • Hip atmosphere
  • Excellent desserts
  • Vintage and stylish interior
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Reservations not accepted

Izama

$$

Patrons enter this restaurant through a dark-blue curtain on the east side of Shinmachi-dori. The design inside is pure contemporary, minimalist, and sleek. The chef emphasizes Kyoto vegetables in many of the dishes. Because Izama is the restaurant attached to the Mitsui Garden Hotel-Shinmachi, three meals a day are served, and at reasonable prices. Breakfast, Japanese, and Western-style buffets, start at 6:30 am.

Izusen Daiji-in

$$$ | Kita-ku

Vegetarian cuisine plays a part in all major Kyoto temples, and one of the most scenic restaurants in which to sample it is in the southwestern section of Daitoku-ji. The monastic shojin ryori cuisine here is served in luminous red-lacquer bowls at low tables in the temple garden (beware the mosquitoes in summer) or inside if the weather is inclement. Another branch of Izusen outside the east (main) gate serves the same excellent cuisine but has table seating.

Kazariya

$ | Kita-ku

Kazariya has been serving tea and aburi mochi—charcoal-grilled and skewered rice-flour cakes dipped in sweet miso sauce—for centuries. You can enjoy the treats under the eaves of 17th-century houses as you watch visitors proceeding to and from the Imamiya Shrine. Kazariya is just outside the shrine's eastern gate, northwest of Daitoku-ji.

96 Murasakino Imamiya-cho, Kyoto, 603-8243, Japan
075-491–9402
Known For
  • Relaxation spot
  • Rustic setting
  • Traditional snacks
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed most Wed.

Kerala

$$$ | Nakagyo-ku

Imported spices and very fresh vegetables are the secrets to this second-floor Indian restaurant's success. Dishes may not be as spicy as you would expect, but the spinach, lamb, and chickpea curries—also the tandoori chicken—are deeply flavorful. The house special chicken Kerala curry is the most popular dish. The evening set courses are reasonably priced, though lunch is better value. The furnishings are on the tatty side.

Kawaramachi-dori Sanjo-agaru Nishigawa, Kyoto, 604-8091, Japan
075-251–0141
Known For
  • Welcoming and kind staff
  • Hearty Indian food
  • Casual atmosphere

Kisaki Yudofu

$$ | Sakyo-ku

Tempura and tofu hot pots cooked at the table are staples at this attractive two-story restaurant along the tree-lined Philosopher's Path. Try the Kisaki nabe, which includes pork, chicken, beef, chrysanthemum leaf, shiitake mushrooms, and spinach. Though like the nabe some dishes include meat, this is essentially a tofu house whose cuisine is centered on fresh vegetables, including plenty of pickles and seaweed. The hospitable, English-speaking owner, Emiko, will cater to special requests.

Korean Kitchen Anpan

$

Authentic and delicious Korean food in the heart of Kyoto. While the presentation and surroundings won't win any prizes, the basic no-frills vibe fits well with the general punchiness of the flavors. Wonderfully varied menu, and the friendly owners make everyone feel welcome.

37 Kamanza-cho, Sanjo-dori, Japan
075-223--1928
Known For
  • Hearty homestyle dishes
  • Central location
  • Great service
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed Sun.

Louran

$$
Exquisite Chinese fare is presented French-style at a wooded resort in Kyoto's northwestern quadrant. The chefs focus on the cuisines of four regions—Szechuan, Guangdong, Shanghai, and Beijing—and the meals are served graciously in dining areas decorated with black carved Chinese furnishings. The eclectic offerings include spicy Szechuan-style buckwheat noodles, dim sum shrimp and pork dumplings, minced duck wrapped in lettuce leaves, and Beijing duck. The grounds, a former kimono magnate's estate, are well landscaped for strolling.

Maeda Coffee Meirin

$
The lively café occupies a classroom in a former elementary school the city converted into an arts center. Maeda serves simple fare, an assortment of beverages, and some innovative desserts. With its creaky wooden classroom floors and the artworks of many university students and local artist groups, the arts complex is heavy on atmosphere.

Manzaratei Nishiki

$$$ | Uradeyama-cho

The unpretentious vibe, the sense of adventure, and the superb cuisine—Japanese-based, with European and other Asian influences—have made Manzaratei a local favorite. Depending on the season, the ample menu includes handmade soba, oven-roasted chicken, or spring rolls with citrusy ponzu dressing. Outdoor dining in warm months and counter seating on both floors of the two-story town house facilitate mingling with other patrons; for a more intimate experience, ask for a table upstairs under the eaves. An English menu is available.

Mishima-tei

$$$$ | Nakagyo-ku

Five generations of chefs have preserved the delicious sukiyaki recipe prepared since 1873 at this restaurant that was among the nation's first to serve beef. A kimono-clad attendant will serve and assist with the dishes cooked at your table. The beef dishes include sukiyaki, shabu-shabu, and oil yaki. All beef is of the highest quality and price, as shoppers buying from the associated shop nearby can attest. The Lunch Course is good value for such high-end dining.

Nanzenji Junsei Restaurant

$$$

A short walk west of Nanzen-ji's middle gate, Junsei specializes in yudofu (simmered tofu) served in the traditional Kyoto kaiseki style. The beautiful Edo-period building sits among wonderful sculpted gardens; entrance is slightly set back from the road, through a small gate with two lanterns hanging on either side.

Nanzenji Sando Kikusui

$$$$ | Sakyo-ku

Near Nanzen-ji Temple, Kikusui serves elegant kaiseki ryori (traditional cuisine) with an aristocratic flair. Dine on tatami mats at low tables or at table-and-chair seating, all overlooking an elegant Japanese garden. The subtle flavors of the set menus are embellished by the setting, where in spring a canopy of pink-and-white cherry blossoms accents a meal, and in autumn the fiery red-and-orange maples highlight the warm flavors. Kyo-no-aji, smaller versions of kaiseki ryori served for lunch, make it possible for you to savor Kikusui's elegant setting and fine cuisine for less than half the price of dinner. This restaurant seats 200, yet the serene garden view makes it feels cozy and intimate.

Omen Ginkaku-ji

$$ | Sakyo-ku

The country-style exterior of this popular noodle shop near the Philosopher's Path echoes the hearty fare served within. Men means noodles; the O is honorific, appropriately so. The ingredients are served separately with a small bowl of fresh sesame seeds for you to sprinkle as liberally as you like. You can dine on stools at the counter, chairs at tables, or tatami mats. Reservations are accepted only on weekdays.

74 Ishi-bashi-cho, Kyoto, 606-8406, Japan
075-771–8994
Known For
  • English menu with vegan options
  • Variety of noodle dishes
  • Rustic interior
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed Thurs.

Omen Nippon

$$ | Nakagyo-ku

This branch of the famed soba noodle shop is convenient to the downtown shopping area, just across the river from Gion. It's a perfect place to drop in for a lunch of udon noodle soup with a liberal sprinkling of sesame seeds.

171--1 Kashiwaya-cho, Kyoto, 606-8044, Japan
075-253–0377
Known For
  • Great service
  • Large selection of noodle dishes
  • Casual setting
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed Thurs., Reservations not accepted

Ponto-cho Robin

$$$$ | Nakagyo-ku

An adventurous menu sets this restaurant inside a 150-year-old town house apart from its competition. The chef here goes to the market daily and improvises based on what's fresh. Charcoal-color walls, wooden staircases, and a great view of the Kamo River provide an elegant setting for dishes like sea urchin in wasabi broth, grilled river fish, and the ever-popular kami-nabe, a hot pot made of treated paper and cooked on an open flame at your table: it's mesmerizing and tasty. Deck seating is an option during the summer.

Ponto-cho Suishin

$ | Nakagyo-ku

Nestled along the atmospheric Pontocho Alley, this establishment's black-and-white latticed storefront with a lantern above the door conceals a vegetable lover's paradise. The dining area is raised with sunken seating, allowing customers to view the busy chefs in the open kitchen. For a survey of typical Kyoto dishes, opt for the Obanzai course menu. The cooks here bring out the flavors of local organic vegetables, fish, and meats with a conspicuously restrained hand, creating flavors so light they seem to float in your mouth. Suishin, meaning "drunken heart," is a popular chain with other branches around the city.