Kyoto’s local food scene with its selection of unique dishes has been formed over the centuries. Japanese nobility, samurai, priests and monks have had a profound effect on the lives of the people of Kyoto as well as the cuisine. Interestingly, the city developed in an inland basin that’s quite far from the sea.

    Kyōyasai, or so-called 'Kyoto vegetables', are the wide variety of locally harvested produce used in Kyoto-style home cooking known as Obanzai, a culinary tradition passed down through generations. You'll find many unique restaurants in Kyoto serving local delicacies like tofu dishes and Japanese wild yam. Find some of the most popular local restaurants in Kyoto, particularly places serving those quintessential Kyoto flavours, below.


    Ukiya Ponto-cho Honten

    Handmade soba

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    The Ukiya restaurant belongs to Mr Yoshiyaru Miyoshi, Japan’s only officially approved handmade soba noodle master. Of course, you can find soba restaurants all over, but it’s only at Ukiya that you can try the excellent soba noodles made or overseen by such a master himself. He has been creating soba noodles for 40 years, and the restaurant itself was established in 1929. If you want a taste of history, this is the place.

    Start with the individual dishes such as cold soba with 20% wheat, 80% buckwheat (ni hachi zaru soba) and cold soba with tempura. You can also try set menus such as the small tempura rice bowl set or assorted tempura set. With any set menu, you can add soba noodles and other dishes. Ukiya’s speciality is uki soba, soba noodles mixed with fermented soybeans (natto) and served with a raw egg on top.

    Location: 125 Ishiyacho, Kiyamachi-Dori Sanjo-Sagaru, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto 604-8002, Japan

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 11.30 am to 3 pm and from 5 pm to 8.30 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +81 75-221-2978


    photo by John Gillespie (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Muteppou Honten

    Popular Japanese ramen

    Muteppou Honten in Kizugawa may look like a loghouse from the outside, but it’s a top ramen restaurant. It’s renowned for its extra-rich pork-bone soup. Its popularity gradually grew since its first restaurant opened in 1998, with Muteppou restaurants now available even outside Japan. 

    The signature Tonkotsu ramen is a must-try. Medium-thick noodles from Kyushu are doused with the soup that’s made by simmering high-quality Japanese pork bones until the marrow melts – resulting in a beautifully subtle flavour. This dish comes with 4 big slices of roasted pork or char siu. If you’re really hungry, try the Tonkotsu char siu ramen, which gives you 12 slices of roasted pork. You can also customize your serving by selecting your preferred texture of noodles, the thickness of the soup, amount of green onions, and so on.

    Location: 15-3 Higedani, Umedani, Kizugawa, Kyoto 619-0212, Japan

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 11 am to 3 pm and from 6 pm to 11 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +81 (0)774-73-9060


    photo by 博多からきた女 (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified



    Sushi bowls

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    Totoraku is where you should head to in Kyoto if you fancy a top-notch seafood rice bowl (kaisen-don) that’s also reasonably priced. The most popular dish here is the 2-coloured tuna rice bowl (maguro nishoku don). Of course, the low prices on the menu are more than welcome, but that’s not the only secret behind the popularity of Totoraku. 

    When ordering the 2-coloured tuna rice bowl, you can order additional seafood toppings from other seafood rice bowls to make it even more interesting. Totoraku has more than 30 kinds of rice bowls, so the combination of seafood toppings is practically unlimited. What’s more, you can enjoy just the seafood topping of any rice bowl for a few hundred yen off the price of the actual seafood bowl with rice. Perfect when you want to try other seafood but don’t need more carbs. The restaurant owner recommends the seafood rice bowl with 6 kinds of fresh seafood.

    Location: 173-82 Yodohonmachi, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto 613-0903, Japan

    Open: Thursday–Tuesday from 11 am to 3 pm and from 5 pm to 9 pm (closed on Wednesdays)

    Phone: +81 75-632-6303


    photo by 海鮮ドン (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified




    Kashiwai offers sushi that looks as cute as Japanese sweets. The bite-size sushi set (tsumami sushi) has 15 pieces of sushi arranged in a wooden grid box, small enough to pick up with your fingertips. It looks like an artisanal masterpiece. There’s also a course menu with meat as the main dish, which is perfect for a little luxurious lunch. 

    For breakfast, why not try the ‘morning treasure casket’ (asa no tamatebako)? With this option, you can mix and match 9 different ingredients to make your own rice balls. There’s the morning bite-size sushi set (asa no tumami sushi), which comes with 8 pieces of bite-size sushi. On top of that there's a wide variety of dishes to take away that can be ordered via the restaurant’s online store.

    Location: 55 Kamigamo Imaigaharacho, Kita Ward, Kyoto 603-8063, Japan

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 6 pm (closed on Wednesdays)


    photo by bryan... (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified



    Signature tofu

    Mameya-Genzo, with its bar and terrace seats giving views of Kamogawa River, is a pretty special place to enjoy a meal. And not just any old meal, but healthy and beautifully creative cuisine mainly using tofu. The restaurant is located in a typical Kyoto-style building that was originally a teahouse. There’s a dining room on the ground floor and 3 additional rooms upstairs. In addition to chair seats, there’re Japanese style rooms where you can enjoy the meal sitting on tatami mats. 

    The lunchtime-only tofu set meal comes with a small hot pot of Simmered tofu (yu-dofu) and spectacular side dishes, making for a luxurious little lunch. The wide-ranging menu includes ‘Kamogawa’ and ‘Takasegawa’ course meals, as well as a white hot pot (shiro nabe) and duck hot pot (kamo nabe) as warming dishes in wintertime. You can reach Mameya-Genzo around a 5-minute walk from Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae Station.

    Location: 490-1 Kamikorikicho, Kiyamachi-Dori Nijo-Sagaru, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto 604-0923, Japan

    Open: Daily from 11.30 am to 2.30 pm and from 5 pm to 11 pm

    Phone: +81 75-253-1155


    Ame du Garson Jingu-Marutamachi

    Creative French cuisine

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    Âme du Garçon may seem like a traditional multicourse Japanese meal restaurant or kaiseki, but it’s a creative French restaurant that describes itself as serving ‘harmonious fusion between French and Japanese cuisine.’ The building that houses this traditional Kyoto-style establishment is a 100-year-old townhouse and has a lovely calm atmosphere. You can order from course menus for both lunch and dinner. 

    The lunch is particularly good value, with foie gras as a starter, meat or fish for the main dish, and dessert. White rice and Japanese pickles are served at the end of the course, which is another area where you can see the harmonious blend of French and Japanese cuisine. On top of the interesting food, another plus point is being able to relax and dine in a private room. This is a very popular place, so you'll need to book a table beforehand when you arrive in Kyoto.

    Location: 292 Hokotamachi, Nakamachi-dori Takeyamachi-dori Sagaru, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto 604-0081, Japan

    Open: Thursday–Tuesday from 11.30 am to 2 pm and from 5 pm to 8.30 pm (closed on Wednesdays). June–October: also closed on 2nd Tuesday of the month

    Phone: +81 75-213-3016



    Wild yam dishes

    Zuisekian is a restaurant in Fushimi that specializes in Japanese wild yam (jinenjo), a delicacy and popular health food. This type of yam is rarer than common Japanese yam and has various health benefits. At first glance, Zuisekian looks like a private house, and when you go in through its gate you’ll find a quiet, welcoming cobblestone alley.

    The dishes made with Japanese wild yam are creative and carefully put together. Try the Zuiseki zen set menu if you want to check out a range of dishes. It includes grated Japanese yam soup (tororo jiru), the restaurant’s speciality made with Japanese wild yam and special stock, fresh gluten cakes with sweet soybean paste (namafu no dengaku), and seasonal simmered dishes. The Japanese wild yam plated lunch, which is only served at lunchtime and includes cream of Japanese wild yam and soymilk, is also popular. This restaurant is by reservation only because nothing is cooked in advance and everything is freshly prepared after ordering.

    Location: 75-6 Fukakusa Kaidocho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto 612-0806, Japan

    Open: Thursday–Tuesday from 11.30 am to 3 pm and from 5 pm to 8.30 pm (closed on Wednesdays)

    Phone: +81 75-643-7808


    photo by Richard, enjoy my life! (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified



    Chinese cuisine

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    Kasho is a Chinese restaurant in Sakyo, Kyoto, that’s hugely popular with locals and it’s not unusual to find people waiting outside even before it opens. Its delicious food and inexpensive prices are obvious draws. The menu is full of classic Chinese dishes like spicy Sichuan tofu (mapo doufu), Chinese dumplings (gyoza) and Chinese fried chicken, but one of the most popular dishes here is fried rice with thick egg white sauce. 

    Fluffy egg white sits on top of moreish fried rice. It may look a bit overwhelming, but the flavours are mild and with a pleasant texture. You can also find great value with a wide variety of set lunch menus that include fried chicken and soup.

    Location: 4-1-1 Tanaka Satonouchicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto 606-8212, Japan

    Open: Friday–Tuesday from 11 am to 2 pm and from 5.30 pm to 9.30 pm (closed Wednesday–Thursday)


    Food floors at Kyoto department stores

    All the food floors inside department stores around Kyoto are the place to get Japanese, western and Asian prepared foods, as well as delicacies, pastries and chocolates. These are where many people go to get bento or other take-away dishes and you can even buy sake and wine. Due to the variety on offer and the enclosed spaces, sheltered from the weather, department stores are great places to grab a bit to eat in Kyoto. 

    photo by dany13 (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Monsieur Frypan

    Western-style cuisine

    Monsieur Frypan is a western-style restaurant in the Yamashina ward of Kyoto. Think retro diner with tasty food and a wood-grain interior, the kind of place where you end up talking with your fellow diners for hours on end. Omelette rice (omurice), topped with stripes of special sauce, is one of the signature dishes here. It’s hugely popular and customers say that it’s delicious no matter how many times they eat it.

    The daily lunch special is made up of a main dish and side dishes arranged on a single plate. It’s very filling. Another recommendation is the cheese fondue course, which shows off the chef’s perfectly calibrated cheese sauce. This menu includes a total of 5 dishes such as steak as the main dish, a pasta dish, and dessert. Monsieur Frypan is ideal for dates, enjoying meals with your friends, or for family occasions like birthday parties.

    Location: 50 Oyakehosodacho, Yamashina Ward, Kyoto 607-8189, Japan

    Open: Friday–Wednesday from 11.45 am to 2.30 pm and from 6 pm to 10 pm (closed on Thursdays)

    Phone: +81 (0)75-594-7533


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