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Kyoto-ryori
Kyoto-ryori

Kyoto cuisine (also known as "Kyo-ryori" or "Kyoto-ryori") is known throughout Japan for its highly refined preparation and artistic presentation. Basic ingredients include tofu and tofu products like yuba (tofu skin); locally grown vegetables like eggplant, daikon and carrots; bamboo shoots; and fu (the processed wheat gluten that's a staple in Buddhist vegetarian diets). Fish and seafood are generally imported from other parts of the country, since Kyoto is inland.

Kyo-ryori restaurants often serve a lot of tofu and yuba dishes, sometimes building an entire menu around these ingredients. Tofu specialty restaurants are listed in their own section at the bottom of this page.

Most Kyoto restaurants offer kaiseki service, a lavish banquet cuisine where numerous small dishes are ceremoniously brought to the table over the course of an hour or two. Some places specialize in only kaiseki service (and these can be very expensive), while other restaurants offer a full range of meal options, including "mini-kaiseki," a more economical kaiseki option. (Note that the term "kaiseki" is now used in many ordinary Japanese restaurants simply to refer to their most expensive, multi-course options.)

Finally, there's shojin-ryori, vegetarian temple cuisine that's served at many teahouses attached to Kyoto temples, usually only at lunchtime.

Advance reservations are absolutely necessary for most kaiseki specialists and shojin-ryori places. They're a good idea in other restaurants as well, although the shops located in department stores or near Kyoto station usually don't require advance booking.

See Kyoto ryori restaurant map.

Shojin-ryori

Vegetarian temple cuisine
Kyoto: Daitokuji Temple -- Daitokuji Ikkyu. 075-493-0019
This well-established restaurant has been preparing vegetarian shojin-ryori since the mid-1400s, and it's one of the few shojin places that serves (early) dinner as well as lunch. Lunchtime service is Y4000, and dinners start at around Y8000.
SunMurasakino Daitokujimae 20. (outside the east gate of Daitokuji Temple) Open noon-6pm (LO) daily.
Kyoto: Daitokuji Temple -- Izusen. 075-491-6665
This famous shojin-ryori establishment specializes in teppatsu-ryori, a rather elaborate variation of Zen vegetarian cuisine. Located inside Daitokuji Temple (on the grounds of the Daiji-in subtemple), they offer nice views and outdoor garden seating, although the decor itself is rather 1970s-institutional. Menus (lunch only) start at Y3150, and they include a surprising amount of food, parceled into many small dishes. They also have other branches in Kyoto and one in Tokyo (in the neighborhood of Yoga).
SunMurasakino Daitokujicho 4. (inside the Daiji-in garden, Daitokuji Temple) Open 11am-4pm daily.
Kyoto: Tenryuji Temple -- Shigetsu. 075-882-9725
With a fantastic location overlooking the beautifully landscaped garden of Tenryo-ji Temple, Shigetsu serves up a beautiful vegetarian shojin-ryori lunch built around yuba, tofu and seasonal vegetables. The staff don't speak English, but there are only three choices on the menu - Y3000, Y5000 and Y7000 set menus. (There's also a Y500 admission to the garden area.) Reservations are recommended.
SunSaga Tenryuji Susukinobanbacho 68. (inside Tenryuji temple grounds) Open 11am-2pm daily.

Kaiseki

Elaborate (and expensive) banquet cuisine
Kyoto: Kawaramachi -- Kinmata. 075-221-1039
This 200-year-old ryokan is now known mainly as a restaurant, with excellent seafood-centric kaiseki service. Small private tatami rooms look out onto tiny courtyards or miniature gardens, and there's a quaint little "Western" dining room with old-fashioned furnishings. Lunches start at Y8000, and dinners run from Y16,000; there's even traditional breakfast service if you're in the neighborhood early (Y4500).
SundecorShijo-agaru Gokomachi 407. (on Gokomachi north of Shijo) Open 7:30-9am, noon-1, 5:30-7:30pm. Closed Wednesdays.
Kyoto: Kawaramachi -- Roan Kikunoi. 075-361-5580
Third-generation kaiseki chef Yoshihiro Murata takes a fresh approach to the cuisine, drawing on French and other European influences and using some non-traditional ingredients (like Japanese pears soaked in pear brandy). This is a modern, downtown branch of the long-established family shop. Prix-fixe lunch starts at Y4000, dinner from Y10,000.
SunKiyamachi Shijo-sagaru. (on E side of Kiyamachi, second building S of Shijo) Open noon-1:30, 5-8:30pm (LO). Closed Wednesdays.
Kyoto: Kodaiji Temple -- Doi. 075-561-0309
First-rate kaiseki in a gorgeous traditional ryotei setting. One unusual feature is their "table kaiseki," where you get to sit in a regular chair instead of on a floor cushion and save a lot of money at the same time. Evening kaiseki menus start at Y9,000 for table service, Y25,000 for traditional tatami-room service. Lunches start at Y7,500 and Y16,000 respectively.
SunKodaiji Masuyacho 353. (on a small side street about 3 min. S of Kodaiji) Open noon-3:30, 4-8pm daily.
Kyoto: Kodaiji Temple -- Kikunoi. 075-561-0015
Chef Yoshihiro Murata is well known in Japan for his frequent TV appearances and his innovative cooking style, incorporating European influences for a new approach to traditional Kyoto-style kaiseki. Prix-fixe menus start at Y8000 at lunch; Y15,000 at dinnertime.
SunGion Maruyama Makuzugahara. (on the N edge of Kodaiji) Open noon-2, 5-8pm daily.
Kyoto: Kodaiji Temple -- Minoko. 075-561-0328
This elegant old teahouse is a wonderful place to experience cha-kaiseki. Distinct from regular (banquet-style) kaiseki, this is a very formal style of meal associated with the traditional tea ceremony. The meal begins with a bowl of thick green tea, and progresses through a multitude of tiny dishes. Here the meal is served in private tearooms looking out onto a pretty garden. Cha-kaiseki menus at dinnertime start at Y15,000. At lunchtime you can order a bento box in the tatami room overlooking the garden - prices start at Y3500.
SunGion Shimogawara-dori Kiyoicho 480. (1 1/2 block S of Yasaka Shrine on W side of Shimogawara-dori, across from parking lot) Open 11:30am-2:30, 5-8pm (LO) daily.
Kyoto: Kodaiji Temple -- Wakuden. 075-533-3100
This venerable old traditional ryotei has three branches around town, but this is the most luxurious, with a gorgeous setting and world-class food. Lunch starts at Y15,000, dinners from Y25,000.
Kodaijikitamonmae-sagaru Kawarahigashi. (one block N of W end of Kodaiji Temple) Open 11:30am-2, 5-10pm. Closed Sundays.
Kyoto: Kyoto Station -- Kitcho. 075-342-0808
In case you can't get reservations at the main branch of Kitcho, or if you can't swing a bank loan to cover your meal there, this is a more affordable, yet still elegant, alternative; full kaiseki service starts at around Y11,800.
SunJR Kyoto Station, Hotel Granvia M3F. Open 11am-2:30, 5-8:30pm (LO) daily.
Kyoto: Tenryuji Temple -- Kitcho Arashiyama branch. 075-881-1101
Perhaps the most famous kaiseki restaurant in Kyoto (and one of the most expensive), Kitcho offers first-rate food and very formal service in an idyllic setting. Guests are served in elegant private dining rooms, and the food is presented in rare antique bowls and dishes. All this will set you back at least Y40,000 for dinner or Y35,000 at lunchtime. Plan on spending at least a few hours, and book well in advance.
SundecorSaga Tenryuji Susukinobanbacho 58. (near Arashiyama Park) Open 11:30am-1, 4:30-7pm (LO) daily.
Nara: Nara -- Tsukihitei. 0742-26-2021
If you have a few hours to spare, take the wooded path up to Tsukihitei deep in the forest behind Kasuga Taisha Shrine. From the privacy of your own tatami room experience the beautiful presentation and delicate flavors of a full kaiseki lunch or dinner; as Helen Keller did when she dined at Tsukihitei in 1948. The lunch sets cost between Y10,000-15,000, while dinner averages Y20,000.
SunKasuganocho 158. Open 11:30am-3, 4-10pm daily.
Nara: Nara -- Uma no Me. 0742-23-7784
Uma no Me is in a 1920s farmhouse just north of Ara-ike pond in Nara Park. The pottery-lined walls afford a glimpse of pre-tech Japan. Everything at Uma no Me is prepared in the time-honored way and from scratch. Recommended is the Y3500 prix-fixe lunch with seasonal vegetables, tofu, and fried fish. Even the ordinary bancha tea at Uma no Me is exotic and comes from Tsuwano in Western Honshu. The intimacy of a private room, with views of the Nara Hotel and stunning hand painted fusuma (padded sliding doors), is well worth the extra Y1000 per person at lunch. Dinner is full kaiseki - Y9000 per person. As there is no a la carte menu ordering is uncomplicated. [See FULL REVIEW.]
SunTakabatakecho 1158. Open 11:30am-2:30pm (LO), 5:30-8:30pm. Closed Thursdays.
Nara: Nara -- Yamazakiya. 0742-27-3715
Pungent nara-zuke will lure you off the street into this well-known shop and adjoining restaurant. Inside the shop, immaculate white-capped staff prepare packages of pickles to take away. Don't miss the baby watermelons! Stock up on local sake while you sample the fare. Mini-kaiseki from Y4000. Nara Kintetsu Station and Nara Park are within a five-minute walk.
SunMinami-machicho 5, Higashi-muki Dori. Open 11:15am-9pm. Closed Mondays.

Kyo-ryori

(Many of these restaurants also have kaiseki options)
Osaka: Umeda 2-chome -- Sepporai. 06-4797-8738
Beautifully grown and prepared Kyoto vegetables are the star here, along with other local specialties like yuba (tofu skin) and market-fresh seafood and meats. The interior is quite pleasant, in a very tasteful Kyoto sort of way. Luxurious lunch-box sets are Y2,000-3,000, and set dinners start at Y4,000.
SundecorUmeda 2-4-9, Breeze Breeze 5F. Open 11am-2:30, 5-10:30pm (LO) daily.
Kyoto: Heian Shrine -- Tsuruya. 075-761-0171
Another very famous, very expensive Kyoto kaiseki restaurant with top-class food and service. Located near Heian Shrine, they're known for their more-lavish-than-usual gardens, which can be viewed while you're dining. Dinner menus start at Y38,000, but you can try their non-kaiseki seasonal lunch sets for around Y8000, a relative bargain. (Regular kaseki lunch is Y15,000).
SunOkazaki Higashi-Tennocho 30. (on Marutamachi Street, a few min. E of Heian Shrine and just E of Okazaki junior high school) Open 11:30am-2, 5-7pm (LO) daily.
Kyoto: Karasuma -- Kinobu. 075-352-0001
If you want French wine with your kaiseki, this is the place - most bottles are under Y6000, although they have a number of Bordeaux wines in the Y40,000 range for big spenders. Besides kaiseki and mini-kaiseki they also serve sushi and bento boxes; they even deliver within the area.
SunShinmachidori Bukkoji-sagaru, Iwatoyamacho 416. (2 blocks W, 2 1/2 blocks S of Karasuma-Shijo) Open 11:30am-2:30, 5-9:30pm daily.
Kyoto: Karasuma -- Yaoya no Nikai. 075-221-0089
On the ground floor is a top-class produce shop with picture-perfect Kyoto vegetables, while upstairs they've set aside a tiny room for lunch. There's only one choice - a prix-fixe menu of small dishes highlighting the best of the vegetable world, priced at Y2100. [See FULL REVIEW.]
SunNishikikoji Yanagibanba-nishi-iru. (from Karasuma-Shijo crossing walk 4 streets east to Yanagi-no-banba-dori, turn left and go one block north to the market arcade, turn left again and Yaoya no Nikai is on the left) Open 11am until they run out daily.
Kyoto: Kyoto City Hall -- Ikumatsu. 075-231-1234
Mini-kaiseki lunches start at just Y7000 at this 200-year-old ryokan, and there's a pleasant riverfront terrace that's open May to September. Full-blown kaiseki menus are Y14,000-20,000. They also run a casual restaurant with bentos starting from Y1030.
SunKiyamachi-dori Oike-agaru. (on Kiyamachi just N of Oike) Open 11:30am-1, 5:30-7pm (LO) daily.
Kyoto: Kyoto Station -- Kyohyakusai. 075-365-8733
Obanzai-ryori - Kyoto home-style cooking - is the specialty here, and you can choose from a wide selection of local delicacies in tiny portions. At lunchtime you get one main dish (tempura, fish, Kyoto-style chicken) plus an all-you-can-eat buffet, starting at around Y1400. Budget around Y3500 at dinnertime.
SunJR Kyoto Station, The Cube, 11F. Open 11am-9:30pm (LO) daily.
Kyoto: Kyoto Station -- Sepporai. 075-353-9565
Accessible tofu and vegetable-centered Kyo-ryori in this tastefully decorated restaurant near Kyoto station. There are only four sakes, but they're chosen to go with the food; you can also choose from several fruit liqueurs. Prix-fixe dinners are priced Y2800-4500, lunch (served until 3pm) from Y1500.
SunHigashi-Shiokojicho 901, Kyoto Station Bldg East Zone 2F. Open 11am-10:30pm (LO) daily.
Kyoto: Kyoto Station -- Shozankaku. 075-342-0070
Shozankaku specializes in yuba (tofu skin), paired with top-quality vegetables and seasonal ingredients like bamboo shoots, mushrooms and fresh-water fish. Yuba-centered lunches start at Y2700, dinners Y3500, with a gorgeous Y10,000 omakase kaiseki menu if you're in the mood to splurge.
SunJR Kyoto Isetan 11F. Open 11am-9:15pm (LO). Closed some Tuesdays.
Kyoto: Kyoto Station -- Wakuden. 075-365-1000
Yet another Isetan branch of a Kyoto culinary landmark; this one features a pleasantly modern interior and a panoramic northward-looking view of the city. Food and drink averages around Y4000 at lunch and Y10-12,000 at dinner.
SunJR Kyoto Isetan 11F. Open 11am-2:30, 5-9pm. Closed some Tuesdays.

Tofu

Osaka: Minami Morimachi -- Umenohana. 06-6881-0199
Excellent home-made tofu is the core of the menu here, with tofu-centered set meals at various price levels (Y4000-10,000).
SunTenmabashi 1-8-30, OAP Tower Bldg B1F. Open 11am-3, 5-9pm (LO) daily.
Osaka: Shinsaibashi -- Umenohana. 06-6258-6533
Excellent home-made tofu is the core of the menu here, with tofu-centered set meals at various price levels (Y4000-10,000).
SunBakuromachi 3-5-1, Epson Bldg 21F. Open 11am-3, 5-9pm (LO) daily.
Osaka: Tenmabashi -- Hakkakuan. 06-6943-1555
Tofu and yuba are the specialties here, and the menu offers some unusual dishes like soy-milk cheese fondue, nama-fu and soy-milk gratin, and hot apple pie with soy ice. You'll also find seasonal dishes like crab tempura and deep-fried fugu. Drinks include several types of umeshu as well as shochu and sake.
SunTenmabashi Kyomachi 1-1, Keihan City Mall 8F. (above Tenmabashi station) Open 11am-3, 5-9pm (LO) daily.
Osaka: Umeda 2-chome -- Umenohana. 06-6343-6320
Excellent home-made tofu is the core of the menu here, with tofu-centered set meals at various price levels (Y4000-10,000).
SunUmeda 2-6-20, Pacific Max Nishi-Umeda 2F. Open 11am-3, 5-9pm (LO) daily.
Kyoto: Karasuma -- Komameya. 075-221-7300
Fresh Kyoto yuba (tofu skin) is the focal point of the menu here, with unusual dishes like yuba and roast duck carpaccio and yuba dumpling pizza. The dining room is attractively appointed in Kyoto-modern style, with shoji screens, bamboo blinds, polished blond-wood horikotatsu tables and dark-wood platforms. There's a big a la carte menu as well as set menus - budget around Y3500 at dinnertime.
SunNishikikoji Higashinotoin-higashi-iru, Libertus Nishikikoji 3F. (on Nishiki-koji-dori east of Karasuma-dori, west of the north entrance of Daimaru) Open 11:30am-2, 5:30-11pm. Closed second Wednesday.
Kyoto: Karasuma-Oike -- Umenohana. 075-254-0566
Excellent home-made tofu is the core of the menu here, with tofu-centered set meals at various price levels (Y4000-10,000).
SunDonomaecho 250, West 18 Bldg 1F. Open 11am-3, 5-9pm (LO) daily.
Kyoto: Kyoto City Hall -- Tousuiro. 075-251-1600
Good home-made tofu is the specialty here, with multi-course tofu dinners starting from Y4859. Lunch is by reservation only. [See FULL REVIEW.]
SunKiyamachi-dori Sanjo-agaru, Kami-Osakamachi 517-3. Open 11:30am-2, 5-9:30pm (LO) daily.
Kyoto: Kyoto Station -- Fujino. 075-352-5401
This well-known tofu specialist has several branches in town, but this is probably the easiest to find. Multi-course deluxe tofu dinners average around Y4500; lunches run Y2000 or so.
SunJR Kyoto Isetan 11F. Open 11am-9:15pm (LO). Closed some Tuesdays.
Kobe: Kyukyoryuchi -- Umenohana. 078-326-7308
Excellent home-made tofu is the core of the menu here, with tofu-centered set meals at various price levels (Y4000-10,000). The dining room offers a nice high-rise view over the Kobe waterfront.
SunKaigan 3-chome, Kaigan Building 15F. Open 11am-3, 5-9pm (LO) daily.

See Kyoto ryori restaurant map.
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Updated 7/26/2014
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