Once the capital and emperor’s residence of Japan, Kyoto was destroyed by many wars and fires. Thankfully, the numerous historical temples, shrines and traditional houses have survived and these priceless treasures attract throngs of tourists all year round. In addition, the bygone capital is also known for its traditional kaiseki dining scene, touted as the best in Japan.
However, dining in Kyoto is more than just kaiseki cuisine. In the latest Michelin Guide Kyoto Osaka 2017, you would be able to see how Kyoto’s dining scene has evolved for a diverse range of cuisines to be selected. A total of 66 restaurants have been awarded one Michelin star in Kyoto. Read this guide for a list of 8 non-traditional Japanese Michelin one-starred restaurants as proof of the culinary diversity!
1. Tempura Tenyuu
Deep-fried food or tempura may be a common sight everywhere and it is hard to imagine eating them in a high-end restaurant. But Tempura Tenyuu (点邑) will make you relook at how you view tempura from now. Listen to the sizzling sound of fresh shrimps, shiitake mushrooms, fish and so on frying right before your eyes as you watch the skillful chef prepare your delectable meal. Taste the light and crispy tempura served to you immediately after taking it out from the hot oil. Despite being deep fried, the tempura at Tenyuu does not leave you with a greasy feeling. Indeed, it is a perfect tempura dining experience in a traditional ryokan that you should try at least once when in Kyoto.
Tempura Tenyuu (点邑)
Address: 299 Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto City
Price: 10,000 to 15,000 JPY (88.75 to 133.10 USD) per person for lunch, 15,000 to 20,000 JPY (133.10 to 177.50 USD) per person for dinner
Opening Hours: Lunch - 11.30 am to 1.30 pm; Dinner 5.30 pm to 9 pm. Closed on Tuesdays
Access: 6-minute walk from Kyoto City Subway, Kyoto Shiyakusho-Mae Station
Contact: +81 752127778
Info & review: Tempura Tenyuu (点邑)
Sushi Matsudaya is a hole-in-the-wall eatery serving Edo-style sushi, tucked in a quiet alley in the Hanamikoji area of Gion. Travel back in time as you enter the 7-seater restaurant with a stone-paved floor and counter seats made from hinoki wood. The amiable owner-chef is a self-taught sushi chef who uses red vinegar to prepare the rice. All ingredients are carefully picked and prepared to bring out their best flavor to complement the rice. Enjoy a hearty sushi omakase course comprising of 14 to 16 pieces of sushi, which will leave you truly satisfied without the bloated feeling.
Sushi Matsudaya (寿し 祇園 松田屋)
Address: 570-123 Gionmachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto City
Price: 20,000 to 30,000 JPY (177.50 to 264.90 USD) per person
Opening Hours: Lunch - 12 pm to 2 pm (Sunday only); Dinner 6 pm to 9.30 pm (last order), 9 pm last order on Sunday. Closed on Mondays
Access: 5-minute walk from Kyoto City Subway, Gion Shijo Station
Contact: +81 755613338 (by appointments only)
Info & review: Sushi Matsudaya (寿し 祇園 松田屋)
3. Sushi Matsumoto
Located in the same area as Sushi Matsudaya, Sushi Matsumoto (鮨まつもと) is a cosy 11-seater Michelin one-starred restaurant serving Edo-style sushi as well. The friendly chef learned the ropes and developed his skills in the Kanto region, and only set up Sushi Matsumoto about a decade ago. Enjoy the freshest fish in season in your omakase sushi course, and savor the light and fluffy sushi with delight while watching the talented chef skillfully prepare the dishes one by one.
Sushi Matsumoto (鮨まつもと)
Address: 570-123 Gionmachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City
Price: 8,000 to 10,000 JPY (70.65 to 88.75 USD) per person for lunch, 15,000 to 20,000 JPY (133.10 to 177.50 USD) per person for dinner
Opening Hours: Lunch 12 pm to 2 pm (last order 1.30 pm); Dinner 5.30 pm to 9 pm (last order 9 pm). Closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for lunch
Access: 5-minute walk from Kyoto City Subway, Gion Shijo Station
Contact: +81 755312031
Info & review: Sushi Matsumoto (鮨まつもと)
4. Aca 1° Spanish restaurant
Need a break from Japanese cuisine? Then make your way to Aca 1° (アカ) which serves fabulous Spanish cuisine in Kyoto. Aca 1°’s young and talented owner-chef, Tetsuo Azuma, opened the restaurant in 2013 with the aim of introducing a modern Spanish culinary experience with a Japanese twist. Do not miss the house specialty of classic Spanish paella cooked using rice and seasonal seafood here. Complement the delicious food with Spanish wines from an extensive list of wines. Alongside superb hospitality, it is no wonder Aca 1° is the only Spanish restaurant being awarded a Michelin one star in Kyoto.
Aca 1° (アカ)
Address: 55 Masuyacho (Kamanzadori), Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto City
Price: 5,000 to 6,000 JPY (44.15 to 53 USD) per person for lunch, 15,000 to 20,000 JPY (133.10 to 177.50 USD) per person for dinner
Opening Hours: Lunch 12 pm to 1 pm (last order); Dinner 6 pm to 9 pm (last order). Closed on Sundays and national holidays
Access: 5-minute walk from Kyoto City Subway, Karasuma Oike Station
Contact: +81 752233002
Info & review: Aca 1° (アカ)
5. Soba Ogawa
Soba Ogawa (おがわ) is a Michelin one-starred buckwheat noodle (soba) restaurant hidden up north, away from the main tourist area in Kyoto. The soba served at Ogawa is handmade, boasting a smooth texture that will keep you slurping for more. Dip the chewy noodles into the accompanying flavorful soup for a heavenly soba dining experience. Although Ogawa does not accept reservations in the cosy traditional restaurant with only 12 seats, it does not deter soba lovers from all over Japan and overseas to come all the way here for a bowl of award-winning soba. Best of all, the price to pay for a wonderful meal is definitely wallet-friendly for a Michelin one-starred restaurant.
Soba Ogawa (おがわ)
Address: 25 Shichiku, Shimoshibamoto-cho, Kita Ward, Kyoto City
Price: 1,000 to 2,000 JPY (8.85 to 17.65 USD) per person on average
Opening Hours: 11 am to 3 pm (or till sold out). Closed on Thursdays, or Friday if Thursday is a national holiday
Access: 5-minute walk from Kyoto City Kamihorikawa bus stop, or 15-minute walk from Kyoto City Subway, Kitayama Station
Contact: +81 754958281
Info & review: Soba Ogawa (おがわ)
6. Unagi Hirokawa
Japan has a long history of consuming eel, or unagi in Japanese, because of its tremendous health benefits. If you are an unagi lover, you must not miss the 50-year-old traditional eel restaurant, Unagi Hirokawa (うなぎ料理 廣川), in the main touristy street of Arashiyama in Kyoto City. Housed in a classic Japanese wood building just across the street from the famous Tenryu-ji Temple, long queues outside Unagi Hirokawa are a common sight, although reservations for minimum 2 diners are possible.
Choose from the kabayaki and shiroyaki style of cooking the unagi. For both cooking styles, fresh farmed eels are grilled over slow charcoal fire and steamed to remove excess oil and fat. The only difference is in the kabayaki style familiar to most; the eel is grilled a second time while being brushed with a tangy soy-based sauce. Try the shiroyaki style if you wish to enjoy the authentic flavor of the eel itself. There is a beautiful Japanese garden in the restaurant, providing a pleasant atmosphere to enhance your Michelin dining experience.
Unagi Hirokawa (うなぎ料理 廣川)
Address: 44-1 Sagatenryuji Kitatsukurimichi-cho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto City
Price: 3,000 to 4,000 JPY (26.50 to 35.30 USD) per person on average
Opening Hours: 11.30 am to 2.30 pm for lunch, 5 pm to 8 pm for dinner. Closed on Mondays
Access: across the street from Tenryū-ji Temple, 7-minute walk from JR Saga-Arashiyama Station
Contact: +81 758715226
Website: Unagi Hirokawa (うなぎ料理 廣川)
Obanzai Hokkoriya (ほっこりや) is a neat and homely restaurant specializing in obanzai cuisine, a traditional type of Japanese cuisine where at least half of the ingredients must be produced or processed in Kyoto. Opened over 20 years ago at the conspicuous location in front of Kaburenjo Theatre, Hokkoriya offers scrumptious obanzai set meals alongside several kinds of oden dishes. Coupled with the owner-chef’s warm hospitality, relax and relish in the authentic taste of Kyoto as you nuzzle up in the cosy restaurant.
Obanzai Hokkoriya (ほっこりや)
Address: 2F, New Toyo Kaikan, Kaburenshujomae, Pontocho-dori Sanjo Sagaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto City
Price: 4,000 to 5,000 JPY (35.30 to 44.15 USD) per person on average
Opening Hours: 5 pm to 9.30 pm (last order at 9 pm). Closed on Sundays, Mondays and the third Tuesday of every month
Access: 5-minute walk from Kyoto City Subway, Keihan Sanjo Station
Contact: +81 752132250
Info & review: Obanzai Hokkoriya (ほっこりや)
8. French restaurant Motoi
Besides Japanese and Spanish cuisine, you will also be able to savor the fine taste of French cuisine in Kyoto. Located in Nakagyo-ku, Motoi (モトイ) looks like any other traditional Japanese home from the outside, but step into the French restaurant, and you will be welcomed by its stylishly furbished interiors. Featuring interesting seasonal produce from Japan, the dishes are a delicious fusion of French and Japanese styles. As the menu at Motoi is omakase style and changes daily, do advise your preference or allergy at the point of booking so that the chef can cater the dishes to your needs.
Address: 186 Tawaraya-cho, Tominokoji Nijyo Sagaru, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto City
Price: 10,000 to 15,000 JPY (88.75 to 133.10 USD) per person for lunch, 20,000 to 30,000 JPY (177.50 to 264.75 USD) per person for dinner
Opening Hours: 12 pm to 1.30 pm for lunch, 6 pm to 8 pm for dinner. Closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays
Access: 10-minute walk from Kyoto City Subway, Karasuma-Oike Station
Contact: +81 752310709. Reservations accepted up to 2 months in advance
Website: Motoi restaurant (モトイ)
A fantastic gastronomical journey in Kyoto
Nowadays, dining in Kyoto is more than just about traditional Japanese cuisine. Increasingly, the gourmet scene has become more diversified with a varied range of international cuisines that you can choose from. Start your international gourmand adventure by exploring the 8 Michelin one-starred restaurants featured above. Bon appétit!
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