It so happened that this time around our trip to Kyoto was focused more on exploring the incredible historical sites as opposed to exploring the food scene. However, we still managed to indulge in a few incredible meals, as well as savor some local flavors everywhere during our tours. I want to recommend some of the cafes, restaurants and local eats around Kyoto which might be a handy reference while planning your trip. Here is my current list of the best places to eat in Kyoto:
Best Breakfast in Kyoto
If you are like us and plan to stay in airbnb apartment instead of a hotel or ryokan, then you will surely need a place for some delectable morning meal (unless you decide to cook it yourself, of course). In general, I found that breakfast is not a strong suit of Kyoto compared to Tokyo (probably a very biased statement on my part), with options being boring, unexciting and/or overpriced. However, on our last day we discovered a French boulangerie chain Shinshindo, which has been in business since 1913 and had everything one would want for a nice start of the day. Freshly baked pastries, flaky buttery croissants, good coffee and great savory plates like eggs, ham, toast and salad will surely satisfy your breakfast needs. Everything was also very reasonably priced, a big plus when you are traveling on a budget or with a large family. The little bakeries are located all over the city, so look up the one closest to your location and give it a try.
Best Lunch Spots in Kyoto
I don’t have much wisdom to offer in his department, as we ate whatever-and-wherever most of the time, nothing too spectacular to blog about. I’d recommend stopping by one of the restaurants that are usually located inside the shrine grounds. For example, Ryoan-ji had a very serene traditional tofu restaurant which we sadly didn’t have time to stop at. Generally though, we found that Kyoto Station is a decent place to grab an unpretentious midday bite if you happen to be close by, with a wide array of places to eat, both traditional Japanese as well as foreign imports. Kyoto prefecture (Osaka in particular) is particularly known for its okonomiyaki (so called Japanese pizza) and tofu, which I really wanted to try so we opted for a small restaurant on the 11th floor of Kyoto Station one day which specializes exactly in that. We ordered some fried tofu as an appetizer, as well as waraiyaki (the soft noodles and half boiled egg) and yakisoba (noodles with slices of pork and chopped cabbage). We were seated at a grill-topped table and not long after, the server brought pre-cooked piles of garnished noodles and placed them on a pre-heated grill. This keeps the meals fresh and warm. Everything we tried was filling, flavorful and delicious.
Street Food in Kyoto
The entrances to almost all of the shrines around Kyoto are usually lines up with food stalls cooking up a storm. You can buy anything from grilles seafood on the skewers to traditional sweets. It is a great place to snack on some traditional street food and savor some simple local flavors. Some of the favorite things I tried were:
Matcha and cherry blossom ice-cream Wasabi-flavored peanuts Vanilla custard-filled taiyaki Peach-flavored water from gazillion vending machines you find at every step in Japan Read my separate blog post about eats in Nishiki Market, also a must-visit during your trip to Kyoto.
Best Coffee in Kyoto
I have not explored the coffee culture of Kyoto much, but one place I made a point to visit was % Arabica. This contemporary artisan coffee shop is located on a narrow cobbled alley leading to Yasaka Pagoda in Higashiyama district. The owner and barista at the counter, Junichi Yamaguchi, took out first place in the world Coffee Fest Latte Art Championship.
% Arabica shops look sleek and contemporary with lots of white, exposed concrete walls, glass and a touch of wood. I tried their signature latter and it was divine with flavors of toasted almonds and subtle caramel undertones filling the palate. It’s got a lot of body, richness and is certainly on the darker side of things. Overall, a great space to take a break with even better cup of coffee.
Address: 87-5 Hoshinocho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, Japan, 605-0853.
Website for other two locations: http://www.arabica.coffee/
Open: 8:00am – 6:00pm Everyday
Best Dinner Spots in Kyoto
We enjoyed two outstanding dinners during our stay in Kyoto. To savor one of the best wagyu beef in town we headed to Hafuu Honten located close to the Imperial Palace. The chef demonstrated ton of versatility and cooked the beef in variety of way without sacrificing the flavor of this amazing beef a single time. We couldn’t have asked for a more scrumptious dinner and will certainly be back next time we are in Kyoto. My mother-in-law and I also had an exquisite kaiseki dinner accompanied by the geisha and maiko show at ryokan Gion Hatanaka. While the show tends to be touristy and might seem a bit too theatrical, I really enjoyed the opportunity to encounter geisha and maiko so up close, have an opportunity to interact with them and be entertained by them. You can read the full account of my visit in a separate blog post.
Have you been to Kyoto? Do you have favorite restaurants from your visit? Please share in comments!
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