Fine Dining in the Kaiseki Capital: 6 Best Kaiseki Restaurants in Kyoto

By Annika Hotta
Updated: May 16, 2024

To get a taste of luxury dining in Japan, look no further than kaiseki ryori, an elegant multi-course menu that is a true testament to the talented chefs who create them. 

But before you book your kaiseki dining experience, here’s what you need to know about the history, what you’ll find on the menu, and where to eat the best kaiseki in Kyoto, long considered the capital of Japan’s haute cuisine. 

What is kaiseki cuisine? 

A traditional lacquer serving tray of red and black, covered in dishes from a classic kaiseki course meal.

Kaiseki ryori is infamous for its high price point, which can be attributed to the high-quality ingredients, the sophisticated presentation, and the craftsmanship of the dedicated chefs. These are major selling points in Japan, where the culinary arts are highly celebrated. 

During a kaiseki dining experience, it could be said that the chef is the conductor of a symphony to be enjoyed by you. For this reason, the concept of omotenashi (hospitality) goes hand-in-hand with kaiseki ryori.

If you’re lucky enough to eat at a kaiseki restaurant, come hungry. Chefs will typically serve a minimum of seven courses, each building on top of one another. The seasonal dishes can also be customized for vegans, vegetarians, and those with other dietary restrictions too, so long as you let them know ahead of time.

For more information on what food you can expect to see at a kaiseki restaurant, get into the details of the different courses of kaiseki

What does kaiseki mean? 

A Japan set meal of many different dishes, including miso soup, rice, pickled veggies, and more.

The kanji characters for kaiseki have gone through several iterations throughout Japanese history, the first one being 会席料理 (kaiseki ryori), indicating food eaten at a gathering. 

The second version was 懐石 (kaiseki), translating literally to “breast pocket stone.” Zen monks used to quell their hunger by carrying warm stones in the front of their robes. When they did finally eat, it was in the form of a Japanese tea ceremony

Modern kaiseki combines the social aspect and the flair of the tea ceremony, which is probably why kaiseki restaurants will use either kanji in their name. 

Also drawing from Buddhist cuisine, samurai cuisine, and tea ceremony cuisine, each bite of kaiseki ryori encompasses Japan’s storied history. How cool is that?

6 best kaiseki restaurants in Kyoto

Now that we’ve gone over the origins of kaiseki cuisine, where should you eat it? Here are the 6 best kaiseki restaurants in Tokyo for you to enjoy. 

  1. Kikunoi Roan
  2. Ganko Kameoka Rakurakusou
  3. Gion Kurashita
  4. Minokichi Karusama Shijo
  5. Kiyama
  6. Kyoto Kitcho

1. Kikunoi Roan

A serving at Kikunoi Roan, a kaiseki restaurant in Kyoto. It is served in a dish that looks like a pumpkin.

For those who like to eat with their eyes first, Kikunoi Roan serves dishes that look as delicious as they taste. Right next door to Kawaramachi Station, this restaurant has two Michelin stars to its name. 

The flavors are much different from that of traditional kaiseki cuisine thanks to chef Yoshiharu Murata’s out-of-the-box approach. Enjoy unique dishes like egg yolk marinated in white miso, corn sorbet, and crab broth-soaked rice with delicate chunks of crab thrown in. This is kaiseki you’ve never experienced before.

Save a seat for kaiseki cuisine at Kikunoi Roan!

2. Ganko Kameoka Rakurakusou

The beautiful Japanese gardens of Ganko Kameoka Rakurakusou.

Set in one of Japan’s Tangible Cultural Properties, Ganko Kameoka Rakurakusou will become your favorite restaurant before you’ve even stepped foot inside, but wait until you see the menus…

Have your pick between sukiyaki (thinly sliced beef in a warming hot pot dish) or kaiseki course menus, featuring Kansai’s finest seasonal appetizers, sashimi, tempura, sushi, desserts and more. Plus, how often do you get to say you dined on all of Japan’s traditional foods in the grand setting of a historical Japanese mansion?

Once you’re done with your meal, take in the kaiyu-style gardens — designed for circular walks around a central pond — which are lovely across all seasons. 

3. Gion Kurashita

A kaiseki course meal at Gion Kurashita, featuring sashimi, tempura, sukiyaki, dipping sauces and more.

Located in the geisha district of Kyoto, visitors of the Gion Kurashita kaiseki restaurant will feel like they have traveled back in time with this historical-inspired meal. 

Chef Kurashita Satoru has a long history of working in the finest ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) across Japan before bringing his talents to Kyoto. Be it king crab, wagyu beef, pufferfish, or even tofu, everything is served with a precise perfection at Gion Kurashita. 

4. Minokichi Karusama Shijo

The dining area at Minokichi Karusama Shijo, all laid out for guests to dine.

Part of the Minokichi brand, present in Kyoto for over 300 years, embrace the history and flavors of kaiseki cuisine at Minokichi Karusama Shijo.

Enjoy everything from the humble river fish and grilled Kobe beef to soft-shell turtle hot pot — you’ll truly feel like you have tasted everything Japan has to offer at the end of this meal. With many private rooms, this place is also perfect for those who want a quiet, intimate night of indulging.

5. Kiyama 

For a quiet refuge from the tourist hotspots in Nakagyo ward, which include Nishiki Market and Nijo Castle, escape to the ambient atmosphere of Kiyama

Using fresh well water, Chef Kiyama’s seasonal course menus embody the essence of washoku (Japanese-style cooking) with their simple, carefully prepared dishes. In fact, within one year of opening, Kiyama was awarded a Michelin star, drawing the attention of the entire Japanese food industry, so you know it’s worth a visit! 

6. Kyoto Kitcho

The tranquil exterior of Tenryu-ji Temple in Arashiyama, Kyoto.

Only a 3-minute walk from the iconic Tenryu-ji Temple (pictured), on the outskirts of the famous Arashiyama bamboo forest lies Kyoto Kitcho, a gorgeous kaiseki restaurant centered on the ritual of the Japanese tea ceremony. Engage all the senses while surrounded by the ever-changing scenery of Arashiyama. 

For those interested in the rich history behind this restaurant, we invite you to read about the past and present owners, where you can also reserve select rooms. 

Note: Children under the age of 6 are not allowed in the restaurant. 

Flash the cash: Kyoto Kitcho has premium prices to match, ranging from ¥40,000 to ¥80,000, depending on the menu you choose. 

Kaiseki cuisine is the most luxurious of luxury dining in Japan, and everyone should experience it at least once in their lifetime. We hope this article helped prepare you to tick this item off your bucket list. Enjoy the food and thank you for reading! 

Keep building your Kyoto and kaiseki knowledge with our blogs on kaiseki cuisine, lunch spots in Kyoto, and traditional Japanese foods.

We strive to be as accurate as possible and keep up with the changing landscape of Japan's food and travel industries. If you spot any inaccuracies, please send a report.
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Annika Hotta
After studying abroad in Shiga prefecture in 2019, Annika moved to Japan in 2021. In her writing, she highlights the best dishes and places to eat in Japan for both the picky and the adventurous.
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