Kyoto cuisine, also known as kyo ryori, is renowned for being among the most sophisticated in the world. Thanks to its long history as the former seat of Japan’s Imperial court, the city has developed a rich and diverse food tradition that’s just waiting to be explored. We've picked a selection of restaurants offering the best dinner Kyoto has to offer to help you decide where to start your culinary journey.
Kyo ryori is notable for its elegance and refinement and perhaps the most famous fare served in Kyoto restaurants is kaiseki, a sublime multi-course haute cuisine once reserved for the aristocracy.
This is far from all there is to try though. From the plant-based Buddhist cuisine shojin ryori to Japanese classics such as sushi, ramen, soba, and tempura, there’s something here for everyone to enjoy.
Here are some of our top Kyoto dinner recommendations, with options to suit all tastes and budgets.
Chef Motokichi's restaurant, Kichi Kichi, has become something of an institution in Kyoto since going viral. His buoyant personality and theatrical cooking style make his restaurant a must-visit in Kyoto. While the Kichi Kichi omurice is the star of the menu, a little-known recommendation is the beef tongue stew. You're sure to leave this restaurant with a full belly and a wide smile.
Kyoto restaurants are often housed in wonderfully atmospheric old buildings, and this is especially true of Honke Owariya. The restaurant began life as a confectionary shop, and later started making soba noodles during the Edo period. The traditional wooden building perfectly encapsulates old Kyoto, and their soba is made using the highest quality ingredients.
Honke Owariya’s signature dish, hourai soba, is highly recommended. It consists of five stacked plates of noodles with a selection of eight different toppings, including shiitake mushrooms, grated daikon and shrimp tempura.
Centrally located next to the Daimaru department store, it’s a popular and friendly eatery that serves fresh sushi made to order.
You can opt for a set or choose items individually, including fatty tuna, sea urchin, clams, and abalone. Grab a seat at the counter to watch the chefs work their magic!
Three Michelin-starred Kikunoi is without a doubt one of the best kaiseki restaurants in Kyoto. A dinner here doesn't come cheap, but it will definitely be a night to remember.
The talented chefs create a series of exquisite and creative small dishes that showcase the highest quality local ingredients, and change every month to fit the season. Take your time enjoying each one in the restaurant's unbelievably beautiful surroundings.
Reservations are essential, and should be made well in advance.
Diners who are vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free will love Choice. Just moments from Sanjo Keihan Station, the restaurant is run by a doctor who wanted to create a menu that was both delicious and healthy.
Choice makes its own vegan cheese on site, with flavors ranging from smoky to rum raisin, and features it in many of their dishes. These are mostly Western-style meals, including pasta and risotto, and it’s one of the rare places you can enjoy a vegan cheese plate.
Be sure to save room for pancakes for dessert!
Located right in the heart of Gion, Kyoto’s historic geisha district, Gyoza Hohei specializes in gyoza dumplings (as the name implies!). Cheap and delicious, they’re open until late and make a fabulous alternative to chain fast food places.
You can choose crispy-skinned gyoza flavored with either garlic and leek or ginger with miso sauce, plus there's a small selection of side dishes to accompany them, all of which goes great with a beer or glass of sake.
If you're lucky, you might even spot a geisha or maiko popping in for some garlic-free gyoza!
Meals are served as a selection of beautifully-presented small dishes made using seasonal ingredients, featuring both tofu and sashimi plates. There’s also a special shojin ryori-style set for vegetarians that doesn't use any meat, fish, or dairy products.
Located in a preserved Taisho-era house on the waterfront, in the summer you can enjoy refreshing kawayuka dining on the terrace above the Kamo River.
To sample some of the best tempura in Kyoto, head to Yoshikawa. Located near to the Imperial Palace, it’s attached to a traditional ryokan and has seating available in private tatami rooms overlooking the garden. Alternatively. there are also seats at the counter where you can sit and watch the chefs at work.
Yoshikawa serves fresh, light, non-greasy tempura, with fantastic service and an intimate atmosphere, making it a strong contender for the best dinner Kyoto offers.
If you're looking for a truly special culinary experience, Kitcho Arashiyama is the place to go.
The restaurant serves exquisite kaiseki cuisine that appeals to all the senses, with each dish looking as much like a work of art as it does a meal. From the ingredients to the tableware, no expense is spared and no detail is overlooked.
Dining in private tatami rooms overlooking the stunning gardens, a meal here might be the most romantic dinner Kyoto can provide.
Reservations are a must, and should be made well in advance.
As you can see, visitors are really spoilt for choice when it comes to finding the best dinner Kyoto has to offer. Whether you want a luxurious kaiseki feast, a healthy plant-based meal, a hearty bowl of noodles or a late-night plate of gyoza, this beautiful city never disappoints.
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