Lounge at Bistro Cerisier, Kyoto, Japan

Bistro Cerisier

It is possible to have fabulous sushi in Paris, and by the transitive property, equally delightful French cuisine in Kyoto. This bistro specializes in classic French comfort food, and attracts an international clientele seeking a break from traditional Japanese cuisine, as well as top chefs in the city (Kazuomi Nakamura of Nakajin says Bistro Cerisier is his personal favorite). The plate takes center stage, as the atmosphere is bare and Spartan, with white walls, simple wooden tables and a wood-burning fireplace that crackles all winter.

Honke Owariya

Lauded for its Japanese soba noodles, Honke Owariya is a Kyoto institution and the oldest soba noodle restaurant in the city.
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Kyoto's three-Michelin-starred Hyotei has been around since the early 1600s and it is one of the top places in Kyoto for a kaiseki experience.


Junsei is a traditional restaurant is located near the Nanzen-ji Temple that serves a variety of kaiseki menus and the best tofu and yudofu in Kyoto.
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You can’t not have a blast at this American-retro themed night club where a live band entertains nightly. Revelers do the twist to '50s pop hits and slow-dance to '80s ballads. The typical crowd includes middle-aged locals letting loose, a few hipsters savoring the novelty, and a handful of foreigners loving every second. A cover charge includes all-you-can-consume beer, cocktails, pocky and popcorn. Not to be missed.

Food at Momofuku Toronto, Toronto, Canada - Courtesy Gabriele Stabile


New York chef David Chang lived in Japan before launching his Momofuku empire, and considers this Kyoto kaiseke restaurant one of his world-wide favorites. There are two branches in Kyoto, run by the Murata family for three generations. This is the main location, near the Keomis Temple, a 10-minute taxi from central Kyoto. The restaurant is housed in a traditional Japanese home with a dry garden. Traditional kaiseke is the celebratory multi-course meal relying on seasonal ingredients served in advance of a tea ceremony, a tradition that dates to the 17th century.

Kyoto Kitcho Arashiyama

Located near the famous Arashiyama bamboo grove, Kyoto Kitcho Arashiyama has three Michelin stars and serves artful kaiseki cuisine.
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Revered as one of the best Kobe beef restaurants in Kyoto, Mikaku is located in Gion and has a small dining room centered around a grill.
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Misoka-an Kawamichiya

For over three hundred years the same family has served homemade soba noodles, attracting generations of patrons to revel in this warm comfort food. Misoka-an Kawamichiya is around the corner from Tawaraya Ryokan, and offers a short menu of hot and cold noodle dishes, and a specialty of the house called hokoro—which is a hot pot of chicken, vegetables and fish stock served for two with noodles on the side. Locals giggle and brag that Steve Jobs declared this to be the noodle experience of his life. Reservations are not required, and this is a great choice for a quick lunch.

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The intimate Monk restaurant in Kyoto serves a seven-course menu that specializes in wood-fired dishes (including a great pizza).
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My favorite meal in Japan was from the hands of soba and tempura master, Kazuomi Nakamura, at his intimate 10-seat restaurant. Generally I don’t like tempura, though my guide suggested we visit Kazuomi son for lunch, and was thrilled when our request was accepted (even though we were two of five patrons). Highly regarded among the soba masters of Kyoto, the chef hails from the nearby mountain region of Takayma, which is famous for pure buckwheat noodles. Organic vegetables are hand-selected; the rice is from his friend’s organic farm; the miso paste is made in the mountains by a friend of his father; and even the ceramic service is handmade by friends (and by the chef himself). There is no English menu, although it is possible to select your set menu choices via your hotel concierge prior to arrival (or allow the chef to choose, the route I recommend).

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Roan Kikunoi

This is the inner-Kyoto branch of the famed Kikunoi kaiseke restaurant, a third-generation eatery steeped in tradition. Its ten bar seats and few small tables are almost always full, and reservations are required. In comparison to its more famous sister restaurant Kikunoi, this location is more relaxed in its delivery—but remains strict in its execution.

Sojiki Nakahigashi

True connoisseurs of Japanese cuisine (who have likely made many trips to the island nation) will arrange a reservation here before booking their flight. This highly-regarded two Michelin-starred kaiseke-style restaurant is located in a residential area of Kyoto near the Robert Yellin Gallery. The owner-chef is known to forage for ingredients every morning in the mountains outside of Kyoto. With only twelve seats, dining here is an experience not recommended for rookies.

Sushi Gion Matsudaya

Kyoto's one-Michelin-starred Sushi Goin Matsudaya serves some of the best Tokyo- and Kansai-style sushi in Kyoto.


One of the top restaurants in Kyoto for tempura, Tenyu has a 20-seat dining area where it serves light tempura made with cottonseed oil.

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