Feeling a bit adventurous with your taste buds? Japanese cuisine is not just about your usual ramen and sushi. In fact, regional cuisines all over the country offer something unique and different that you simply have to try!
One of these foodie-forward regions is Kyoto, located on the island of Honshu near the south of Japan. It’s the proud home to a variety of top-rated Japanese restaurants. But above all, Kyoto is the home of Kaiseki! Kaiseki is a type of traditional Japanese cuisine that serves multiple courses per meal.
The standard number varies from restaurant to restaurant, but with a kaiseki meal, you typically get served with an appetizer, fresh sashimi, a simmered dish, a grilled dish, as well as a steamed course and other courses at the discretion of the chef in charge. Ultimately, it’s a unique experience that lets your taste buds experience the full breadth and depth of Japanese cuisine!
The 12 Best Kaiseki Restaurants in Kyoto
To kickstart your kaiseki journey, we’ve compiled just twelve of the best traditional kaiseki restaurants located right in the homeland of this one-of-a-kind cuisine. While ordering kaiseki can be a bit expensive, we can definitely say that it’s worth the price for the number of unique dishes you’ll be able to indulge in!
- Nanzenji Junsei
- Nikukappo Futago
- Honke Tankuma Honten
- Kyo Suiran
- Wagokoro Izumi
- Tempura Endo
- Kyoto Kitcho
- Gion Matayoshi
1. Nanzenji Junsei
Starting off this list we have the iconic Nanzenji Junsei! This kaiseki restaurant has a pretty interesting backstory. The building was actually used as a medical school all the way back in the Edo Period (1603-1868)! Now, it’s a beloved and long-established restaurant specializing in giving diners the full kaiseki experience.
Nanzenji Junsei is known for incorporating tofu into their kaiseki dishes. From boiled tofu, tofu skin, and more, you’ll be bombarded with all the different flavors and textures they have to offer. They also have a beautiful menu utilizing seasonal ingredients such as vegetable tempura, and Kyoto’s local fresh sashimi.
Aside from the wonderful dishes, you’re also treated to an incredible view as the restaurant is located on the sacred grounds of the Nanzenji Temple. What better way to enjoy traditional Kyoto cuisine than by having a gorgeous view of Kyoto’s natural beauty?
2. Nikukappo Futago
Let’s us introduce now one of the the newest kaiseki restaurants on the scene: Nikukappo Futago! Opened just last 2020, Nikukappo Futago has beaten all odds and become one of the beloved rising stars of kaiseki dining. Located at the Junei Hotel in Kyoto, Nikukappo Futago offers a mature yet relaxed ambiance with chic decor and a lovely atmosphere.
You’ll immediately notice a recurring bamboo and moon motif with their decor, but it doesn’t just stop there. Nikukappo Futago incorporates their aesthetic sensibilities into their own menu, which is why you’ll see unique things like moon-themed dishes! Specializing in tender wagyu beef paired with expertly chosen sake, Nikukappo Futago is definitely one of the best kaiseki restaurants around.
Book It Here: Nikukappo Futago
3. Honke Tankuma Honten
Up next we have the highly-favored Michelin-starred restaurant: Honke Tankuma Honten! Established way back in 1928, this historic restaurant still serves traditional kaiseki cuisine to this day.
Don’t be fooled by the menu’s simplicity. Honke Tankuma Honten makes the most of having a limited number of dishes by making sure to always use only the freshest and most high-quality ingredients grown locally. They aim to emphasize the natural flavors of their ingredients rather than drowning them in artificial seasoning. The result is a beautiful symphony of tastes that will keep you coming back for more!
4. Kyo Suiran
Kyoto is known for being one of the most beautiful regions in Japan. One of the top destinations is Arashiyama, an area in Western Kyoto known for having picturesque bamboo forests and beautiful traditional architecture. Aside from sightseeing, it’s also one of the best places to go to get a taste of traditional Kyoto cuisine!
Right in the heart of Arashiyama is the restaurant Kyo Suiran. Located inside the Luxury Collection Hotel, this kaiseki restaurant brings the East and West together as they combine Japanese and French styles in their menu. Aside from highlighting fresh locally-grown specialties, Kyo Suiran also offers luxury items like truffles, caviar, and foie gras that will surely make your dining experience unique.
Lunch is a little more affordable than dinner, but both are perfect for treating yourself to an array of mouthwatering delights.
5. Wagokoro Izumi
While it’s true that kaiseki is a traditional and centuries-old type of cuisine, some restaurants also like to put a bit of a modern twist on it! One such restaurant in Wagokoro Izumi. Located conveniently within walking distance from some of Kyoto’s must-visit spots like the Nishiki Market and Shinkyogoku Shopping Street, Wagokoro Izumi is the perfect place to go to get a modern taste of this ancient cuisine.
With a warm atmosphere and cozy seats, as well as the choice between private or public rooms, Wagokoro Izumi offers a comfortable, non-intimidating kaiseki dining experience. Classic kaiseki dishes are given a modern twist while also making sure to highlight seasonal ingredients and specialties from the region.
If we’re talking about top kaiseki restaurants, we simply can’t miss talking about the legendary Kikunoi. This iconic joint has been operating for over 100 years and has become one of the country’s best and most well-known kaiseki restaurants. Don’t believe us? Well, Kikunoi’s achievements speak for themselves–it’s been awarded not just one but three Michelin stars!
Top-notch food is a given. Aside from preparing the most mouthwatering array of dishes, Kikunoi also prides itself in providing the best atmosphere for its diners. With spacious private rooms and a beautiful Japanese garden, you’ll be able to have a full cultural experience while feasting on the restaurant’s offers.
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Kyoto is picturesque everywhere you look, and this could not be more true than when you’re walking down the Gion district. Widely renowned for being Kyoto’s most beautiful neighborhood, Gion is home to gorgeous natural sights, beautiful traditional teahouses, and of course, fancy kaiseki restaurants!
Hassun is the perfect place to go to get a memorable meal. Not only is each course carefully prepared with only the best seasonal ingredients, but they also look visually stunning to boot! Each plate is designed by a renowned contemporary artist which only adds to the luxury of the dining experience. Ever since it was established in 1945, Hassun has been serving nothing but class.
8. Tempura Endo
As we’ve mentioned, kaiseki courses vary from restaurant to restaurant. Here at Tempura Endo, they spice up their menu by–you guessed it!–adding delicious tempura dishes! Founded all the way back in 1885, they currently have four locations all over Kyoto, each specializing in serving fresh and mouthwatering tempura dishes.
If you don’t know what tempura is, it’s basically a technique in which different ingredients are lightly battered and deep fried. Tempura Endo’s tempura dishes range from local seasonal vegetables to fresh seafood harvested right from the Seto Inland Sea and Wakasa Bay. Their tempura is surprisingly light, not greasy, and of course, oh-so-crispy!
Read More: The 10 Best Food Tours In Kyoto
While kaiseki is a wonderful type of traditional cuisine we want everyone to try, it can be a little intimidating, especially if it’s your first time trying this kind of menu. Lucky for you, Kyoto has its fair share of cozy kaiseki restaurants that are more than eager to ease you into the process!
Located in Nakagyo-ku, Kiyama is a Michelin-starred restaurant established back in 2017. It was created by the talented chef Yoshiaki Kiyama who trained at the renowned Wakuden restaurant before establishing his own. Their elegant courses start with a cup of tasty dashi soup followed by an array of dishes featuring carefully curated seasonal ingredients such as seafood, vegetables, mushrooms, and even wagyu beef!
But don’t let this restaurant’s accomplishments intimidate you. After all, one of its main missions is to provide an accessible and comforting dining experience for all its patrons. It’s one of the best places to try kaiseki for the first time!
Let’s face it: kaiseki can be a little expensive. Sure, we believe it’s worth every penny for providing a one-of-a-kind gustatory experience, but we also understand why some people may be apprehensive about trying it. Luckily, there are restaurants that serve affordable kaiseki dishes without skimping on the quality!
Iharada is constantly chosen as one of the best kaiseki restaurants in all of Kyoto. Iharada is known for serving a variety of courses featuring home-grown vegetables, fresh seafood like crab, eel, and abalone, as well as quality beef from the Hyogo Prefecture. And the best part? They do it all for just around ¥10,000-¥15,000 (~$68-$102). Take note that some kaiseki courses go for upwards of ¥40,000 (~$273) so Iharada’s prices are really quite a steal.
11. Kyoto Kitcho
On the other side of the spectrum, we have Kyoto Kitcho, a kaiseki restaurant committed to giving you a luxury dining experience. If you have a little more money to spend, we definitely recommend going to Kyoto Kitcho and experiencing fine dining at its best.
Served in private and traditional Japanese-style rooms, Kyoto Kitcho’s meals are simply top-notch. Dine on perfectly curated dishes while appreciating the view of the stunning Japanese garden just outside. While the prices are a little bit higher, we think it’s definitely worth it for Kyoto Kitcho’s mouthwatering food, incredible service, and great overall experience!
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12. Gion Matayoshi
Another staple of the Gion district is the renowned kaiseki restaurant: Gion Matayoshi! Opened back in 2008, Gion Matayoshi serves traditional kaiseki cuisine with a modern twist. Here you can enjoy fresh seafood from Hokkaido as well as Okinawan favorites handpicked by the head chef himself. Their menu often changes, reflecting the different flavors and textures that each season has to offer.
The ingredients may be traditional, but Gion Matayoshi’s team makes sure to cook them with exciting modern techniques that will leave an impact as soon as you get a taste. Better yet, Gion Matayoshi also serves delicious local sake brands that will pair perfectly with their incredible menu!
Did you like our detailed guide about the best Kaiseki restaurants in Kyoto? Which place are you most excited to go to? Don’t forget to tell us all about it in the comments down below!
One of the best parts about traveling is getting to experience unique cuisines from all around the world. It’s also one of the best opportunities to be a little more adventurous with your taste buds and try something you normally wouldn’t. And trust us, the risk is definitely worth it when it comes to kaiseki dining!
If you liked this article, make sure to check out our article about the best street food spots in Kyoto!