Dining in Kyoto

Dining in Kyoto


I've been in Kyoto for almost a month now, and while most of my dining has been makani -- restaurant staff meals -- I've had a couple of chances to squeeze in some great dinners (details on my restaurant training soon). I've also learned about a bunch of other restaurant here, so I want to share this information. One of these days I'll be back in Kyoto with more time to dine, and get to try them all!

My favorite discovery this trip, thanks to my pal Nemo Glassman, has been Heikichi Negiya, or the "Heikichi Onion Shop." It's located in an historic two-story machiya, or traditional merchant's house, along the Takasegawa canal. And yes, the star attraction here is the onion, a nice, big, round onion, one that has been slowly, carefully--meticulously--grilled over binchotan charcoal for an hour or so, and served with a little miso on the side. Everything that Japanese cooking is about can be found in this perfect, sweet, delicate, luscious, fragrant, tender onion. The taisho, or owner, Chef Tsubaki, is a wonderful, outgoing guy who runs a relaxed, friendly place. Besides his onion, he serves a huge menu featuring Kyoto heirloom veggies, and has some of the best sake I've ever tried. When you go there, do what I did, and tell the taisho "omakase"-- chef's choice -- and let him serve you. This goes for the sake, too. You have to check out the Onion Shop. (Phone 075-342-4430, near the intersection of Shijo and Kawaramachi.) By the way, they also serve phenomenal ramen at lunch.

Nemo, who runs fantastic cultural programs at Origin Japan (that anyone visiting Kyoto should not miss), also recommends:

Giro giro, located in another machiya on the same canal
Yoshikawa Tempura, Nemo says "try to get a private room looking out at the garden, one of my favorite spots in Kyoto."
Isoya, young, hip crowd, great food
Honke Owariya, serving soba for 18 generations

Here are some other places I've heard about or seen in Japanese magazines but haven't tried -- yet:

Yoshiya on the Pontocho (a historic, narrow lane astride the Kamo River, where geisha houses have been converted into restaurants), Japanese kappo ryori--fine counter dining
Masuda on the Pontocho, obanzai cuisine (Kyoto's traditional home cooking)
Takara ramen on the Pontocho, shoyu ramen with chicken stock is supposed to be fantastic (the cooks at my restaurant swear by it -- good sign!)
Kawakami, a traditional, historic ryotei in the Gion that serves classic kaiseki cuisine
Usui, obanzai cuisine (075-351-1529)
Fumido, yakiton, that is, grilled pork (075-212-5135)
Inaseya, yakitori and hormo (intestines) (075-255-7250)

Dig up info these places online. And, hey, do you have any places to recommend in Kyoto? C'mon spill the azuki beans! Please leave your picks in the comments!

Finally, here are some photos from my meal at Heikichi:

Posted by Harris Salat in Kyoto | Permalink | Comments (9) | Email | Print

Comments (9)

Yuzuya is a wonderful place attached to a ryokan. Located centrally in Gion and next to the Yasaka Shrine. http://www.yuzuyaryokan.com/eng/cuisine.html There's also a fun place called Spoon near the Nishiki Market that my wife and I enjoyed. http://kyoto-spoon.com/
The onion sounds phenomenal!
Hi, Wonderful info, many thanks. I will certainly visit Heikichi Negiya .A year ago my son and I went to Kyoto for a couple of days. It was nowhere near enough so I am going back in November for a couple of weeks. One meal that stands out was 'torisash' or sashimi chicken. We were led much of the way down Pontocho to a place right at the North end, 1 floor up (sorry no name) where my son had yakitori and I had the torisash. The place was empty, the food fabulous but it was early in the evening. What makes this so fantastic in my mind is that I can eat raw chicken (OK it was seared first) without fear. In the west one fears Salmonella in every bird. Would like to hear more about your Kyoto trip, esp. on budget eateries - it can be a fiercly expensive place. Don
Hi Harris, it's great to have more places in Kyoto to check out on my next trip. I may have already told you about this one, but it's one of my favorite spots in Kyoto and serves obanzai: Waraji Tei. Here's a link to some info on my Kyoto Googlemap. http://tinyurl.com/28dlcc8 I also enjoyed Okariba for grilled wild game and other exotic fare. http://tinyurl.com/244bb57 Have fun and please keep posting about your eating adventures! Best, Marco
Hi Harris: I've been following your beautiful blog for some time now and just wanted to say "thank you" or "arigato" for sharing all of your wonderful stories with us. I think what you are doing is simply fantastic and I dream of one day doing the same thing. Keep up the good work and gambare~ (^^)/
Hi Harris, I adore Honke Owariya. Kyoto is not known for soba, which somehow makes it all the more special. Masuda is rather famous and does attract tourists from around Japan, but food is always good, the space intimate and atmosphere warm. Kate
Nice! This makes me want to check out Kyoto again. I've been a couple times and had less than stellar experiences (outside of visiting the excellent Nishiki Market). Maybe I just need a local to show me around. I will definitely try out your dining recommendations, however.
Harris, Negiya is part of Kiwa Corporation - they have two shops in Kyoto, then a couple in Tokyo and some more in other cities. http://www.kiwa-group.co.jp/brand/l2.html Turns out that the place in the mall near my apartment where I used to get cheap udon sets on the weekend is in fact one of the branches - I never knew the name. At least I always liked it! Anyway, looks like I'm going to Kyoto next weekend, so I'll be able to try and report on some places.
hey harris, nice site. we really loved the kaiseki lunch set at gion karyo. after 15 yrs out of japan it really brought home all the fineries i remembered, at a v reasonable 3800yen pp. also loved isoya, super fresh tasty n hip.

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