While only a few hours from Tokyo, Kyoto has its own forms of cuisine that we wanted to sample while visiting and there were a still some holdouts from our Tokyo list that we wanted to try, such as yakitori. Here’s what we ate in Kyoto:
Top of our Kyoto list was a traditional Kyoto style of eating called kaiseki, or a multi-course Japanese dinner that does not involve sushi. These dinners can be pretty expensive and also come with no fewer than 12 courses. They can also be a bit….ambitious. After surveying some friends, we made a reservation at Gion Namba in the Gion part of Kyoto known for where the geishas can be spotted. After walking down a narrow, unmarked alleyway we came across this Michelin-starred restaurant.
The atmosphere at Gion Namba is great. We sat at the bar with three other people and watched the chefs get to work. While the quality of everything we were served was top notch I’m sure, it was a bit too adventurous for us to fully appreciate. Many of the dishes we indiscernible or had odd textures. I picked on a few of the courses but wound up passing my dishes to my boyfriend when the chef wasn’t looking, resulting in him being uncomfortably full. My verdict: if you are a true foodie and an adventurous eater, this is worth the price tag and you should make a reservation. if not, skip this and go for something more low-key.
The next day we were out and about seeing all of the temples and shrines and wanted to have a quick lunch so that we could get right back out there and explore. While walking toward the Silver Palace, we stumbled upon an udon spot called Omen.
Omen was great on all fronts. We quickly were seated to a table where we sat cross-legged on a mat and perused the menu of soba, udon and other noodles. I ordered an udon dish and my boyfriend ordered soba and we sampled each others.
After a fancy and rich dinner the night before for kaiseki, we wanted something more laid back for our second night in Kyoto. That’s why we were really excited to stumble upon Torito after having drinks at Yamitoya, a bar that had come recommended by friends. After speaking with the bartender about local cuisine in the neighborhood, we learned about a yakitori spot calles Torito that is a local favorite. We ran (literally, it was so cold out) from Yamitoya to Torito and sat at the bar to watch the chefs at work. Yakitori is a Japanese cuisine that involves meat skewers of all different varieties. The meats are cooked on grills and open flames and you can go as basic or adventurous (I’m looking at you, chicken hearts) as you want. We wound up getting chicken breast, thigh, skin, meatballs and other skewers that were delicious. They are seasoned and grilled and as close as you’re going to get to a paleo meal in Japan. It was a really nice contrast to our adventurous day of eating the prior day. This served as our Thanksgiving dinner, and it definitely beat dry turkey and cranberry sauce.
A strange thing happened in Asia that I’ve found amusing ever since. Any time we found something American, including U.S. chains, I got irrationally happy and found myself gravitating toward my creature comforts after days of eating Asian food, which was delicious, but also a bit much after a while. So, when we came across a Starbucks or other chains (typically at breakfast), I insisted we go in and find Greek yogurt or muffins and such. So, when we were walking around Kyoto and stumbled upon a Dean & Deluca near city center, I was ecstatic. We ran in and I surveyed the glass cases of prepared foods before deciding on a quiche and iced coffee which set us up perfectly for the rest of the day.
Check out our other Asia Travel Guides:
Travel Guide: Where to Stay in Tokyo
Travel Guide: Tokyo Itinerary
Travel Guide: Where To Eat In Tokyo
Travel Guide: Kyoto Itinerary
Travel Guide: Hong Kong
Travel Guide: Where to Stay in Hong Kong
Travel Guide: Where to Eat in Hong Kong