Kyoto is fast proving itself to me as being a major destination for foodies! There are definitely heaps of traditional Japanese foods on offer here, as well as local specialities and I was so glad I was able to tick off numerous of these on the list. Here are some recommendations of things you should totally try when you next find your belly in Kyoto!
In Kyoto, sushi is traditionally done different. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it sure is worth trying if you are in the city. Kyoto style sushi is not your regular sushi. They use cured fish and lots more vinegar than usual sushi, giving it a much more stronger burst of flavour. The oldest Kyoto style sushi restaurant in Kyoto is Izuju Sushi which is right on the main road outside Yasaka Shrine. It’s extremely popular, so I would recommend visiting at odd hours. Most people recommend trying at least the mackerel sushi (aka saba sushi) there and if you are in a group, you can order the Sushi Combo sets available to sample a bit of everything. Pictured above is the Sushi combo set for 2 people. Whilst my sister isn’t the biggest fan of this kind of sushi, I absolutely love it!
One of Kyoto’s local specialties is tofu so it’s definitely a must have when you’re in the city. Touseian Kyoto is a small hole-in-a-wall place is not something you’ll find in a tourist guide but most definitely a place you’ll see the locals huddled in. They do a multi-course tofu kaiseki (how amazing does that sound!) and you can even cook/make your own ‘yuba’/tofu skin here as well! If you love tofu, you’ll sure be eating it a lot here – think agedashi tofu, tofu skin, fried tofu, soybean mousse dessert (the best), and even a strong fermented tofu ‘cheese’ (most definitely an acquired taste).
Last time when I went to Japan, I really wanted to visit AWOMB but it was booked out way in advance. This time, we finally managed to get a seat. AWOMB offers this unique sushi style platter set meal which is kind of like de-constructured meal. It comes with instructions on how to eat it which looked really complicated when actually all it really was trying to convey was to mix everything and eat it together! The atmosphere in this cosy place is gorgeous and filled with light and the meal itself was so intricately put together with so many different flavours, textures and combinations. There are two AWOMB branches – the one we went to was AWOMB Gion Yasaka.
We came to Saryo Suisen to try the 3D matcha latte. They do lots of different matcha desserts but their 3D art really caught out eye so we decided to skip all the ice-cream and jelly and order this instead. With the matcha lattes here, you pay a few hundred yen extra for the 3D art. They’re super cute you won’t want to drink them!
Pass the Baton
Looking for a family sized serving of green tea shaved ice? We headed to Pass the Baton to try theirs out. Note: we went there with the intention of ordering one to share between two (because it’s actually gigantic) but were told that it was one order per person, so be aware of that. Whilst I saw heaps of people leave their green tea shaved ice half eaten (like us in the end, unfortunately), I also saw a few people single handedly tackle it all in one sitting as well.
This 548 year old shop is down the street from the Imperial Palace and is one of the most popular soba noodle restaurants in Kyoto. I’d recommend getting a seat here at abnormal hours, because this place does attract lines during peak meal times. Again, this restaurant also requires each person to order at least one dish which is hard when you’re small eaters. So we ended up ordering this giant soba noodle set (which is actually for one person!) to share, and then a separate dessert to share after. Soba in Japan is delicious and nothing like the packet ones you buy here!
Isetan Food Hall at Kyoto Station
Before my first trip to Japan, I had some people tell me to make sure I visit Isetan’s food department. I had no idea what they were talking about and no idea what to expect. Was it going to be like Marks and Spencer in the UK where they just have a heap of sandwiches? We ended up stumbling into the Food Hall at Isetan whilst getting lost in the underground passages of Kyoto station and it was a total foodies heaven!
Sushi no Musashi
We’ve eaten here numerous time before – both eat in and takeaway and I’ve got to say they do some pretty good sushi, yummm. Don’t let the train station location fool you – in fact, some of the best eateries in Japan are found at train stations! Sushi no Musashi does conveyor belt sushi and the menu here is extensive and is especially suited for those who have a preference of wasabi or not because they serve both options. Their takeaway boxes are also great for shinkansen rides and aren’t pricey at all.
Kyoto Ramen Koji (Ramen St) at Kyoto Station
Another place you should definitely check out at Kyoto Station is the ‘Ramen Street’. It’s an entire floor full of ramen shops (maybe 10~) total with each one serving their own specialty or type of ramen. We’ve eaten at about 3-4 of them and they’re all equally special and delicious in their own way. There’s this one particular restaurant that is a standout for me though and that is the one that does the dipping ramen noodles. I just love dipping noodles and there’s so much flavour in this one.
I can’t seem to find the name of this shop anymore but I have seen a couple of branches in the Gion District area. One is on the north side of Shijo Dori near Kawaramachi station and the other one is buried amongst the shops on Matsubara Dori (or around there). Both shops serve ‘warabi-mochi’, a type of mochi that has a jelly kind of consistency inside and is covered with matcha powder outside. You can watch them make it fresh at the front of the store and they taste sooo good.