Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Japan >
Feb 27, 2008 01:59 PM

Kyoto help

I have searched the boards already but it is a bit difficult as a few cities are lumped together.
Will probably take a trip up and back to Kyoto from Tokyo in the same day or maybe use the JTB 2 day plan(perhaps if only to feel a bit better than a 300 dollar train ride). Either way, similar amount of time there, basically mid afternoon to the next morning.

I have a few places written down.
Nishiki Market

I understand there is the orignial Kikunoi, also.

I don't much need to have a high priced meal, if I do I would probably go with Kikunoi.
Of course, reservations are a huge problem for me but it is what it is.

So, any other recs on places that would seem like a close to must.
Also, I can do without bowls of rice or noodles, 1 of those is enough.
Honestly, I am blanking on what I have read of Kyoto specialties but I would like something in the meat/fish category and in the low to mid budget choice(up to 7k JPY?), unless it is really great and should be tried instead of Kikunoi.

And if anyone wants to chime in if it is worth staying overnight for the next morning.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. It will be very rush to do Kyoto in just one day ! But looks like you are only interested in eating there.

    Anyway, I really like Nishiki Market, it is very interesting. It is quite large as it stretches a couple of streets. There are a lots of street food to eat there and lots of grocery stores to browse. I recommend one interesting small shop for seafood inside the market. I forgot the exact location but the name of it is shown in the picture below ...

    I was at the market one afternoon around 4:00pm and found there were a crowd of people inside the small shop or standing in front of the shop eating grilled seafood and drinking wine. When I looked closer, people selected seafood (like hugh scallop with size as big as my face, shrimp, clam, oyster ... ) from a stall next door, then the guy grilled the seafood on a big grill in the front section of the small shop. Plain delicious, and cheap ! I can't resist and have the hugh scallop and shrimp !

    There is also a very nice Tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) restaurant called Katsukura (名代). It has various branches but the main branch is at Kyoto. The interesting part is they give you a small bowl of freshly roasted white sesame seeds and a little fat stick. Then you do the grinding and mix it with the house special sauce to dip the tonkatsu. The smell of sesame get stronger and stronger when you are doing the grinding. The tonkatsu is using high quality pork, it is SO thick and SO tender with lots of juice ! Taste wonderful with the good smell from the sesame.

    The Tonkatsu set meal is around 2500 yen for the highest quality pork as there are a couple of grade to choose from.

    3 Replies
    1. re: skylineR33

      That is why the Japan board is the only one I can deal with anymore. The percentage of good info is high and it is easy to spot the few who should keep it to themselves.

      Nishiki looks very good to me and I appreciate the specifics as I really had none but was confident, nonetheless.

      And good looking out on the Tonkatsu(yes,I know what it is) recommendation.
      Great post, just what I was searching for.
      Looks like Nishiki and Katsukara and perhaps Kikunoi.
      Thank you very much, Skyline.

      1. re: gambit50

        Hi gambit50, here are more pictures of the Nishiki market for reference. Hope it will give you more idea.

      2. re: skylineR33


        Last time I was there, we stopped by a stall and sat outside eating freshly grilled oysters. The market is a great place to try out. Right by that stall, there was a seafood stall with skewers of marinated tuna. I believe there was an italian version as well as two others. I'd skip those if I were you.

      3. If you were to do Kikunoi, I would suggest going for lunch rather than dinner. It's much more reasonably priced (at the main branch, the prices start around Y8000 for lunch, and at the Kiyamachi branch, even less), and while the food won't be as extravagant, it will still be a good experience. You can get their fax number off their website--it's much easier to make reservations in English with faxes (just include an email contact address or fax number to which they can reply).

        Then you can do Katsukura for dinner--it's my favourite katsu place, but not all Katsukura are equal. Some are definitely more consistent than others. They do have English menus, so make sure to ask for one if you don't read Japanese (there are different types of pork, as skylineR33 suggests, but also different weights, etc. that you can order--my favourite is the katsu/ebi katsu set. The ebi is HUGE!).

        I also like Ten-you for tempura, if you're in the mood for other fried food. :-)

        6 Replies
        1. re: prasantrin

          Which are the better or best Katsukara? What level of difference is there?
          I hate faxes, this is not 1986 where I walk around with a 4kg cellphone.
          Though, now that you mention it, probably an effective method, so thanks for bringing it up.
          Question, if they will take an email address to reply back to me, why not take email?
          Not sure if I will do tempura while there. Is Tenyu really good? If it is special, maybe.
          Thanks for chiming in, in any case.

          1. re: gambit50

            For Katsukura, though I haven't been to all of them, the ones on Higashitoin and Sanjo are usually pretty consistent. The one on Sanjo usually has a longer wait during prime eating hours because of the location. If you happen to be in Kobe, the one in Mint (right by JR and Hankyu Sannomiya Stations) is always good, but the one in Umeda (in the basement of Applause Town) is my least favourite. Don't forget, at Katsukura you get all-you-can-eat cabbage, miso soup, and rice. That's important for some people! :-)

            A lot of Japanese websites don't provide email addresses, but they do provide fax numbers (I don't know anyone in Japan who doesn't have a fax machine). I had actually intended for the email address to be provided in addition to a fax number, not instead of, but I wasn't clear. Sometimes, even if a business doesn't have an email address, the owner or an English-speaking employee may have a personal email address which they may be willing to use to contact you, but from my experience, faxes are always best for non-Japanese speakers.

            I love Ten-you (which is how they transliterate their name). I think the tempura is very good (I had a perfect scallop there, and I loved the anago spine!), but that is not to say you can't get better elsewhere (I haven't, but the only other high-ish-end Kyoto tempura place I've dined at more than once is Ten-ichi, and I think Ten-you is much better. I do like the tempura at O-men, but it isn't their specialty). What I love most about Ten-you is the atmosphere. It's very Kyoto, and it has its share of Kyoto-ite regulars (every time I've eaten there, I meet the same family--I think they must eat there every day).

            BTW, in Nishiki there's also a place that sells grilled anago, and they have a counter at which you can eat. The servings are on the small side, so don't expect to be full when you leave, but their anago-don is very good. If you like anago, it's a nice place for a snack (albeit an expensive snack).

            1. re: prasantrin

              I have been to Ten-ichi but not Ten-you. Had a pretty good anago. Ten-ichi is so convenient as it is just at the train station. Is Ten-you a more expensive place ?

              The one on Sanjo (which is the first one in the location list of the website) is the main branch of Katsukura.

              1. re: skylineR33

                Ten-you at lunch (I've never been for dinner) starts at around Y5000 for the kaiseki (a little more), Y3000 for the donburi (I think the donburi kaiseki is Y3600). I can't remember the prices at Ten-ichi, but I think Ten-you is more expensive. I prefer the atmosphere at Ten-you--it's a little more subdued and refined, and much more Kyoto. It's a very simple place (I've only eaten at the second floor counter, though. I don't know what the upper floor is like).

                I knew the Sanjo branch of Katsukura was the main one, but I didn't realize it until a couple of years ago. I didn't even know there was a Katsukura there until a couple of years ago, but I had been going to the Higashitoin branch since the early/mid-90s! Back then I thought the Higashitoin one was the only one...

                More about food in Kyoto...Gambit50 originally mentioned Arashiyama as a destination. I like Arashiyama for sightseeing, but I don't find most of the food options to be very interesting unless you're going to the really high-end options (like Kitcho--despite its recent newsworthy faults, I hear the Arashiyama one is still honourable). I've seen recommendations for the Shojin-ryori place at Tenryuji, but I don't find the food to be particularly good there. Interesting, but not really tasty. I'm happy to have had the experience of eating there, but I wouldn't go again unless I were someone else's guest (i.e. unless I didn't have a choice and I didn't have to pay). If you do go there, if you have trouble sitting on the floor, if you ask they'll provide you with little chairs and a slightly taller tray for your food, so you can eat more comfortably. I thought that was a nice gesture.

                1. re: prasantrin

                  Interesting comments about Shigetsu (the vegetarian place at Tenryuji). Are there other shojin-ryori spots that you vastly prefer? I've heard good things about Izusen but haven't been yet...

                  1. re: Robb S

                    I haven't been to Izusen, yet, either. I only remember two things about the food at Shigetsu (it's been almost a year since I ate there)--the melon was overripe (I didn't mind that so much), and the nasu dengaku was painfully sweet. I really like any kind of dengaku, but I don't even think I finished that particular one.

                    I haven't had enough shojin-ryori in Kyoto to recommend any particular restaurant, but I vastly prefered the food at the shukubo I stayed at in Koya-san.

                    I wonder if the food at Shigetsu would have been better had I ordered the most expensive meal. We ordered the mid-priced meal, I think. I might try them again, but I doubt it. Too many other places to try.

        2. I don't understand a lot of these responses. If you're making a special trip to Kyoto for a day for the purpose of eating, shouldn't you try to get some Kyoto food that you can't get most anywhere else in Japan? It seems like such a waste to travel to Kyoto to have tonkatsu when you can get good tonkatsu almost anywhere in Japan. It's like sending someone to New Orleans to eat pizza. Most Japanese who travel to Kyoto will want to eat some kind of Kyoto cuisine, like tofu, yuba, obanzai, or kyo-kaiseki, either at a ryotei restaurant or a ryokan. For one opportunity to have dinner in Kyoto, I think I'd rather send someone to a classic ryokan with a good classic kyo-kaiseki dinner. It would be an extra plus to have an onsen to soak in.

          6 Replies
          1. re: E Eto

            Kikunoi is already mentioned as kyo-kaiseki + the Nishiki Market is all kyoto exclusive. Or what else can it be for a trip that runs from mid afternoon to the next morning ? The convenient and famous Kyoto train station ramen stadium ? And the main branch of Katsukura is really at Kyoto and it is quite a experience to grind the sesame I think, in case if OP has no time to visit other Tonkatsu in his/her trip to Japan, it is worth a mention.

            1. re: skylineR33

              I guess this topic has just concentrated on so little of what Kyoto has to offer. I'm sure Kikunoi offers some wonderful food, but there are hundreds of other places worth visiting.
              I also agree that Nishiki market is a must-visit, especially for the food shopping (I love the tsukemono shops there), and while the food sampling can be good for snacking, I'd rather have a sit-down lunch at an obanzai ryori place. I wouldn't really consider the ramen stadium for a short trip to Kyoto. Also, there are plenty of tonkatsu places where you grind you own sesame, even in NYC. But here's an example of one place in Tokyo:

              1. re: E Eto

                Never say grinding sesame is unique in Kyoto. There are also plenty of kaiseki places, tofu/vegetable places in other cities of the world. Plus OP is asking meat/fish recommendation (the original post) dude.

                1. re: skylineR33

                  Sorry. It just seemed like you like to goma-suri.

                2. re: E Eto

                  I've been to many katsu places where you can grind your own sesame, too, but Katsukura has the best katsu of all of them. I'm sure there are better places to have katsu, but Katsukura is, in my opinion, one of the best easily accessible places.

                  There are hundreds of places one can recommend in Kyoto, but really, in terms of food there's very little in Kyoto that can't be had elsewhere. You can focus on Kyoto "specialties" like yuba, but I've been to other cities and towns around Japan that claim the same specialties, and everything is available in Tokyo, anyway. So then why not recommend places in Kyoto that just have good food, regardless of what that food is? I don't think it's unreasonable to do so, even if those foods can be found elsewhere in Japan.

                  For gambit50, I know noodles weren't a highlight for you, but O-men is well known for its udon in Kyoto. It's not served all together in a big bowl, but each part (vegetables, broth, noodles, sesame) is separate so you can mix as you please. If you happen to be in the mood for noodles the one day you're in Kyoto, I would suggest trying it. They have other food, too, and I especially liked their tempura and sansho chicken. The menu is entirely in Japanese, but when we went to the Gokomachi branch, the owner's (?) nephew was working, so he helped us with the menu (he lived in New York for a while).

                  1. re: E Eto

                    Hi E Eto,

                    If I may ask, what are some of your favorite Kyoto eateries? :) I'm going to be visiting Kyoto soon as well and would love to hear some more recommendations.

              2. Thanks gambit50 (and everyone) chiming in on this thread. Very helpful info. :)

                It's my first time in Kyoto and I'm going to have a situation somewhat similar to gambit50's, just a little more time:

                * I have 1 Lunch, 2 Dinners and 2 Breakfast "slots" open during my stay in Kyoto. :)

                I'll probably fit similar choices like gambit50 with:

                * Nishiki Market
                * Katsukura (Sanjo) (if I'm not tonkatsu'd out by the time I get there from Tokyo :)
                * Kikunoi (maybe)

                As a follow-up:

                1. Are there any cool / modern or traditional Japanese Breakfast places to try in Kyoto?

                2. Any other great restaurants (can be ghetto or top-class - just want good food :) to try in Kyoto?