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Jul 20, 2008 07:41 PM

Kaiseki meal in Kyoto

We're heading to Japan next Friday. After looking for a Kaiseki meal in Kyoto I came across an article in Travel and Leisure that mentioned chef Yoshihiro Murata's fabulous kaiseki dinners at Kikunoi in Kyoto it says it is about $300 for 2 people. Has anyone tried this restaurant or have another suggestion? Thank you for your help.

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  1. Murata is an masterful chef, a bit controversial in Kyoto. 300 sounds a bit short, maybe closer to 400 bucks.

    1. I have also come across Minoko. I will probably only do one Kaiseki meal. I want the whole authentic experience what do you think?

      1. The absolute cheapest dinner at the main branch of Kikunoi is Y15 750 plus tax and service charge, and the most expensive Y26 250. That doesn't, as far as I know, include sake or other alcoholic beverages. If it's your first time with kaiseki, I think lunch would be a better option than dinner. --scroll to the bottom for price list.

        6 Replies
        1. re: prasantrin

          The english version does not say how much it costs so I was going by an article in food and wine and another in travel in leisure both of which say it is about $150 per person for the meal.

          1. re: miamisweet

            As you can see from the link I gave (babelfish can give you a basic idea of what is written, assuming you don't read Japanese), the cheapest meal is about that, a little more once you factor in service (assuming it's about 10% for service, which is standard for high-end Japanese restaurants). (the prices do in fact include tax, contrary to what I wrote above)

            If you have your heart set on dinner rather than lunch, and it's your first experience with kaiseki, the cheapest set is a good choice. But if you have some familiarity with the type of food that will be served and you really enjoy it, then I would go all out and get the most expensive meal which is much more than what you've read.

            Traditional kaiseki is a great experience, but in terms of food, if I'm going to spend more than Y15 000 for one person, I'd rather spend it elsewhere. I love the experience, but the food doesn't really excite me (other than the presentation).

            1. re: prasantrin

              This is my first time in Japan and in all truth spending over 150 per person is shocking. I don't think i want to spend anymore than $400 for this meal for 2 people. It will be my first and only kaiseki meal. Thank you for your help.

              1. re: miamisweet

                You can stay at a ryokan with decent kaiseki dinner and wonderful traditional Japanese breakfast for less than $400 for two ppl. And some even have onsen.

                My favorite ones are in Arashiyama so I hope someone else can help you with ryokan in the city center.

          2. re: prasantrin

            I am planning a solo trip to Tokyo and Kyoto next April (21-28) and I am really interested to have at least couple of kaiseki. I am thinking Nikishi and Kikunoi for 2 dinners but my concern is whether it is acceptable for a solo female to dine in a kaiseki restaurant. Would appreciate any advice where relevant. Thank you!

            1. re: skinnyepicurean

              It's certainly acceptable for a single female to dine from a deportment POV, but single diners are not always acceptable from a business POV. I've never had problems whenever I've dined alone (I am female) when I've been able to get reservations, but a lot of restaurants don't accept parties of one.

              My point is, don't worry about being a single female, just worry about getting a reservation. And if you can get in, enjoy!

          3. I sometimes find that I am underwhelmed when going to famous kaiseki places. Maybe I just haven't gone to the right ones. 2 years ago I was very nonplussed about Kinmata, and I always thought I loved kyo-ryori. I find that as the cost gets lower, I have less risk of getting disappointed.

            My first kyo-ryori experience 10 yrs ago was at Nishiki in Arashiyama. They have a few sets under JPY 10k and I thought it was wonderful. Weblink:

            8 Replies
            1. re: Peech

              I can wholly recommend Nishiki in Arashiyama. Whilst I (sadly) don't have the experience to compare with others, I've been there 3 times as it is the place that my father in law takes guests to. You can choose the number of courses you would like which means you can experience some sublime food starting at around ¥4,600 for 6 courses. I'd recommend booking ahead however I suspect english won't be available so ask a japanese friend/ hotel staff. Also whilst you can go for the top ¥21,000 spread if you have that sort of money spare, we generally have the ¥6,800 9 courses which leaves me fairly satisfied. One last tip, if you book a course other than the ¥4,600 you can ask for your own private dining room which really adds to the special occasion.

              1. re: jb1973

                I hear really good things about Nishiki. It is featured in the book "Old Kyoto" ( pg. 197.) The prices look very reasonable though Nishki has changed their pricing a bit since jb1973 posted. They've upped the number of courses and lowered some prices. If I'm reading it right:
                8 Course: ¥4,600
                9 Course: ¥6,100
                10 Course: ¥7,300
                There's still a ¥21,000 option (about $230 at time of posting) and you must order the 10 Course meal to get a private room.

                1. re: DoomGoober

                  My kaiseki experience at Nishiki was delightful! The restaurant edges a small little island which is dominated by a public park. The path onto the island is the famous bridge Togetsukyō which is lit with colored lights. Little modern shops line the road to Togetsukyō, which my girlfriend quite enjoyed.

                  We had our own little private room with tatami mats and a beautiful flower arrangement. Fortunately, the waitress knew most of the English names of the key ingredients and my girlfriend managed to read some of the Kanji. Each dish highlighted a special ingredient, with some being boiled, pickled, stewed, grilled or cooked in stock. Many of the dishes were interactive, cooked at the table or requiring the eater to mix some ingredients.

                  If you're ever in Kyoto, Nishiki it's well worth it and much cheaper than most of the Kaiseki meals offered around town. Making reservations was a bit difficult as no one speaks English (I had a Japanese speaking friend make the reservations for me.)

                  We had the $73 USD/person ten course meal which was a bit too much food but the minimum required for a private room.

                  1. re: DoomGoober

                    I just wanted to put update on this recommendation. I went in April 2010 and everything still applies. It's very good and a great price. I had the 10 course meal during the Sakura blossom season. The meal I had may not be what you get because certain things had a Sakura theme. I'm fairly sure it was seasonal, but still spectacular. Bonus points.

                    They also have someone who can speak some English on the phone now. No problems making a reservation.

                    I recommend you day trip to Arashiyama, there is a monkey park and temples to see. Then you can round your day out with some great food.

                    1. re: Miike

                      I visited the restaurant website, which is 100% in Japanese, and the menu items are all listed in Japanese characters without any pictures. Because I speak no Japanese and will be traveling to Kyoto alone, is there any hope for me in terms of being able to know what the menu items are and being able to place an order? :-) Thank you in advance for your reply!

                      1. re: Madame_Peach

                        I was going to suggest google translate, which does an adequate job, but it doesn't work for that webpage. I would suggest asking your hotel concierge to translate the menu choices for you.

                        As an aside, I used Google Translate to translate their July menu, and for "suriyuzu", they translated it as "citron ass". :-D

                        1. re: Madame_Peach

                          I can't tell what restaurant you're referring to, but if it's kaiseki the restaurant usually doesn't give you much choice of food - you just select by the price of the prix-fixe menu.

                        2. re: Miike

                          Just came back from a kaiseki dinner at Nishiki and it was excellent. The six of us had the 10 course meal for ¥7,300 in a private room, and the experience was wonderful. Food was extremely seasonal and well cooked, presentation was meaningful and exquisite, surroundings and service were flawless. I also highly recommend this place.

                2. Kikunoi is great, but it isn't authentic Kyo-ryori. Also, it has no history. The owner/chef only studied cooking for 2 years before starting out on his own.

                  Kichisen (AKA Kisen) rules. The owner defeated an Iron Chef! It is very, very authentic kyo-ryori.


                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Peko.Peko

                    I really can't believe what you wrote. To put it nicely, you are misinformed. Yes Kikunoi is Kaiseki, not home cooking (Kyo-ryori) but Murata has a great admiration for Kyo-ryori and incorporates many of its dishes into his KAISEKI courses. Many people in Kyoto don't like Murata because he is very self promoting, often appears on tv, his business is successful, he is talkative, and he is awfully fond of himself. You need to take what is said about him in Kyoto with a large grain of salt. There is a lot of envy.

                    Murata did not just study for 2 years before starting on his own, his grandfather started Kikunoi in 1912 and thus is considered a relative newcomer in Kyoto. I don't want to write a bio, but let's just say Murata is highly trained and his cooking skills and food knowledge are beyond reproach.

                    1. re: steamer

                      I heard Murata-san say in a television interview that he went to France to study cooking and he came back after 6 months, he said he made several friends in France and that he didn't study cooking there.

                      I have eaten at Kikunoi more times than I can count, and I always enjoyed it. However, Murata-san IS a nouveau chef, his cuisine is not authentically 'Kyoto'. I am not saying that is bad, I am just saying that it isn't 'Kyoto'.

                      I heard from someone that worked at Kikunoi a long time ago that Murata-san worked at a restaurant, not in Kyoto, for like 2 years before going to work at Kikunoi, the family business.

                      I have a great deal of respect for Murata-san because he is successful and is open to the outside world. I like the fact that he authored an English language book about Kaiskei and that he does the food for Singapore Airlines. I think that is great. I know several people in Kyoto that have poo-pooed him for that and I always tell them that they are wrong.

                      Still, his cuisine isn't Kyoto.

                      1. re: Peko.Peko

                        There was an article about him in Kateigaho International that touches on his background, I think. I'll look it up.

                        1. re: prasantrin

                          I went to Kikunoi back in 2009, and was very dissapointed. Presentation was nice enough, but food was incredibly bland. Also I was abit annoyed that they wanted me to eat a fried noodle stick that was garnish. It did nothing in terms of flavor to complement the dish. Perhaps my dissapointment came from my high expectations, but this meal is still memorable for being supremely terrible 2 years later. But things change, perhaps they are better now.

                    2. re: Peko.Peko

                      Hi Peko,

                      I follow your blog and I do think you "know" Kyoto better than any other blogger in English. But I'm not sure if it's fair to criticise Kikunoi not for having any history, though. Isn't kaiseki (as we know it) itself only a couple generations old?

                      I thought kaiseki (as more than a light meal, one that made an ethos of seasonality) only extended back to the 1930s, when people like Rosanjin and Tokuoka started combining honzen-ryori and cha-ryori. Those two people are also known (I believe) for incorporating foreign influences, so I'm not sure how useful it is to talk about "authentically" Kyoto when it comes to kaiseki.

                      Kikunoi goes back three generations, just like the likes of Kitcho. Now that might not mean anything, since a restaurant like Kichisen is first-generation (I think). But I don't think it is so simple.

                      Anyway, I like your blog and look forward to going to Kichisen one day. Their osechi looks particularly good.

                      1. re: anarcist

                        I wish there was a like button cause you just dropped some knowledge! That just got me even more pumped for kaiseki. It's like a formally progressing tapas based on season, can't wait to try it!

                      2. re: Peko.Peko

                        I know this thread is 5 years old - but i just wanted to let you know that I decided to go to Kichisen because of your posts on this thread, and it was such a fantastic experience! Thank you so much :)