Continuing with Kyoto
I have been reading the posts for days, translating menus and websites am soooo frustrated-- need help!!! Continuing with Kyoto
2 in days Kyoto July.
Our hotel is in Eastern Kyoto area but we use public transporation. We are sophisticated, foodies, love really good food and have been to some of the best restaurants in the world. We like adult-like places but will go to a “hole in the wall” for really good food. We do not like sake, so drink is not an issue. We are willing to spend $100-150 per person for dinner, are not large eaters and usually grab something small for lunch (even pastry or ice cream). We are going to Japan for a total experience not just food BUT food is very important.
Ten You for tempura. Okay?
Considering Kikunoi Honten as a splurge. Is it worth it?
Or GIro Giro for less expense.
Anything not to be missed?
Will post other cities separately.
I went to Giro Giro last month.
To put our visit into context, we splurged on accommodation on 4 places choosing higher end ryokan which served really wonderful kaiseki ryori meals. The rest of the time we mostly ate at pretty inexpensive places offering katsu, tempura, ramen, yakiniku beef and so on.
We had a good evening at Giro Giro, and enjoyed our meal well enough, but we didn't love it.
- The vibe is very positive, guests are made to feel welcome, and there are a lot of foreign visitors as well a few Japanese customers.
- Enough English is spoken between the team to explain all the dishes.
- Some of the dishes show a little innovation in how they're put together and in presentation, compared to very traditional places.
- Quality of the food didn't match up to the three best kaiseki ryori meals we had in three different ryokan, by quite a long shot.
- Some dishes were decent but marred by imprecise cooking, with protein being a little tough and dry on occasion. Partly overcooked, and partly the way they tend to prepare and cook a lot of the components ahead and then assemble the plates for each guests as they are needed. Whilst some of the dishes were meant to be cold, there were some others where an element we think was meant to be served hot or at least warm was tepid.
- The whole thing felt a bit rushed. We tried to take our time on each dish, to slow it down a little, but in all honesty, we felt in and out rather too quickly.
We did have a pleasant meal, but I wouldn't go again, whereas I'd love to go back to several of the other places we visited, not just those elaborate kaiseki ryori meals but some of the less expensive places too.
By the way, can I recommend Katsukura in Kyoto Station (11th Floor)? Best tonkatsu we had of the three places we tried. We also went to Maisen (though didn't order the black pork, or whichever the premium one is) which was also very good but felt Katsukura better on taste. And price too, actually.
I can also recommend Katsukura; there's a branch on Teramachi. We are staying in Eastern Kyoto; our FAVORITE go to restaurant is Bamboo, a casual izakaya restaurant. Its address is Higashiyama-ku, HIgashiyama Sanjo Higashi iru, Minami gawa 1st floor. It's on the south side of Sanjo dori, no more than a 100 yd or so east of Higashioji dori, near the mouth of a traditional old shopping arcade. Lots of bamboo in the front. Order omakase or ala carte. Ask for the English menu if you want to order ala carte.
I have been to quite a few places serving highend Kyoto cuisine. I only went to Kikunoi Hoten for lunch, I must say, given the high expectation, it was underwhelming. Part of the reason was because my concierge only ordered a Bento lunch, rather than a multicourse meal.
I am not a fan of Tenyou. Quality is above average, ingredients is seasonal. But there is no one ingredient that particularly stands out. In fact, I find its mushroom too oily. For what the meal includes, I think it is too expensive. I would MUCH prefer Kyoboshi.
For me, a restaurant not to be missed is Isshin. It specialises in beef. Every course in the meal to some extent includes beef. Different parts of the cow is prepared using different methods, bringing out different flavour. I recall that they serve noodles made from beef.
For traditional Kyoto Keiseki meal, Ogata is impressive in that they only use the best (probably v expensive) ingredients. I also like Gion Maruyama, I recall I told them I am not fond of grilled fish(a very usual component of a kaiseki meal) (you can inform the restaurant of your likes and dislikes), and they made a delicious nabe dish out of soft shell turtle for me (suppon-nabe) instead.
For high-end Kaiseki meals, $100-150 is probably not enough.
I love Ten You (I think I've been one of their more consistent cheerleaders here). I can't say their tempura is the absolute best, but the entire experience will give you a full taste of Kyoto (not everyone appreciates the simplicity, but I love it).
You might also want to consider Spoon. I enjoyed my meal there, especially the yuba pizza.
If you want something a little more unusual, consider Okariba. They specialize in game and other items less commonly available in Japan (like crickets--or were they grasshoppers?).