Kyoto is very famous for its fine cuisines. For centuries, culinary arts have been influenced by the local monk culture, and it’s not just about sushi. In fact, you might be surprised to know that sushi is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a wide variety of restaurants all over Kyoto which provide you with access to all kind of dishes. Below is a list of the best Japanese cuisines to try on your visit to this beautiful country.
TAKEAWAY: If you’d like to enjoy a whole Japanese experience, stay overnight in a Ryokan. These traditional establishments can offer you a glipse of Japanese lifestyle with kaiseki meals, futon beds, a Zen garden, tatami floors, and Japanese style baths.
The Gourmet: Kaiseki
Kaiseki is a type of light Japanese food commonly served with tea in many Kyoto restaurants. The level of diversity, taste, and uniqueness of the dishes make it a highly demanding cuisine not only in Japan. You can try the best Japanese Kaiseki cuisine in Hyotei, one of the three-starts Michelin restaurants found in Kyoto.
The Buddhist Cuisine: Shojin Ryori
Buddhist monks developed the Shojin Ryori. This cuisine does not employ any food products made from animals. Therefore, it is a very healthy way of cooking as it only uses seasonal fruits, herbs, and vegetables. In other words, this cuisine is made for vegans. If you have never tried the Shojin Ryori, get ready for a very colorful, creative and delicious dish. Just be aware that Shojin Ryori restaurants are usually located inside Buddhist temples.
The Healthy: Soba Noodles
Soba is considered—along with Shojin Ryori—the healthiest Japanese cuisine. That’s because it is mainly made up of buckwheat flour. Although it is a very simple way of cooking, it can be served with Dashi and other ingredients like tempura and seasonal herbs. Don’t waste your time looking for a good Soba restaurant—head straight to Honke Owariya where you will have the best Soba dish in all of Japan.
The Classic: Sushi
This is without a shroud of doubt, the most famous dish in Kyoto and —mostly— everywhere in Japan. Even though you may have tried sushi in Japanese restaurants in your country, when tried in Japan it’s like having a journey back to the ground traditions of this millennial culture. It is made up of raw fish accompanied by vegetables, rice, herbs, and wasabi. In Kyoto, you can try the best sushi dishes in Den Shichi (an amazing sushi bar) and Ganko Sushi (a very experienced sushi restaurant).
The Japanese Barbecue: Yakiniku
Yakiniku is not just your regular barbecue meat. It is, in fact, cooked with Japanese spices and herbs to create a very sensational and tasty dish. Whenever you visit Kyoto, try your best to stop by a Yakiniku restaurant. The city is full of these, so it may be quite challenging to know which ones are the best. Asking the locals for advice or searching for online reviews are ways of finding a good Yakiniku restaurant.
The Most Traditional: Udon Noodles
Although sushi is the most famous Japanese dish, Udon is the most traditional one. You can easily find many restaurants in Kyoto that offer a wide variety of Udon dishes. This cuisine is made up of a thick type of conventional Japanese noodles that are served in a soup called Dashi—usually made up of seafood and soy sauce. It is a whole new culinary experience. The Omen restaurant serves the best Udon noodles. Just head down the hill of the Ginkaku-Ji Temple, and there you’ll find this great dining spot. This environment is also the recommended area to stay in Kyoto, as you’ll find many other food joints that deliver fine Kyoto cuisines.
The All-Time Favorite: Tofu
Even though you may know what tofu tastes like, once you visit Tosuiro in Kyoto, you’ll have a different view. Tosuiro is tofu-lovers’ safe haven. Besides, if you’re in the mood to try new things, Yudofu cuisine is an excellent pick. This Arashiyama Buddhist dish (variety of tofu) is cooked in hot broth to enhance its flavor. From word on the streets, the best Yudofu restaurant in Kyoto is Yudofu Sagano.
The Unforgettable: Ramen
Kyoto has many Ramen joints, but the best one is Ippudo Ramen. If you’re wondering whether or not all noodle dishes are the same, don’t be mistaken: Ramen is nothing like Soba or Udon! The noodle composition is different, and the main side ingredient in Ramen is, of course, its crispy dumplings. It would be a sin to visit Japan and miss out on a Ramen dish.
Kyoto is a fantastic city to try a wide variety of Japanese cuisines. The different types of Kyoto cuisines explained in this article are among the best in Japan, but don’t be surprised if you find many more. Japan is among the culinary icons of the world, so if you get the chance enjoy all the different variations that the Japanese cuisine has to offer.