Header image courtesy of Kichisen
Kyoto used to be the capital of Japan, a region known for its stunning historic temples and gardens. But there’s more to the city than its rich heritage—its fine dining scene is brimming with luxury eats, some of which are Michelin starred. As the birthplace of kaiseki cooking—the most formal type of Japanese cooking—Kyoto boasts an abundance of choices including the aforementioned classic. Here are some of the best luxury restaurants in Kyoto to pique your palate.
Experience a unique Japanese fine dining experience at Kyoto Kitcho, a three Michelin-starred restaurant from the Kansai guide. The venue initially opened as a dealership for antiques back in 1948, before it became what it is today. Surrounded by exquisite scenery, the eatery showcases Japan’s finest ingredients and cooking techniques. In the Chef’s Course, meticulous attention to detail is given to the presentation, taste, and timing of every course. One of the main highlights of this well-loved restaurant, besides the scrumptious food, is the nearby Japanese garden, which sits quaintly and peacefully outside of your window seat.
Hyotei has three Michelin stars to its name and is situated on the grounds of the 17th-century Nanzenji Temple (南禅寺). The family-run establishment proudly preserves its 400-year history and serves authentic Japanese cuisine, focused on a philosophy which balances taste, texture, appearance, and colour. The traditional kaiseki restaurant is inspired by its surroundings and serves haute cuisine to fit in with the times. Decked in wooden interiors with latte-coloured walls, the minimalistic appeal gives a welcoming ambience. There’s also the delightful garden, where it feels as if time is standing still.
Hyotei, 35 Nanzenji Kusakawacho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8437, Japan | (+81) 75 771 4116
AJiro was making vegan food way before it was trendy. Located near Myoshin-ji Temple (妙心寺), the restaurant serves multi-course Buddhist temple vegan meals for gourmands of all persuasions. As the longest-running vegan restaurant in the city with a Michelin star, AJiro uses seasonal local fruits and vegetables. The full shojin ryori meal is well-loved by all guests, so be sure to give it a try. There’s also the lunch bento, or the omakase meal. Expect to sit on the low tables, on a comfortable floor cushion, in traditional Japanese-style.
AJiro, 28-3 Hanazonoteranomaecho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8041, Japan | (+81) 75 463 0221
In downtown Kyoto, Honke Owariya serves arguably the best soba in the whole city. The buckwheat noodles have been popular with locals for over 500 years, and Honke Owariya has been serving it throughout generations, including to Japan’s imperial family and monks from the Kyoto temples. Dine low with the tatami mats, where a gourmet feast will be served to you and your guests.
Honke Owariya, 322 Niomontsukinukecho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-0841, Japan | (+81) 75-231-3446
Achieving its third Michelin star in the 2014 guide, Kichisen sits next to the famous Shimogamo-jinja shrine(上賀茂神社) (also a UNESCO world heritage site) and serves traditional Kyoto comfort food, whilst using top-of-the-range ingredients, including seasonal Matsutake mushrooms. Helmed by Chef Yoshimi Tanigawa, the restaurant focuses on the tradition of “cha-kaiseki”, and holds small private dining rooms, with counter seating for an intimate ambience.
Kichisen, 5 Tadasu-no-mori (Morimoto-cho), Shimogamo, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Japan | (+81) 75 711 6121
Isshi Soden Nakamura, the founder of the renowned namesake restaurant, Nakamura, commits itself to serving traditional tastes and seasonal flavours. The restaurant was founded over 180 years ago, and has earned itself a Michelin three-star rating since 2011. Helmed by head chef and current owner Motokazu Nakamura, the generational restaurant has passed down recipes since the end of the Edo period. The traditional kaiseki restaurant menu includes dishes like crab served with thin noodles and Hamachi grilled salmon trout, to name a few.
Nakamura, 136 Matsushitacho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8093, Japan | (+81) 75 221 5511
Located within the geisha district of Gion, Chihana is a traditional kaiseki restaurant, which serves dishes on a counter, or in the comfort of a private room. The three-Michelin-starred restaurant combines Japanese simplicity, subtle flavours, and artistic fare within an intimate setting. Experience authentic Kyoto hospitality at this eight-seat counter venue, which features a menu of small plates, sake cups, and decadent dishes.
Chihana, 227-3 Nishinocho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0088, Japan | (+81) 75 561 2741