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Kyoto Restaurant Guide (4) / Kyoto Karasuma-Oike & City Hall

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Welcome to the Kyoto Food Page, a guide to help you explore the city's many fine restaurants and food markets. We'll also look at some of the specialties of Kyoto cuisine - tofu, kaiseki and vegetarian shojin-ryori - and show you where to sample them.
Kyoto Karasuma-Oike & City Hall

Karasuma-Oike area
Sarasa 3 (Mediterranean). 075-811-0221
Sarasa is all about reasonably priced food in a huge old tobacco shop. The menu is broadly Mediterranean with a Japanese fringe, and most dishes come on large white platters that lend an air of celebration to eating here.
Sanjo Kuromon-dori Hokuto-kado. (on the corner of Sanjo-dori and Kuromon-dori, 2 streets west of Horikawa-dori in the Sanjo Shotengai) Open 11:30am-11pm (lunch to 2pm). Closed Wednesdays.
Wine Grocery (Wine bar). 075-255-0117
A cozy little wine bar with an extensive list - mostly French - ranging from Y6000 to Y100,000 per bottle and more (the median price point seems to be around Y15,000). There's also a choice of six different champagnes, all priced at Y8400/bottle. Food includes both light snacks (prosciutto, cheese, pastas) and a more substantial Italian-oriented main dishes (grilled fish, roast duck). Before 8pm on weekdays there's a Y2600 special that includes two dishes and a glass of wine.
Rokkaku-dori Shinmachi-Nishi-iru. (on Rokkaku-dori just W of Shinmachi-dori, N side, through a little gate then down an alleyway) Open 6pm-2am. Closed Sundays.
Il Carbone (Italian). 075-212-7907
As the name implies the focus at this hidden-away Italian spot is on charcoal grilled dishes, plus risotti and pastas, all at reasonable prices (full-course dinners are Y3000-6000). Drinks include shochu as well as Italian wines.
Koromonotana-dori sanjo-sagaru, Sanjo-machi 337-2. (from Karasuma-Oike crossing go 2 blocks S, 3 blocks W, 1/2 block S) Open 11:30am-3, 6-10pm (LO). Closed Wednesdays.
Somushi Tea House (Tea shop). 075-253-1456
The air is fragrant with incense as you walk into this charming teahouse - newly built in 2003 and tastefully decked out with Kyoto-style artwork and furnishings. Besides tea and dessert you'll also find inexpensive food like noodles and simple rice dishes.
Karasuma Sanjo-nishi-iru. (N side of Sanjo 1 block W of Karasuma) Open 10am-9pm. Closed Wednesdays.
Inaseya (Izakaya). 075-255-7250
Chicken sukiyaki is the specialty of the house here, and they use only the very best free-range birds - slightly chewy and very flavorful - in all their dishes. Sit in the zashiki room overlooking the beautiful traditional garden and choose from one of the three sukiyaki-centered full-course menus, priced at Y4200, Y5250 and Y7350. 
Yanagibanba Sanjo-sagaru, Aburayacho 93. (on Yanagi-banba-dori just N of Sanjo) Open 11:30-2, 5-10:30pm (LO). Closed Mondays.
Mlesna Tea House (Tea shop). 075-211-8750
Perched in the corner of a mini-shopping complex on Sanjo, this European-style tea room offers cakes and other desserts to go with your tea. They also sell tea leaves to go.
Sanjo-dori Tominokoji-nishi-iru, Sacra Bldg 1F. (NW corner Sanjo and Tominokoji) Open 11:30am-7:30pm. Closed Wednesdays.
Yoramu (Bar). 075-213-1512
You'll find a fantastic trove of unusual, limited-edition sakes in this off-the-beaten-track sake pub. The food menu is just as eclectic, and well suited to the drinks.
Nijodori Higashinotoin Higashi-iru. (on Nijo, 2 blocks north, 2 1/2 blocks east of Karasuma Oike intersection) Open 6pm-midnight. Closed Mondays, 1st Sunday.
Cafe Bibliotic Hello (Cafe). 075-231-8625
This converted townhouse on a quiet back street has the air of a very hip used bookstore - the comfortable chairs and tables are surrounded by shelves upon shelves of books and magazines that you're welcome to browse through. The menu includes cakes and coffees and teas (like Moroccan-style chai) as well as light snacks.
Nijo Yanaginobanba. (on Nijo about 7 blocks E of Karasuma-dori) Open noon-11pm (LO) daily.

Kyoto City Hall area
Sarasa Fuyacho Pausa (Cafe). 075-212-2341
This hip little cafe has a very comfortable atmosphere, and is plugged into the local art and underground music scene. At dinner the inexpensive menu features Mediterranean-influenced dishes like herb-grilled chicken, pork chops and risotto.
Fuyacho-dori Sanjo-agaru, Benkei-Ishicho 38-1. Open noon-midnight daily.
Red Rubber Ball (Cafe). 075-257-6877
This cute little cafe offers light food (sandwiches, pastas), drinks (fruit juices, tea and coffee), and a good view of the pedestrian action on Sanjo-dori. The interior is 1960s mod (lots of Plexiglas), and there are plenty of design books and magazines to read. Upstairs is a small clothing boutique.
Sanjo Gokomachi-hokusaikado, Sanjo Arimoto Bldg 1F. (Sanjo and Gokomachi) Open 7am-11pm daily.
Tenyu (Tempura). 075-212-7778
Some of Kyoto's best tempura can be found at this intimate, tastefully appointed shop run by the top-class Tawaraya ryokan. The building is a modern grey concrete construction, with an art gallery on the ground floor and a wind-y staircase taking you up to the minimalist counter spaces on the second and third levels. Tenyu is best known for its tempura kaiseki menu (from Y12,600), but lunchtime donburi dishes are far less expensive (Y2300-4000). By the way, they don't take credit cards, so bring along lots of cash.
Gokomachi Sanjo-sagaru. (on E side of Gokomachi-dori about 1/2 block S of Sanjo) Open 11:30am-1:30, 5:30-9pm (LO). Closed Tuesdays.
Cafe Independants (Cafe). 075-255-4312
Perhaps the Bohemian epicenter of Kyoto, this student-hangout basement cafe features artfully exposed brick, peeling paint and well-worn stone floors. The 75-year-old building also houses a great experimental music record shop and contemporary art galleries. Lunches are very cheap (from Y500), and drinks include Belgian beers.
Gokomachi Sanjo, 1928 Bldg B1F. Open 11:45am-midnight daily.
Asakura (Izakaya). 075-212-4417
A small sake pub with a fantastic selection of unusual regional sakes from around Japan. The food menu is limited to small snacks, including a wide selection of imported cheeses; if you thought sake couldn't be paired with cheese, get ready for a new experience.
Kiyamachi Oike-sagaru, Hitotsu-Sujime Higashi-iru, Oku Bldg 2F. Open 7pm-2am. Closed Tuesdays.
Tousuiro (Tofu). 075-251-1600
Good home-made tofu is the specialty here, with multi-course tofu dinners starting from Y4859. Lunch is by reservation only.
Kiyamachi-dori Sanjo-agaru, Kami-Osakamachi 517-3. Open 11:30am-2, 5-9:30pm (LO) daily.
Pittoresque (French). 075-254-2535
Luxuriously over-the-top French cuisine revolving around rich ingredients like foie gras, lobster and domestic beef. The degustation menu is Y13,000.
Kawaramachi-Oike, Kyoto Hotel Okura 17F. Open 11:30am-2:30, 5:30-9pm daily.
Kerala (Indian). 075-251-0141
The chef here is from the Kerala region of India, and he prepares a full range of dishes from that area, all reasonably priced. The interior is modern and tastefully decorated.
Kawaramachi Sanjo-agaru Nishigawa, Ledic Building 2F. (opposite Royal Hotel) Open 11:30am-2, 5-9pm (LO) daily.
Meal Muji (Cafe). 075-256-8300
Inexpensive bakery and deli items and salads from the famous no-brand design store Mujirushi.
Kawaramachi-dori Sanjo-sagaru, Yamazakicho 251 Kyoto BAL B2F. Open 11am-8pm daily.
Sepporai (Kyo-ryori). 075-254-8850
Accessible tofu and Kyo-ryori in attractive private alcoves in this very tasteful restaurant above Uniqlo. There are only four sakes, but they're chosen to go with the food. Prix-fixe dinners Y2800-4000, lunch from Y1500.
Kawaramachi Sanjo-sagaru, Daikokucho 58 Mina Kyoto 7F. (on Kawaramachi-dori, above Uniqlo) Open 11am-10:30pm (LO) daily.
Veggie Table (Japanese). 075-241-0359
This stylish little counter bar serves a healthy menu featuring organic Kyoto vegetables, brown rice and pasta dishes (some with meat or fish). Budget around Y850 at lunch, Y2000 at dinner.
Kawaramachi Sanjo-sagaru Narayamachi 291, De Lido-kan 1F. (from Sanjo south on Kawaramachi, turn left at the fifth corner, at the Haagen Dazs) Open 11:30am-3:30pm, 6-10pm (LO) daily.
Hafuu (Yoshoku). 075-257-1581
Yes, there is such a thing as gourmet yoshoku, and Hafuu leads the way with nicely prepared tongue stews, fried shrimps, cutlet sandwiches and other Japanese-style Western classics. The modern architecture is another nice change from convention, as is the wine list. Dinner runs around Y4000-5000 with drinks.
Fuyacho-dori Ebisugawa-dori-agaru, Sasayacho 471-1. (Fuyacho just N of Ebisugawa) Open 11:30am-1:30, 5:30-9:30pm (LO). Closed Wednesdays.
Kati Thai Cafe (Thai). 075-211-1282
The only item that polarizes diners at Kati is the Mekhong rum. Beyond this very potent brew, the menu of Thai classics has everyone in agreement - the food is good. Formerly housed in a converted warehouse, the new space is as long as the previous restaurant was broad. The pale green walls and plants have been maintained, as has the no-fuss service. 
Ebisugawa-dori Fuyacho Nishi-iri, Kiyacho 488-1, Wood Bldg 2F. Open noon-2pm, 5:30-10pm. Closed Mondays.

Azumi (Soba/Udon). 075-222-8528
Customers leaving Azumi have been overheard saying, "They were the best noodles I've ever had in Kyoto." And while there is an abundance of soba restaurants downtown, few are open all afternoon. There are two kinds of soba handmade on the premises: nihachi (80% buckwheat, 20% flour) and towari (100% buckwheat). 
Gokomachi-dori Oike-sagaru. (on the west side of Gokomachi-dori in the first block south of Oike-dori) Open 11am-8pm. Closed Tuesdays.
El Fogon (Spanish). 075-221-5517
El Fogon is a little slice of Spain in downtown Kyoto. Serrano ham, Moorish tiles, and a terracotta floor: it could be somewhere in Andalucia.
Gokomachi Oike-agaru, Kameyacho 380. (on Gokomachi-dori in the first block north of Oike-dori, on the west side) Open 3pm-3am (rest 5:30-11pm LO). Closed Wednesdays.
Le Bouchon (French). 075-211-5220
The decor is old-school budget French (checkered tablecloths, tiny tables, a big counter at one end of the room), but the menu is a cut above the decor, with good country-style cuisine at down-to-earth prices (Y2500 for a prix-fixe dinner). The wine list also offers some bargains.
Nijo Teramachi Enokicho 71-1. (just E of Teramachi and Nijo) Open 8am-2:30pm, 5:30-9:30pm (LO). Closed Thursdays.
Park Caffe (Italian). 075-211-8954
Park Caffe is nowhere near a park but it's a great place to watch the world go by. Sunlight streams in through the floor-to-ceiling window. A marvel of design economy, there are three seating areas; sleek LEM Piston Stools at the bar, couches along one wall, and a row of solid, brown '70s chairs and tables in the main dining area.
Gokomachi-dori Oike-sagaru. (on the east side of Gokomachi-dori in the first block south of Oike-dori) Open noon-11pm daily.
Yusoshi (Cafe). 075-254-7140
Pleasure, imagination, use; Yusoshi is a hybrid of these three words and is a downtown hangout for the Oike set. Comme des Garcons patrons come here after racking up purchases in the CDG shop downstairs. 
Gokomachi-dori Oike-agaru, Kameyacho 378, Moon Bldg 5F. Open 11:30am-11pm daily.
Ace Cafe Red (Cafe). 075-212-0069
Ace Cafe has a new cousin - Ace Cafe Red. On the ninth floor of the Takase Building on Sanjo-dori, it has a similar elevation to Ace Cafe but takes it up a notch with the view. The lights of Kawabata-dori trail off into the northern foothills, Minamiza Theater beckons from the south and the ascending moon over Higashiyama is so clear it looks like a High Definition recording.
Sanjo-dori Kiyamachi Higashi-iru, Takase Bldg 9F. (on the south side of Sanjo-dori between Kamogawa and Kiyamachi; Sujata Indian restaurant is on the second floor) Open noon-midnight daily.
Hub (Beer bar). 075-212-9026
This very casual beer bar attracts an assortment of tourists and representatives of Kyoto's foreign community. (Open to 3am weekends.)
Kawaramachi-dori Sanjo-sagaru, Kuromachi 71. Open 5pm-midnight daily.
Mishimatei (Nabemono). 075-221-0003
This traditional shop in a lovely old building has been preparing first-class sukiyaki for 130 years now, and they're still going strong. Budget around Y8000 at dinnertime, or a bit more for their full-course extravaganzas.
Teramachi Sanjo-sagaru. (Teramachi just S of Sanjo) Open 11:30am-9pm (LO). Closed Wednesdays.
Misogigawa (French). 075-221-2270
Paris-trained owner-chef Teruo Inoue prepares world-class "French kaiseki" - a fusion of modern French cuisine with a Japanese sensibility and local ingredients. The old wooden building on narrow Pontocho includes tatami rooms and a counter area, plus an outdoor veranda overlooking the Kamo River.
Pontocho-dori, Sanjo-Sagaru, Higashigawa. (south of Pontocho Kaburenjo Theatre) Open 11:30am-2, 5:30-9pm (LO) daily.
Bar K6 (Bar). 075-255-5009
A pleasant, medium-sized bar with a serious selection of single-malt Scotch whiskies and one very good Japanese microbrew beer (Yona Yona real ale on tap).
Nijo Kiyamachi Higashi-iru, Valls Building 2F. (across the street from Hotel Fujita) Open 6pm-3am (5am weekends) daily.
Ikumatsu (Kyo-ryori). 075-231-1234
Mini-kaiseki lunches start at just Y7000 at this 200-year-old ryokan, and there's a pleasant riverfront terrace that's open May to September. Full-blown kaiseki menus are Y14,000-20,000. They also run a casual restaurant with bentos starting from Y1030.
Kiyamachi-dori Oike-agaru. (on Kiyamachi just N of Oike) Open 11:30am-1, 5:30-7pm (LO) daily.
Ganko Takasegawa Nijoen (Japanese). 075-223-3456
This sprawling building was once the private mansion of one of Kyoto's leading merchants, and its beautiful garden and riverfront setting make it a popular spot for parties and banquets - this is really the kind of place to go with a group of people. Set meals start at around Y3000.
Kiyamachi-dori Nijo-sagaru. (on Kiyamachi-dori just S of Nijo) Open 11:30am-10pm daily.

By JS on Dec 19, 2010
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tag : Kyoto Restaurant Guide

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