When dining in Kyoto, the options are endless. Food stalls line shopping roads and cafes offer up matcha desserts on every street corner. After 5pm, the city begins to glow and the evening establishments begin to open. Dinner in Kyoto is a much different dining experience than lunch, and Pontocho Alley offers the best options, for both traditional and gourmet menus. Much less an alley, Ponotcho is more of a picturesque backstreet. When the sun goes down, the gourmands enter Pontocho for some of the most traditional dining Kyoto has to offer.
Cucina Italiana and Bar Sfida is much more than a gourmet Italian restaurant. The restaurant overlooks the Kamo River and lets diners sit al fresco in summer, enjoying their meal with the riverside breeze. Their chef recommended courses come with multiple dishes to sample the menu. Both seafood and meat dishes are offered, along with noodles made from scratch and traditional Italian desserts like seasonal sorbets and panna cotta. The menu boasts contemporary Italian cuisine with fresh touches that showcase the natural flavors of the ingredients. Each dish is carefully assembled, so be sure to document it before tasting the elegant flavors.
Lunch is from 12pm to 3pm (last order at 1:30) and dinner is from 6pm to 11pm (last order at 9:30pm). The bar is open from 6pm to 2am. They are closed on Tuesdays. Lunch starts from 3,500 JPY and dinner starts from 7,500 JPY.
Tanraku-ya Toriume is a classic izakaya with a twist. The restaurant specializes in yakitori, grilled chicken on a skewer. In addition to chicken, there is also a vast sake menu, focusing on local sake. Nothing is better than relaxing after a long day of sightseeing with some lean protein and a sample of local sake in a small teacup. To round out the meal, farm-fresh vegetables are served. The owner of the establishment is a farmer, and brings fresh vegetables every day. The usual izakaya fare is also offered, such as karaage and tamagoyaki. Instead of heading to a random corner izakaya, check out Tanraku-ya Toriume for a higher-end ambiance with the quality to match.
Dinner courses start from 3,000 JPY. Open from 5:30pm to 12am everyday.
You can’t dine in Kyoto without trying the signature kaiseki cuisine. Kaiseki is a traditional meal focusing on the quality and freshness of each ingredient. The plates are small but there are multiple courses throughout the lunch or dinner. Fumiya has been serving both lunch and dinner along the Kamo River for seventy years. The menu changes seasonally and highlights local offerings, like sashimi. Each dish reflects the original ingredients so that the flavors stay organic. Request to sit outside or by a window, the view of the Kamo River along with a gourmet dinner and a glass of sake is peak Kyoto.
Dinner Courses start from 5,500 JPY. Because the terrace seats are very popular please make sure to make a reservation.
Can't make it to Pontocho for a main meal? Don't worry, Elephant Factory Coffee has your back. This adorable cafe serves quality, single origin coffee in a rustic atmosphere. Despite its name, the cafe is actually quite tiny. If you can't get a seat, it's still worth it to grab a coffee to go and relax by the nearby Kamogawa River. The coffee is brewed by hand and visitors can choose the beans by their country of origin, which all differ in taste. Be sure to try something sweet along with the bitter coffee, like a small slice of rich cheesecake. If not, chocolate covered raisins are served alongside black coffee.
Elephant Coffee is open from 1pm to 1am and closed on Thursdays.