A look at the Kyoto food scene

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 20th October 2014
As the Kyoto guide 2015 is released today we're taking a closer look at their cuisine as well as a selection of their restaurants. Kyoto Dishes Kyoto, the former capital of imperial Japan, has a first-rate culinary reputation. The city is steeped in tradition with a diverse local food culture ranging from aristocratic ‘kaiseki ryori’ course dinners to the vegetarian ‘shojin ryori’ of Buddhist monks. Kyoto, unusually for a Japanese city, is away from the coast. It is home to over 2,000 Buddhist temples and, spared from much of the destruction of World War 2, is one of the best preserved cities in Japan. Michelin’s interest in the city over recent years is justified. Kyoto is a centre for Japanese culinary excellence with an array of distinctive culinary styles and practice. Kaiseki ryori, for instance, is an elaborate dining style popular among aristocratic circles. Kyoto style is particularly refined, placing an emphasis on subtle flavours and local and seasonal ingredients. Whereas Kaiseki ryori was developed out of the affluence of the aristocrats, shojin ryori came from the austerity of Buddhist monks. Prohibited from taking the life of other living creatures, monks had to make do without meat or fish in their diet. Shojin ryori was their solution. Consisting of strictly vegetarian dishes, shojin ryori can nonetheless be savoury and filling. Michelin-Logo-Cropped-300x109 Obanzai Ryori is the traditional home style cooking of Kyoto. It is made up of multiple small dishes that are usually quite simple to prepare. Local, seasonal produce is best suited for the dishes. Although the cooking methods are usually not complicated, obanzai dishes are served in some of Kyoto’s top restaurants bringing out the natural flavours of the ingredients. Kawadoko is the summer practice of dining outdoors on temporary platforms built over flowing water. Developed as a way to beat the summer heat, kawadoko is a great way to experience traditional Kyoto cuisine while taking in the cooling effects of the flowing water and lively summer atmosphere. Kyoto clearly has a rich heritage of high-quality cuisine but while some restaurants look to the past for inspiration, others experiment with new flavours. Fusion restaurants, combining ingredients and techniques of Kyoto cuisine with global cooking styles, can also be found in the city. Michelin are right to give Kyoto such attention. The city is rich with culinary tradition with a wide range of distinct flavours and excellent restaurants. Tourists and food lovers alike would be wise to give it a try. Here are The Staff Canteen’s picks for 5 restaurants to visit in Kyoto:   Kitcho Arashiyama HontenKitcho Arashiyama Honten After opening in 1948, this three Michelin-starred restaurant has successfully combined the traditional tastes of Kyoto with an enthusiasm for creating new tastes. Built in the style of a tea-ceremony house, each of the tatami rooms has different furnishings, all facing a garden. Owner Kunio Tokuoka has created a beautiful, colourful layout combined with the exquisite taste of Kyoto’s fine-dining scene.   Gion Maruyama Gion Maruyama   This two Michelin-starred restaurant maintains a pleasing balance between tradition, tranquillity and flamboyance. The décor is traditional and Chef Maruyama comes out to see if there's anything you don't like or want to try. It is fine-dining with a personal feel.   Awata Sanso With a garden at the natural slope of Mt. Awata, this Michelin-starred restaurant serves traditional dishes in a building styled as a tea-ceremony house. Awata Sanso Seasoning and temperature are of the utmost importance. The menu features warm dishes in winter and cool ones in summer in a family-orientated and friendly restaurant. Il Dente di Leone and Comme Chez Michel If local cuisine isn’t for you, Kyoto offers a wide array of international restaurants. There are 26 ‘Bib Gourmand’ restaurants in the city serving food from all over the world. Il Dente di Leone serves traditional Italian cuisine whilst Comme Chez Michel prides itself on sophisticated French classics. Kyoto’s food scene offers a bit for everyone and release of the Kyoto Michelin guide is likely to highlight the quality food on offer in the Japanese city. By Tom Evans

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 20th October 2014

A look at the Kyoto food scene