Obanzai refers to homecooked food that is regularly eaten in Kyoto. They are reasonably priced, and can be enjoyed casually. Below are five popular obanzai restaurants in Kyoto.
What is Obanzai?
Obanzai is everyday food made with local ingredients like Kyo Yasai (traditional vegetables from Kyoto). It is made by taking the time and effort to prepare seasonal vegetables and dried foods with dashi (stock) in order to bring out the umami (savoriness) of kombu (seaweed) and bonito. Most of these dishes have simple flavors, so you won't tire of eating them every day.
Situated in a convenient location, this restaurant is great for stopping by after shopping or sightseeing. The Today's Obanzai (from 300 JPY (excl. tax)), which changes with the seasons, includes a variety of healthy dishes made with Kyo Yasai, tofu, and other ingredients. The cozy and comfortable atmosphere is one of the secrets to this restaurant's popularity. It has English menus.
2. Ponto-cho Ichihana
This is a restaurant with a great atmosphere in the Ponto-cho district, which has many high-end restaurants (ryotei), izakaya (bars), and casual restaurants. The restaurant carefully selects the best seasonal ingredients, and then makes obanzai with them. The food is presented in a traditional style, which involves piling them in large dishes displayed on top of the counter. Their variety of oden (hot pot) dishes (from 500 JPY (incl. tax)) is also popular.
This is a restaurant with a comfortable atmosphere that’s decorated with retro furnishings. The obanzai are made primarily with vegetables harvested in the morning from the owner’s family’s farm, as well as Kyo Yasai. The dishes are flavored in a traditional home cooking style, with a modern twist. There are eight daily recommendations of obanzai that are piled on large plates at the counter. Their healthy dishes made with plenty of vegetables, such as cooked and cooled tomatoes (550 JPY), or mizuna and yuba (tofu skin) mixed with sesame (450 JPY), are popular.
4. Kyoya Kiyomizu Gion Shinbashi Branch
Kyoya Kiyomizu is a famous restaurant, with three branches in the city of Kyoto. The Gion Shinbashi Branch is in a machiya (traditional Japanese townhouse) in the Gion area, which is one of Kyoto's most popular tourist districts. The contents of their obanzai change depending on what they can procure and the season. Some recommended dishes are the Teppae (550 JPY (excl. tax)), which is made by mixing Kujo negi (scallions) with vinegar miso, and the Okara (400 JPY (excl. tax)) – made by grilling and simmering the pulp from the process of making tofu.
5. Akai Hitsuji
The last place is a popular restaurant in the commercial district of Sanjo. Their obanzai that are made with love and care all have fabulous, wholesome flavors. Some menu items that are highly recommended include the Obanzai-mori (from 700 JPY (excl. tax)), which is a daily selection of obanzai, and the Kakiage Tempura of Kyo Yasai and Shrimp (450 JPY (excl. tax)).
Though obanzai is not flashy, it has deep and wonderful flavors. Be sure to try it if you are in Kyoto!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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