Kyoto is home to a lot of sushi shops, ranging from fancy ones that are nestled throughout the town, up to casual ones that are beloved by the masses and others that have been gaining a lot of attention recently. Below are 10 must-try sushi stores that you have to visit if you are ever in Kyoto!
- 1. Matsudaya (Gion-shijo Station)
- 2. Matsumoto (Gion-shijo Station)
- 3. Sushi-Kappo Nakaichi (Gion-shijo Station)
- 4. Nijo Kizuki (Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae Station)
- 5. Izuu (Gion-shijo Station)
- 6. Sushiden Kenzan Kyoto Takashimaya Shop (Kawaramachi Station)
- 7. Azuma Sushi (Gion-shijo Station)
- 8. Sushi Tetsu Ponto-cho Shop (Sanjo Station)
- 9. Miki (Karasuma Station)
- 10. Sandaime Otowa Fushimi Shop (Chushojima Station)
1. Matsudaya (Gion-shijo Station)
Listed in the Michelin Guide, this restaurant serves up Edomae-style sushi (the kind that focuses on hand-formed sushi) made by the self-taught owner. The only menu item available is the Omakase Course (a course wherein the items to be served are decided by the chef) (14 -16 pieces of hand-formed sushi) (prices start at 13,500 JPY (excl. tax)), which uses seasonal seafood. Only the best toppings – procured that very day from Tsukiji Market and Kyoto Nishiki Market – are served here. Gourmets and foodies are delighted by the sushi here, which not only contains red vinegar, but also elaborate toppings that have been roasted, steamed, or fried. They even serve kosher sushi for Jewish people, so make sure to tell them upon reservation if you need that!
2. Matsumoto (Gion-shijo Station)
Matsumoto is another Kyoto restaurant listed in the Michelin Guide that offers authentic Edomae-style sushi, made with traditional techniques by the owner, who trained at the famous Shinbashi Shimizu in Tokyo. For dinner, there are two types of courses available: the course with only Edomae-style sushi (15,000 JPY (excl. tax)) – in which the toppings are prepared in numerous ways, such as sujime (marinating with vinegar), kobujime (marinating with kelp), shoyu-zuke (marinating with soy sauce), and nimono (boiling) – and the course that has side dishes made with seasonal ingredients to go along with the sushi (18,000 JPY (excl. tax)). This place is so popular that it even has fans overseas!
3. Sushi-Kappo Nakaichi (Gion-shijo Station)
Sushi-Kappo Nakaichi was founded about 50 years ago. It is Kyoto’s first famous sushi restaurant and is also listed on the Michelin Guide. The sushi courses here come with two or three appetizers, sashimi, soup, a grilled dish, and shime (last dish of a course) that would normally be for Kyo-kaiseki (Kyoto-style course meal). The beautifully arranged dishes show off the seasons and are a feast to the eyes! What dishes appear in these courses change depending on the price, which varies from 8,000 JPY – 25,000 JPY, so inquire about it when making a reservation.
4. Nijo Kizuki (Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae Station)
Listed on the Michelin Guide, this is a great place to eat creative Japanese dishes and sushi that incorporates the flavors of Yamaguchi Prefecture – the hometown of the owner – and Kyoto. Of course, all the sushi toppings are incredibly fresh! A lot of time and effort is spent in making each piece of sushi, such as in the application of the salt, which condenses the flavor of the fish. One amazing creative dish they have on offer is the Uni Ice to Goma-dofu (sea urchin ice cream and sesame tofu), which has a surprising salty yet sweet taste that will make you want to drink a lot of sake (Japanese alcohol). The dinner course is priced from 3,500 JPY – 7,500 JPY, while the sushi lunch course is a bargain at 1,500 JPY.
5. Izuu (Gion-shijo Station)
Founded in 1781, Izu is a long-established restaurant that serves saba no sugata-zushi (whole mackerel sushi), which was considered a feast in Kyoto back when it was difficult to procure fresh fish. It is believed that its origin started from when there were no refrigerators, and that it was the result of an innovative process of storing fresh seafood by using salt and vinegar. You can eat the Saba no Sugata-zushi (2,430 JPY (incl. tax) for one person) here, or you can take it home. The taste varies depending on how long you wait before eating it. If you let three hours pass, the taste of the kombu (kelp) will magnify, making it even more delicious!
6. Sushiden Kenzan Kyoto Takashimaya Shop (Kawaramachi Station)
Founded more than 60 years ago in Nihonbashi, Tokyo, this is a place where you can eat authentic Edomae-style sushi. It is located on the 7th floor of Takashimaya Kyoto, at the Kyo-Kairo restaurant complex. If you want to pick and savor your hand-formed sushi (priced at 324 JPY – 1,296 JPY per piece), it’s recommended to take a seat at the counter. You’ll get to enjoy how the chefs skillfully form the fresh toppings! Even if you don’t make a reservation, you can order their classic course meal, Rosanjin (5,400 JPY (incl. tax)). However, do try to come before 8:30 pm, which is when they take the last order for courses.
7. Azuma Sushi (Gion-shijo Station)
This famous restaurant has been serving up authentic hand-formed sushi at affordable prices for more than 45 years! One piece starts from 150 JPY (excl. tax). Though the prices may be low, rest assured that the shop does not cut corners when it comes to the ingredients they use. To ensure the seafood is extremely fresh, they get them delivered straight from fishing harbors. They have a variety of dishes available, including grilled dishes, stews, and fried food. Why not savor them with some alcohol? The shop’s great lunchtime deals are also recommended, such as the refreshing Kaisen-don Lunch (seafood bowl), which is a mere 2,000 JPY! Enjoy authentic sushi in this cozy, casual restaurant!
8. Sushi Tetsu Ponto-cho Shop (Sanjo Station)
Out of all the restaurants on this list, Sushi Tetsu is the one that’s the best bang for your buck. A plate (two pieces) of hand-formed sushi costs just 216 JPY! There is a sushi topping display rack at the counter that’s filled with rows of fresh, seasonal seafood delivered directly from Tsukiji. Feel free to ask the chefs about what kind of seafood it is! The view is great too, as you’ll be able to gaze at the Kamogawa River while dining. This sushi shop is welcoming and always humming with activity.
9. Miki (Karasuma Station)
This snug and relaxing restaurant operates under the idea that people should be able to eat sushi at any time, which is why it’s possible to eat two pieces of hand-formed sushi or hand-rolled sushi for 315 JPY (the price depends on the topping, so it might be priced at 315 JPY, 420 JPY, or 525 JPY)! The prices may be low, but the shop doesn’t compromise on the toppings it uses. Shichijo rice – a brand that goes well with sushi toppings – is used for the shop’s shari (sushi rice). The Omakase Nigiri Jukan (10 pieces of hand-formed sushi chosen by the chef) – a dish that demonstrates the skills of the chef – costs around 2,000 JPY.
10. Sandaime Otowa Fushimi Shop (Chushojima Station)
Sandaime Otowa is the evolved version of a kaiten-zushi (conveyor belt-style) restaurant. Unlike conventional kaiten-zushi restaurants, where you take sushi that’s already going around the conveyor belt, this restaurant adopts the “nagare-sushi” style, in which whatever you order will flow to your table. Your food will only be prepared or cooked upon order, ensuring that all your food will be freshly made. Order from the touch-panel display installed at each table. It’s easy to order even for those who do not understand Japanese, since you only need to touch the photo of the dish you want. Nowadays, the restaurant is seeing a surge of foreign diners. Why not give this new “nagare-sushi” style a try? You’ll need to prepare around 4,000 JPY to eat here.
The restaurants in the first half of this list are high-class and long-established shops that are listed on the Michelin Guide, while those in the second half are casual places that’ll let you enjoy sushi at any time of the day. Note that the prices and unique features of sushi will differ depending on the shop. One of the pleasures of travelling is making memories related to food, so if you’ve found a place that you’re interested in, go visit it!
*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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