Filled with must-see spots and attractions, Kyoto is a place that is visited by throngs of sightseers from inside and outside of Japan. If you plan to go to an izakaya (Japanese-style tavern), then how about checking out a place that is popular among the locals? Below are five popular izakaya in Kyoto.
1. KYOYA KIYOMIZU Gion Shinbashi
This is an izakaya where you can enjoy Kyoto-style Japanese cuisine in a space that has managed to retain the vibe of a good old machiya (traditional wooden Kyoto home). It serves obanzai (Kyoto’s traditional home-cooked dishes) like Nishin to Nasu no Taitan (600 JPY (excl. tax)), which is a dish of boiled nishin (herring) and nasu (eggplant), as well as a wide range of other dishes that generously incorporate tofu, local seasonal vegetables, and fresh seafood. You can also enjoy locally-produced sake. English menus are available.
This izakaya is famous for its sashimi and sushi made from fresh seafood delivered directly from fishing harbors, as well as its fragrant robata-yaki (Japanese-style barbecue wherein the food is grilled in front of customers). Recommended here is the Robata-yaki – such as the Kagoshima Kuroge Wagyu A4 Rank 100g (2,580 JPY (incl. tax)) (Japanese Black beef from Kagoshima) – that consists of seafood, vegetables, and beef that have been grilled over charcoal. Secure a seat at the counter and enjoy the sensation of the food being grilled over the fire right in front of you. Various kinds of sake are also available, but out of all of them, you have to try the locally-produced sake, as they bring out the delicious flavors of the fish and fresh local vegetables. This izakaya has at least 10 kinds of local sake on its menu at all times.
3. Pontocho Yasohachi
This izakaya is situated along Pontocho-dori, which is a street that is packed with dining and drinking spots. Here, you can savor a lot of dishes that contain local ingredients, such as local chicken that’s slaughtered that very morning and fresh local vegetables. Its signature dish is the Yakitori (priced from 240 JPY per stick (excl. tax)) – chicken pieces grilled over Bincho charcoal (high-grade charcoal), making them beautifully aromatic. By grilling various parts of just-slaughtered chicken over strong heat, the outside of the meat becomes crispy, while the inside remains juicy. Aside from its staple chicken skewers, there are many other creative types of skewers offered here, including namafu (fresh gluten cake) and skewers with mochi (rice cake) and cheese. English menus are available.
4. NIKUJIRO Shijo-Kiyamachi Branch
This izakaya is conveniently located at just a minute’s walk from Kawaramachi Station, which is in one of the busiest commercial districts in Kyoto. It mainly serves meat dishes, as suggested by a section of its Japanese name – “niku bar”, which literally means “meat bar”. Here, you can enjoy a wide array of dishes that range from the classics to creative pieces: starting from appetizers such as the Kuroge-gyu to Avocado no Tartare (Japanese Black beef and avocado tartare) (1,280 JPY (excl. tax)), all the way up to hearty dishes like the juicy Harami Steak (skirt steak) (1,180 JPY (excl. tax)) and grilled rare meat cuts such as the extra-lean and low-fat Uchihira (990 JPY for 100g, suitable for one person (excl. tax)). Another key to this izakaya’s popularity is its fancy interior that is sure to set the right mood.
5. Shamonojou Kyoto Eki-mae Branch
This popular izakaya is primely located just a 3-minute walk from Kyoto Station. Its signature dishes are ones that make use of shamo (game fowl) – specifically, they use a breed called Omi Shamo, which is characterized by its low-fat content and chewy meat. Recommended here is the incredibly fragrant Kuwa Sumibi-yaki (prices start at 1,390 JPY (excl. tax) for the medium-sized serving), which is a famous dish that’s made by grilling meat over Tosa Bincho charcoal – a well-known type of charcoal from Kochi. This exquisite dish is grilled in a way that keeps the delicious meat juices inside, resulting in juicy meat. Another famous offering is the Shamo Tataki Isseki Nicho-mori (seared sashimi) (1,190 JPY (excl. tax)), which is eaten with a variety of sauces, including sweet soy sauce and a blend of salt and sesame oil.
Enjoy dinner at any one of the above izakaya in-between your sightseeing trips around 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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