Great For Everyone! 6 Recommended Food and Drink Places in Kyoto's Ponto-cho

[Local College Students Tell All!] Kyoto's streets form a well-arranged grid, with North-South streets crossing through East-West streets. Each of these streets gives off a unique character, and all of them are bustling with tourists every day. This series gives some tips on how to effectively explore the area, and also points out some shops within it. The second part of the series features Ponto-cho. The narrow alley, filled with a traditional Japanese ambiance, is lined with izakaya (Japanese bars) and restaurants on both sides. This particular article focuses on 6 places within this area where anyone can kick back and relax.

Kyoto

Food & Drink

What is Ponto-cho?

Ponto-cho is an 500m-long alley stretching between Sanjo Street (Sanjo-dori) to the north (or one street south of it, to be exact) and Shijo Street (Shijo-dori) to the south. It runs parallel to Kamo River (Kamo-gawa). It has a strong atmosphere, with rows of Kyoto-style machiya (traditional houses) characterized by exotic lattices (building fixtures made by combining strips of wood or bamboo into crisscross patterns that are often used for doors and windows). Since it is one of the best-known hanamachi (geisha and other entertainment districts) areas in Kyoto, you may be lucky enough to get a glimpse of a maiko (apprentice geisha) walking in the street.

The alley is lined with tea houses (establishments where geisha are invited to entertain customers) and many other eateries offering a wide range of cuisine, from traditional Kyoto cuisine and sushi, to Chinese. The area has a calm and relaxed atmosphere, so there are many places that are really suitable for people with more sophisticated tastes. Take a look at these 6 recommendations, starting from the north end of the street!

Bar Bacchus

On the north end of the street, nearer to Sanjo Station, you'll find an authentic bar called "Bar Bacchus".

Here, they serve a large variety of drinks like cocktails that use fresh seasonal fruits, over 70 kinds of single malt whiskeys, vintage cognac, and their own original cocktails.

The bar includes an open terrace that faces Kamo River. Sit there and enjoy the lovely atmosphere and scenery. 

You can budget to spend an average of around 3,500 yen here.

Vodka Bar Nakanishi

Next, check out this long-established bar that specializes in vodka. A vodka specialist bar like this one is rare in Japan!

The bar stocks over 400 varieties of vodka. You can get them served straight or try out some vodka-based cocktails. You can also sample Russian beer, Georgian wines, Armenian brandy, and other exotic alcohol here.

Make sure to also order their classic Russian dishes, such as Pirozhki (baked or fried buns stuffed with a variety of fillings) and Pelmeni (dumplings consisting of a filling wrapped in thin, unleavened dough). 

The average budget here starts at around 3,000 yen.

Negiya Heikichi Ponto-cho

The green onion often plays a supporting role in Japanese cuisine, but at this restaurant, it is the star. This popular restaurant has created a menu that makes use of green onion that's sourced from all over Japan.

One of the top picks is the Negi Sumibiyaki (charcoal-grilled green onions, 780 yen plus tax). The green onion is grilled till fragrant! Another recommendation is the Kobe Beef Sukiyaki Course (10,000 yen plus tax) that uses a generous amount of Kyoto's famous Kujo green onion.

There are counter seats, so you'll be able to drink and dine here comfortably even if you're on your own. 

You can expect to spend an average of 1,000 yen on lunch and 4,000 yen on dinner.

Pontoponta

This narrow passage leads to the restaurant, making it almost like a secret hideout. Isn't it very much like the narrow streets that are typical of Kyoto? 

This restaurant’s earthen walls and wooden furnishings, coupled with the jazz music being played, create a chic atmosphere. You'll be able to enjoy traditional Kyoto fare in a relaxed environment. The delicate flavors of healthy foods like yuba (beancurd skin) and nama-fu (highly refined wheat gluten) are the focus here. You can also enjoy course meals that make use of the best seasonal ingredients.

You'll expect to spend an average of 5,000 yen for your meal.

Sukiyaki Iroha North Branch

This is a restaurant that has enjoyed popularity since its establishment in 1964. Located in a traditional house that was converted into a restaurant, it serves up a variety of dishes that make use of Kyoto beef.

Among all of its dishes, the Sukiyaki (beef hot pot, 6,000 yen plus tax) is considered to be their signature dish.

Sugar that's high in purity is heated in a cast iron pot with Kyoto beef loin placed on top. Start by savoring the delicious taste of the tender Japanese beef, and then cook it in the thick, rich sauce. Make sure to eat the meat before it gets overcooked! You'll find that the beef is so tender that it almost melts in your mouth! Add and cook the other ingredients like the vegetables and tofu in the sauce, and the delicious taste of the beef will be absorbed by them as well.

The restaurant staff will help you prepare it, so you can enjoy the meal even if it is your first time trying sukiyaki.

On average, a meal here will cost you approximately 5,000 yen.

Tenpura Kitamura

Lastly, check out this restaurant that specializes in tempura (fried seafood and vegetables), which is considered to be one of the dishes synonymous with Japanese cuisine. 

Head into a narrow passageway and you'll find this small restaurant that has only 10 counter seats. The tempura is fried right before your eyes, and the freshly fried items are served to you once cooked. Try out the recommended Miyabi dinner course (5,000 yen plus tax).You'll be served an assortment of 12 prawns, fish and vegetable tempura, as well as a salad or soup.

On average, lunch will cost between 1,500 yen - 3,000 yen and dinner will cost around 6,000 yen - 8,000 yen.

 

You'll be able to experience Kyoto's unique atmosphere by just walking around Ponto-cho. Be sure to drop by on your visit to Japan, and relax over a few drinks and some great food!

The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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