20 Recommended Places to Grab Lunch in Arashiyama, Kyoto, Where Tradition Meets Modernity
Arashiyama is a district on the outskirts of Kyoto, whose scenic expanse is a haven of woodland hills that undergo drastic seasonal transformations of color, from crimson, autumn leaves to gentle, peach colored hues of cherry blossoms. The storied, traditional structures of the city appear to blend into the nature of the surroundings, and countless temples—moss laden stones, vermilion lacquered torii, and all—offer a tranquil, quaint atmosphere. Many have also been designated as important cultural properties and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The following is an introduction to a handpicked selection of restaurants with delicious Kyoto cuisine that you can enjoy amidst the placid Arashiyama scenery.
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Enjoy Flavors Unique to Kyoto! A Selection of 3 Restaurants Serving Obanzai, Traditional Kyoto Cuisine
Sainosuke prepares their Kyoto specialties and other Japanese cuisine with ingredients respective to the natural produce of each season. The Kyoto home cuisine, called obanzai, consists of dishes that feature freshly caught wild fish like Amago salmon, filefish, ayu (sweetfish), and puffer fish, along with Kyoto vegetables and Saga tofu, not to mention flavorful seasonings like chirimen sansho (dried whitebait with a strong Japanese pepper) and Saikyozuke (sweet-miso marinated fish).
The restaurant has a significant repertoire of dishes that include everything from light obanzai lunches that are light on your stomach to tempura (deep fried) lunches made with the fresh fish caught by the head chef. The tatami-laden zashiki seats embody a Japanese ambience while you take in a little bit of a cooking performance as the do-it-all chef prepares your order. If you're looking to make the most of a one-and-only experience immersed in Arashiyama’s atmosphere, you can stop by Sainosuke for a leisurely meal.
Toriyone can be found at the entrance of Matsuno'o Taisha Shrine, staple sightseeing attraction in Arashiyama. The specialty [Meibutsu Katsudori] is a traditionally passed down recipe served with a silky-white broth of slowly simmered chicken bouillon. The palate-pleasing soup envelops succulent pieces of fresh chicken that seem to release more flavor with each bite, and alongside the seasonally gathered vegetables, the Katsudori tastes as luxurious as it looks.
The restaurant also boasts the lavish attractions of a stone bath and a traditional Japanese garden for the full peripheral Kyoto ambiance. Between the views, a hot bath, and stomach-warming foods, you’re in for a surreal experience at Toriyone.
If you’re craving some delicious sushi in Kyoto, Arashiyama Daizen is the place to be. The restaurant is located just a 10-minute walk from the Togetsukyo bridge, whose wooden parapet offers views of the beautiful surrounding nature, and is an ideal location for a relaxing lunch.
Fresh-caught fish like bluefin tuna, yellowtail, and sea bream are served with sesame oil and salt. Although this combination is rather unconventional, the eccentric flavor will have you hooked!
Each dish is prepared with thick, meaty slices of fish that seem to melt away in your mouth. Dishes are prepared according to the seasonal migrations of fish, and the versatile menu conforms to the flow of the seasons.
Tofu is an Arashiyama Specialty That You Won’t Want to Miss! An Introduction to 4 Tofu Specialty Restaurants for Lunch in Arashiyama
Saga Tofu Ine
Saga Tofu Ine serves the yuba gozen, a traditional assortment of Kyoto cuisine dishes at a budget-friendly price, espeically during lunchtime hours.
The fine-textured tofu and yuba (sheets of bean curd) are beautifully arranged with Kyoto vegetables and pickled vegetables for a meal that is as visually attractive as it is pleasing to the palate.
Although Arashiyama is known for its high quality of yudofu (boiled tofu), Ine sets itself apart with its homemade tofu. Don’t hesitate to stop by if you're not sure what to get for lunch on any given day.
Tofu Ryori Matsugae
If you’re looking for a traditional Japanese ambience, you’ll find the works at Matsugae, from a pristine garden, to tapestries of calligraphy and an all-in-all rustic, woody atmosphere that melds into nature as opposed to standing on top of it. You can enjoy 2 kinds of yudofu (boiled tofu), plain or matcha (green tea powder), which are served with sesame sauce and soy sauce. The dish is exquisite on all sensory fronts, and the attractive sight, smell and taste are accented by a touch of sansho, or Japanese pepper.
The location also once served as the residence of a prominent artist by the name of Kawamura Manshu in the Meiji era (1868-1912), and was frequented as a kind of cultural salon by other writers and artists. As such, you’ll be in for a dining experience in the retro Japanese ambiance of a location that once served as a venue for avid cultural discourse.
Shoraian's kaiseki ryori (tea ceremony dishes) have garnered a reputation for the restaurant as a location that serves “tofu dishes that set them apart from the rest.” You’ll be able to experience a lunchtime meal in an air of extravagance.
The boiled tofu is prepared by first setting it in a pot of simmering kombu dashi (broth), then serving it in a separate dashi with a katsuo (bonito) base. The garnish of Kujo leeks and the touch sansho pepper are exemplary when paired with the tofu. You can also get away from the crowds for some respite in the quiet atmosphere of Shoraian.
Yudofu Takemura is a great place to visit if you're curious about Saga tofu, a regional specialty. The restaurant receives their supply of tofu from Morioka Tofu, a distinguished tofu specialty store, and prepares an exquisite yudofu which also serves as the restaurant's namesake. The dashi is a well-guarded secret, but paired with the fine, silky texture of the tofu, the dish will have you absent-mindedly smacking your lips as you savor the flavor.
Between yudofu, hassun (small side dish), hirousu (deep-fried tofu ball with vegetables), gomadofu (tofu made from sesame paste), a simplicity of flavor is a common theme behind these ingredients chosen for how they emphasize the tofu itself. The dish is truly complete with a touch of the restaurant's soy sauce mixed with dashi, made using the finest katsuobushi (bonito), called Matsurazaki Katsuobushi.
Banzai for Obanzai! 3 Buffet-Style Lunches to Fully Savor Arashiyama Cuisine
How about forgetting about eating daintily for a bit and really savoring the many flavors of Arashiyama's delicious cuisine. Gyatei is highly recommended for those who are interested in eating your stomach full in a buffet stocked with healthy, delicious options. Dining at the restaurant also affords you the luxury of a picturesque view of a bamboo forest, which sets the tone of the traditionally Japanese ambiance.
There is a selection of over 30 different dishes at the buffet, including obanzai sushi, yuba, namafu (wheat gluten mixed with rice flour), and nigiri sushi made with fresh fish, all of which assuredly warrant a taste while you have the opportunity.
Nouvelle Japonaise Arashiyama
Nouvelle Japonaise's lunch buffet is highly recommended if you're feeling especially ravenous on any given day. The freedom to choose a main dish and seasonal obanzai side dishes is a defining characteristic of lunching at the restaurant.
The single main dish could be a difficult decision with choices including a Japanese hamburger, sukiyaki (hot pot stew), steak, or a Shokado Bento (a traditional tea ceremony course).
Although a hotel restaurant located inside of Hotel Binario, the prices are economical, like the 70 minute all-you-can-eat course starting from 1,600 yen.
Restaurant Arashiyama is posited in a location with a clear view of Togetsukyo Bridge, where you can enjoy a buffet of delicious Kyoto cuisine while enjoying the stunning scenery.
Their menu consists of 60 different kinds of seasonal obanzai dishes and tofu, all within the premises of a single restaurant. If you're looking to fill your stomach on Kyoto cuisine, stop by for sumptuous cooking and cost-effective prices at Arashiyama.
5 Assured Picks for Lunch at Traditional Japanese Restaurants in Arashiyama
Though Arashiyama isn’t typically a region associated with unagi (eel), Hirokawa is a unagi restaurant with a one-of-a-kind flavor that you should definitely check out. The restaurant has even earned a Michelin star, garnering it a notable reputation within the Kansai region. Although the prices are reflective of their pedigree, the restaurant is considered one of the best unagi restaurants in the area, and certainly warrants a visit if you're looking to savor some eel.
The restaurant is said to have been a favorite of Japanese actor Katsu Shintaro, and the impeccably fresh eel with a soft, feathery texture is said to be free of any fishy aftertaste. The aged umami (Japanese savory taste) of the sauce is also plays a pivotal role in accenting the eel. Perhaps this may come as a surprise, but the flavor of eel is complemented well by white wines, so why not enjoy a glass along with your eel?
Nishiki is traditional Japanese restaurant, or ryotei, serving fine Japanese cuisine prepared with an assortment of seasonal ingredients. You’ll also get to enjoy your meal with scenic views of Togetsukyo bridge, the Katsura River ferry, and a seasonal kaleidoscope of the natural foliage reflected on the river surface.
Meals are served in an ornate, black-lacquered jubako (tiered box) called the sakura yadozen, and the various picturesque arrangements of dishes vary depending on the month. The porcelain and lacquerware glisten with a vivid sheen, and the Kai-awase (a game which involved matching two halves of a painting drawn in two separate shells) lacquerware and beautiful jubako emphasize the quaint ceremonial aspects of fine Japanese dining. Although you can't go wrong with any part of the Sakura Yadozen, the delicate, soft-textured herring wrapped in kombu (kelp) is especially exquisite.
Yoshimura serves soba (buckwheat noodles) lunches in a wonderful scenic location with a view of Togetsukyo Bridge. Fresh buckwheat flour is handmade into the restaurant's emblematic soba noodles by people who have spent long years perfecting their craft.
If in doubt, try the [Tenzaru Set]. The Tenzaru Set features a bowl of silky, soba noodles topped by piping-hot, crispy tempura to sate both your stomach and soul. Their handmade soba can also be ordered out as well, in which case you’ll have the luxury of a restaurant’s culinary expertise in the comfort of your home.
Taisho Hanana is an ochazuke (green tea or broth poured over rice) specialty restaurant in Arashiyama. The restaurant receives its supply of fresh vegetables from local farmers, and the highest quality of red sea bream are chosen to use in various dishes. Hanana is also meticulous about the presentation their dishes, which are served in Arita ware, a high-end porcelain with enamel designs.
This particularity about the finer details is also evident in areas other than the courses themselves. The exterior is inspired by an old-town machiya (traditional wooden townhouse), and a bamboo forest lines the road extending from the shop curtain, piquing expectations from even before you set foot in the restaurant. Counter seats offer a view of the distinct seasonal changes in the surrounding nature, and is a perfect complement to the delicious ochazuke.
Maikohan is known for drawing the best out of Kyoto vegetables in their various dishes. The restaurant is located abreast Arashiyama's beautiful seasonal mosaic of nature, which you can savor along with your meal.
Among the various choices available on the menu, there are also certain dishes which require reservations to order. The 16-piece bite-sized tempura set includes a restaurant recommended selection of 8 sticks, along with 8 sticks of whatever you like (from choices that include fish, vegetables, and chicken), and being able to choose according to your preferences is the attraction of the course. The relaxed, gentle, wooden atmosphere makes for leisurely dining as you enjoy the delicious foods.
5 Instagram Worthy Cafes to Visit in Betwixt Your Arashiyama Sightseeing
Saganoyu Cafe Style Resort
Saganoyu Cafe Style Resort is just a short walk away from Saga Arashiyama Station. The cafe was built in the place of a sento (a public bath) from the Taisho era (1912-1926), blending an old-town look with a modern white interior.
The restaurant is also conveniently located near Togetsukyo Bridge and Tenryuji Temple, making it an ideal pit stop while going around sightseeing.
One of the popular dishes at the cafe is the tofu pasta. Even if you decide to go for it just out of curiosity, the novel flavor is very satisfying. The cafe also has a number of original sweets available in gift boxes. The front register is a bit quirky in that it’s a bandai, or a front counter where you traditionally check into bathhouses. The fancy atmosphere is ideal for an outing where'd you'd like a little something different.
eX cafe Arashiyama Main Branch
eX Cafe is known for its refreshing interior decor complemented by a picturesque outdoor setting that has even been used for shooting a drama. What was formerly a manor has been renovated into an elegant, opulent, and spacious interior complete with a Japanese garden for a traditional cultural touch.
Being able to roast your own dango (dumplings) is a popular attraction, and their other Japanese sweets cooked on a shichirin (charcoal grill) regularly have people lining up at the doors to get their hands on them. They also have some creative fusion pastas with toppings such as Kyoto shibazuke (vegetables pickled in salt and red shiso herbs) pasta and shio kombu (salted kelp). The unconventional but complementary pairings are said to be the secret to the cafe's popularity. Zashiki (tatami) seats and private rooms are also available with prior reservations, and are apt for sitting and enjoying in leisure.
Arabica Kyoto Arashiyama
Arabica Kyoto is a coffee specialty store that has been garnering significant attention as of late. Their lattes are on the voluminous side, and each is embossed with an elaborate drawing on the surface that it's almost a shame to have drink it. The retro coffee machine adds to the atmosphere of the glass-paneled interior.
The barista here is held in high esteem, even being called the greatest in the world, and many coffee aficionados flock to the small store for delicious coffee. You should also definitely consider grabbing take-out on days with good weather, since you can take a short walk down to the Katsura River or Togetsukyo Bridge to enjoy it while enjoying the views.
One of Saganoyu’s rare traits is the fact that the cafe is a renovated sento bathhouse. Traditional sento are known for their old-time, relaxed atmosphere—a facet that has been preserved even following renovations.
The recommendation choice at Saganoyu is the fluffy, thick, golden-brown [Peach Pancake]. The pancake batter is made of sweet peaches and rich cream, which becomes a thing of perfection when cooked. The warm natural wood, and ambient conversational tones of the lively atmosphere is the ideal setting for a carefree lunch.
Cafe Libra is an old-fashioned cafe establishment with a legacy spanning 50 years. Their coffee is made with an original blend of coffee beans and is prepared using the Nel Drip method (a process of brewing coffee with a cloth flannel dripper that originated in Japan), which produces a particularly smooth texture of delicious coffee that has captured the tongues of coffee-drinkers both inside and outside of Japan. The popular store is teeming with customers throughout the year. The store is also easily accessible, being located just a short walk from Arashiyama Station.
Their highly recommended sandwich is made with slices from a round loaf of shokupan (a fluffy, white Japanese bread) and a hearty helping of vegetables picked fresh from the nearby Kita Saga. The cafe also has an assortment of cakes to go along with their superlative coffee.
Refresh Your Mind and Sate Your Stomach in Arashiyama
Arashiyama harnesses a multitude of seasonal complexions, and is the perfect kind of place to take leisurely strolls and ease yourself into relaxation. You can also find a smattering of fine Japanese restaurants, fashionable cafes, and casual restaurants, depending on whichever atmosphere best suits what you're looking for amidst your travels. Whether it’s a quaint Kyoto atmosphere, or unbridled, lush mountains, Arashiyama highlights some of the most distinctive and beautiful features of Japan.
Translated and republished with permission from: SPIRA (formerly known as Relux Magazine)
By the way, you can book a hotel through Relux (run by SPIRA) by clicking here!
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.