Category Archives: Restaurants

Deep Kyoto on CNN Travel

In case you missed it, my recommendations for what to see, do, buy, & eat when in “Japan’s most photogenic city” are now up on the CNN Travel site.

Inside Guide Best of Kyoto

Everyone should visit Kyoto at least once.

It’s Japan’s best preserved ancient city.

Shrines, temples, palaces, gardens … the city is home to thousands of architectural wonders, including 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Geisha and locals wearing traditional kimonos aren’t unusual sights.

But Kyoto is a modern city with a dynamic music and arts scene, lively markets and restaurants serving the best Japanese cuisine.

There’s too much to see on a single visit — so we have whittled down the best of Kyoto.

Click to read the rest of: Inside Guide: Best of Kyoto

I had to put this piece together in a bit of a hurry last July, so it was a HUGE help that Jeffrey Friedl, Travis Seifman, and Mario Cacciottolo let me use some of their photos. By way of thanks, I encourage you all to visit their websites:

Jeffrey Friedl’s blog:
Mario Cacciottolo’s photography:
Travis Seifman’s “musings on the arts of Japan and beyond”:

Thanks also are due to Chris Rowthorn who put CNN in touch with me in the first place.

Deep Nara #2 – Restaurant & Cafe Bambuno

After visiting the Kojiki Exhibition in Nara last month, Mewby and I wandered into the Nara-machi area in search of a place to eat. A warm glow from Restaurant Bambuno caught my eye, we studied the menu, we liked what we saw, and so we plumped for Italian that night. IMG_7266I’m glad we did. The food was great and service very friendly. I’m happy to recommend this little restaurant to anyone visiting Nara. Here’s what we had:


Oysters Ajillo

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Salmon Marinated with rock salt, lemon & olive oil.

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Margherita: fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil

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Pasta Napolitana; tuna, mushrooms, tomato sauce

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Satsuma-imo (sweet potato) tiramisu

Everything we ate was really great, but that sweet potato tiramisu was a real discovery. When you experiment with a classic recipe things can go horribly wrong, but this time the combination worked a treat. It was the perfect end to a lovely meal.

Here are the restaurant details:

IMG_0326 (Medium)Opening Hours:
Lunch: 11:30〜14:00
Cafe Time: 15:00〜17:00
Dinner: 18:00〜22:00
Closed on Tuesdays

Tel: 0742-27-0072
Address: 〒 630-8734
Here is a MAP.

See also: Deep Nara #1: Kojiki Exhibition

Yak & Yeti – Nepalese Curry in Kyoto

Yak and Yeti is a restaurant we go back to time and time again for two reasons. One is the super friendly staff who never fail to put a smile on our faces. And the other is their legendary Vegetable Phuraula, Nepali style spicy vegetable tempura. It’s amazing. This restaurant is super popular with vegetarians for the range of tasty vegan options they have on their menu but you don’t have to be vegan to enjoy them. They are soooo good. And of course they have plenty of carnivorous options too. We usually share one curry and a naan bread and get a range of their fantastic appetisers. Here’s what we had last time.

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Generally, they have two Nepali beers available, Mustang, which has a subtle but musky flavour, and Nepali Ice which is crisper and lighter on the tongue. The spicy papadums were a special treat from the restaurant, and went so nicely with that first beer. Continue reading

Honke Owariya with Sean Lotman

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On Sunday Mewby and I had the pleasure of lunch with writer/photographer Sean Lotman. Sean’s wife manages the Honke Owariya soba noodle business, a family company which is pretty famous in Kyoto.  The business actually dates from 1465, though they “only” started making noodles Sean told me about 300 or 400 years ago, as they were originally a confectionary business.  They still make confectionary but it is the noodles that have made it famous. We met up with Sean at the main branch of Honke Owariya, a delightful old traditional Kyoto building for a stimulating lunch of hearty food and good conversation in beautiful surrounds. Continue reading

All New Falafel Garden

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A couple of weeks ago we went to check out the new location for Falafel Garden. A short walk north of Demachiyanagi on Kawabata, this new shop opened on April 28th. The old Falafel Garden was always a popular spot, but I think I like this new one even more. It’s bigger, more comfortable, they have a nice big garden out the back and if you are lucky you can snag a balcony seat upstairs and sit outside in the cool breeze watching those dinky little toy-like trains of the Eiden line roll by.

And the food of course is as good as ever. Mewby ordered a double sandwich set of chicken kebab and falafel (1290 yen).

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Whereas I went for a simple large falafel sandwich (1150 yen). Did we get fries with that (100 yen)? Yes, we did! It was great, but I think in retrospect, my eyes were bigger than my tummy and a medium sized sandwich would have sufficed.

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So to summarize, the new Falafel Garden is just as good as the old one, if not better, and those healthy, nutritious, golden balls of goodness are just as tasty as before. Keep this fine institution going and give them some of your custom at the location below!
Open: Everyday 11:00 am ~ 21:30 (last orders) ~ 22:00 (closes)
The 2nd floor is non-smoking.
Tel: 075-712-1856


Tadg’s is back!

Tadg and Mika McLoughlin are opening a new establishment “Tadg’s Gastro Pub” on the site of the former Merry Island restaurant this Friday. Here’s the good word from the man himself via his blog:

Dear Friends,

We have moved and are just a three-minute walk north of or original site at the Empire building. Go up Kiyamachi, cross Oike, it’s right on the right (east) side. It is the same location as the former Merry Island restaurant. We officially open from 5pm this Friday 11th April. We have changed the name to “Tadg’s Gastro Pub”. We are starting off with 5 taps featuring the best selection of Japanese craft beers, We will be stocking 10L kegs, the smaller kegs will ensure we will always have a quick turn over, therefore a greater selection of the best craft beers in Japan in stock. We will be adding on more taps and will also have a great bottled beer selection to complement our taps.

Our food menu, will have some of our favourites as well as some new additions.

It will take a little while to streamline, our goal will be seasonal, healthy, delicious.

…We are now open for lunch running the current Merry Island menu after Golden we will be introducing a completely new menu. More information anon.

As with all new businesses it will take us a little time to familiarise ourselves with our new surroundings. We will endeavour to make it as smooth as possible, so we thank you in advance for your patience if there are any hiccups.

We look forward to seeing you.

Tadg & Mika

New Address: 1F 498 Kamikoriki-cho, Nakagyo-ku, 604-0923 Kyoto, Japan

Tel: 075-213-0214075-213-0214

And here is a MAP.

For menu details and other information please refer to Tadg’s blog.

Saganoyu Cafe

saga no yuIf you’re in the Saga area, the cafe Saganoyu is a pleasant spot for lunch or a cup of coffee. Originally built as a public bathhouse in 1923, the building has been thoroughly renovated and was reopened as a cafe in 2006. You can still see the original tiling on the floors and the faucets along the walls. Continue reading

Kamo’s All You Can Eat Veggie Buffet

Now that Obanzai’s organic buffet is closing, it is good to know that there are alternatives. Kamo serves up all organic locally grown vegetables in all kinds of tasty combinations. They take pride in the fact their vegetables are 都野菜 or “Miyako vegetables” which means they are truly local. Apparently the famed label 京野菜 – “Kyo yasai” does not always guarantee that the veggies actually come from Kyoto! Mewby and I went there a couple of weeks ago for lunch and thought it was pretty good value. Here’s Mewby’s lunch:

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Here’s mine:

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As you can see there is plenty of variety. Here are the details:
Morning light meal buffet(7:00 ~ 10:00): ¥480 (includes a soft drink)
Lunch-time buffet (11:00 ~ 16:00): ¥880 (when full they have a one hour limit)
Dinner-time buffet (17:00 ~ 23:00): ¥1,300 (when full they have an 80 minute limit)
Limitless soft drinks: ¥300
All You Can Drink with alcohol: ¥950

IMG_7933v2Location: On the south-east corner of Higashinotoin and Ayanokouji. One block east of Karasuma and one block south of Shijo. Here is a MAP.
Check out also these 360 degree panoramic views of the interior:

Bellota Concha on Tominokoji

Bellota Concha is a Spanish style restaurant specialising in seafood fresh from the market. Mewby and I ate there once last year and enjoyed it, so I thought it would be a nice spot to celebrate our anniversary.

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They have two floors, so if you are upstairs you get one of these funky bells to call for service. We started our meal with a white asparagus and anchovy salad…

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Then a bowl of steamed mussels in white wine. The bread here is also very good: soft, white and chewy.

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Now for paella. Most people would probably just order one medium sized paella and be satisfied, but I’m greedy so I ordered two small ones. One had oysters and spring onions:

IMG_7625 (Medium)And the other was a seafood assortment:

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We finished off with crema catalana and Torta de Santiago (a kind of almond pie).

IMG_7623 (Medium)Everything was splendid and tasted great! I spent just under 10,000 yen that night, but I did order a lot of food, so I imagine you could get away with a 7,000 yen bill and have plenty to eat and drink. Anyway, Bellota has good food, good service and a nice atmosphere. If you have a special occasion coming up then I recommend it.

IMG_7637 (Medium)Bellota Concha is just south of Shijo on the west side of Tominokoji. There is a map at the bottom of this page: There are also other Bellota branches throughout Kyoto, which you can find on their website.

TEL: 075-351-5829
Open every day for lunch: 11:30〜15:00 (last orders at 14:30)
Open every day for dinner: 17:00〜24:00 (last orders at 23:00)

Chakra Indian Restaurant

We found another great curry place! Mewby and I stumbled across Chakra last night while out for an evening stroll, and although we hadn’t intended to eat out, we were tempted in at the thought of Bengal curry goodness…

There are a lot of choices on the menu, and everything seems pretty reasonably priced. There are also a lot of vegetarian/vegan options: 8 different veggie curries to choose from! Mewby being carnivorous chose a chicken korma (1,200 yen):

chicken korma

And I had a Shaee vegetable korma (1100 yen). Both of our meals were delicious.


The sweet naan (500 yen) we ordered to accompany our meals was the star attraction though. Packed with dried fruits and coconut, we both loved it.


Chakra is on the corner of Gojo and Higashioji at the bottom of the Kiyomizu slope – an area that basically shuts down in the evenings, so I think this restaurant gets most of its business at lunchtime. If you go in the evening, it’s nice and quiet, and the background ethnic music is gentle on ears the too. Bento lunch boxes (700 yen) and takeaway meals are also available. All in all, we were very happy with our Chakra experience and will definitely be back to try more items on the menu.


Godfather & Cobra Indian beers available!

Open: Monday – Sunday: 11:00 – 22:00
TEL:  075-525-1260
Location: On the west side of Higashioji Street just north of Gojo at the bottom of Gojozaka. The Gojo Zaka bus stop is right outside. Here is a MAP.