The ultimate guide to Michelin Star dining in Kyoto

Discover the best Michelin-starred restaurants and top dining options in the Kyoto Prefecture

TableCheck

TableCheck

Apr 4, 2024 - 5 min read

The ultimate guide to Michelin Star dining in Kyoto

A visit to Kyoto is like a long heritage walk. With its mystical shrines temples, machiya houses, and zen gardens, Kyoto's timeless charm can transport anyone on a soul-fulfilling journey through culture and tradition.

This facet of Kyoto is not widely known among international tourists but this historic city is the birthplace of five distinct styles of Japanese cuisine: kaiseki ryori, daikyo ryori, obanzai, shojin ryori, honzen ryori. There is much to discover about a region's cuisine as the food also narrates stories of its rich history. Kyoto cuisine or Kyo Ryori is highly respected for its use of seasonal ingredients to maximize the flavours of fresh produce. There is so much to discover about Kyoto’s cuisine. The fact that Shojin Ryori is a kind of vegetarian cuisine will come as a pleasant surprise to vegetarian tourists, and the traditional sweets known as Kyogashi will delight Instagrammers with their stunning shapes and colors. No wonder this ex-capital boasts 97 Michelin-starred restaurants serving a mix of traditional, fusion, and international cuisine. 

Before taking a plunge into the world of Michelin-star dining in Kyoto, let's find out how the Michelin Guide awards the best Kyoto restaurants with a star. 

Cracking the code: Michelin Guide's Star system

What is a Michelin Star? A Michelin Star is awarded to restaurants delivering outstanding cooking with five universal criteria:

  • Quality of Ingredients

  • Expertise in cooking techniques and flavor

  • Chef's distinctive style

  • Balance and harmony of flavors

  • Consistency between visits and across the menu

Who makes the decision? Michelin employs anonymous inspectors, former restaurant and hospitality professionals, who visit restaurants and make decisions in consultation with other inspectors who have dined there. After numerous inspectors have eaten at a restaurant, they debate their group experiences before deciding. The awards are given annually to new restaurants while old restaurants with “stars” are also reassessed to check if they still offer a high standard of cooking. 

Discover Michelin-starred restaurants in Kyoto partnered with TableCheck

Among the many exceptional dining establishments in this historic city, here are some TableCheck clients that rank among the top restaurants in Kyoto.

Gion Matayoshi: Chakaiseki that highlights the freshest ingredients from around Japan

With its unrivaled sake collection and exquisitely presented two-star Michelin Kyoto cuisine prepared by Chef Matayoshi, who hails from Okinawa, the cozy Matayoshi restaurant seeks to satisfy both hunger and the soul. The chef's culinary masterpieces, the hassun appetizers, are the center of attention. These appetizers showcase traditional cooking techniques through cooked and vinegared classics, in keeping with Gion's elegant style. Additionally, deep-fried sesame tofu is served between courses as a palate cleanser.

Address: 570-123 Giommachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, 605-0074, Japan
Website: Gion Matayoshi
Reservations: TableCheck

Ryō-shō: Japanese dishes with a French twist

Prepare for a delightful dining adventure at two Michelin-starred Ryo Sho, nestled in the charming historic quarter of Higashiyama-Ku. At Ryo Sho, the culinary offerings blend traditional cooking techniques with modern influences. From inherited traditions like soup dishes and sashimi to Spiny Lobster glazed with egg-yolk sauce and black truffles with beef sukiyaki, the food borrows cooking techniques from classic French cuisine. This modern sensibility also extends to their exceptional wine pairings and delectable omakase courses.

Address: 570-166 Giommachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, 605-0074, Japan
Website: Ryo Sho
Reservations: TableCheck

Kodaiji Jugyuan: A modern spin on Japanese fare

Established in a Kodaiji Temple in Higashiyama over a century ago, the sukiya-style building has been transformed into a Ryotei. Jugyuan strives to marry timeless Japanese dishes with innovative modern elements, an example of which is the long tooth grouper grilled in salt and garnished with cauliflower surinagashi. This excellent eatery’s charm is further enhanced by its sprawling garden.

Address: 353 Masuyacho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, 605-0826, Japan
Website: Kodaiji Jugyuan
Reservations: TableCheck

Droit: Chef Morinaga's French cuisine with a Japanese soul 

Droit blends Japanese ingredients and French culinary tradition in mind. Customers love Chef Nobuyuki Morinaga's Spring Asparagus, where he sautés spears and braises roots before topping them with beurre blanc sauce, demonstrating his passion for finding sauce-ingredient harmony, inspired by his background in classic French cuisine  At Droit, Chef Morinaga is in continuous exploration of various cooking techniques to alter the taste of the food and create fabulous Michelin-star dishes.

Address: 49-1 Higashisakuracho, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto, 602-0858, Japan
Website: Droit
Reservations: TableCheck

Nakatsuka: A melody of aromas

Creating irresistible aromas that would whet everyone's appetite and make them feel pleased is the central philosophy at Nakatsuka. Considering this theme, this Michelin-starred restaurant showcases an open kitchen where the delightful aromas from cooking waft through the air, leading diners to their tables. Chef Takayuki Nakatsuka, a true gourmet guru, has honed his skills in Europe for many years, with a clear influence from his time in Spain reflected in his use of espumas (savory foams) and smoked ingredients. "Pascade", the house specialty, deserves a special shoutout. It's a thick crepe made in the French Auvergne region to which Chef Takayuki adds herbs and citrus to draw out the lightness.

Address: 299 Kinoshitacho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, 604-8104, Japan
Website: Nakatsuka
Reservations: TableCheck

Honke Takuma Honten: Savor Monmo cuisine with a view of nature’s bounty

At Honke Takuma Honten, one can enjoy the breathtaking views of the Higayashiyama Mountains and the Kamo River and Takase River while dining on "Monmo" cuisine, prepared by Kumasaburo Kurisu, the third-generation owner/chef who continues this culinary Kyoto tradition to this day. The ingredients are eaten "as it is" or "food au natural". Kyoto-style kaiseki cuisine, wine, and sake are served in this one-starred Michelin restaurant as well as other vegan, halal, and kosher dishes.

Address: 168 Izumiyacho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto, 600-8014, Japan
Website: Honke Takuma Honten
Reservations: TableCheck

Restaurant Hiramatsu Kodaiji: French cuisine meets Kyoto flavors under Yasaka Pagoda's gaze

As they savor the restaurant's famous dish, red bell-pepper mouse, patrons are enchanted by the sight of Yasaka Pagoda also known as Hokanji-Temple, one of the most important architectural landmarks of Higayishiyama District in Kyoto.

At this 24-seater French restaurant that serves both lunch and dinner, Chef Hiruses ingredients from Kyoto to deliver his unique version of French cuisine. A delicious example of this fusion is Crêpe Suzette served with orange, mascarpone, hazelnuts, balsamic vinegar, and pink pepper or the Oni-ebi prawn salad with Osseta caviar, white asparagus, and clear fruit tomato jelly for dinner. An elegant evening of French cuisine with a hint of the region's enchantment awaits guests at this restaurant. 

Address: 353 Masuyacho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, 605-0826, Japan
Website: Hiramatsu 
Reservations: TableCheck

Lurra: Tasting global flavors through Chef Jacob Kear's imaginative dishes

At Lurra, diners can embark on a global culinary journey with a menu featuring dishes like Indian Papadums and Mexican tacos. The restaurant's name and the way it is spelled, Lurra,  meaning 'the Earth', ‘coordinates’, and 'the Moon' in Basque, sets the tone for an adventurous dining experience. Owner and Chef Jacob Kear, who trained under the prestigious Noma restaurant in Copenhagen, crafts innovative dishes at Lurra to showcase the distinctive local ingredients of Japan’s ancient capital.

Address: 396 Sekisenincho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, 605-0021, Japan
Website: Lurra
Reservations: TableCheck

Gion Maruyama: Michelin-starred Sukiya-style restaurant at the heart of Gion

Gion Maruyama is the brainchild of Chef Maruyama whose philosophy is to serve the type of Kyoto cuisine that will appeal to all five senses. From his Seasonal cooking course that includes Kyoto bamboo shoots with roe from Lake Biwa to Kaiseki courses that incorporate Kyoto's freshest produce, Chef Maruyama references timeless culinary traditions and a nod to tea ceremonies in his elaborate menu. Guests can enjoy the traditional teahouse-style interiors and Japanese omotenashi hospitality at its best in Gion Maruyama.

Address: 1F, 570-171 Gionmachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0074, Japan
Reservations: TableCheck

Dining Michelin-style in Kyoto

Michelin-star dining in Kyoto is exceptional, complemented by the city's world-renowned sights and scenery. Whether a visitor is looking for sushi in Kyoto or Kaiseki restaurants, they will be rewarded with brilliant food. However, It's common for the finest Michelin-starred eateries to be fully reserved weeks, or even months, ahead of time.

Here are some tips to get seats at award-winning restaurants in Kyoto:

  • Consider the budget: Due to its unique culinary offerings, ambiance, and service, Michelin restaurants usually cost more to dine at than other restaurants. Choosing one Michelin-starred restaurant, however, can still be a great way to experience Michelin dining that doesn't break the bank.

  • Book in advance: Diners should research early and make reservations weeks in advance to get the preferred time slot and date. It's best to be flexible with time to get more chances of booking their desired restaurant.

  • Research payment methods and cancellation policies: While most Michelin restaurants in Kyoto accept credit cards, there may be an occasional establishment or two that still rely on traditional payment methods. Diners should make sure to research in advance and check if there are prepayment policies before arriving at the restaurant's doorstep.

TableCheck is integrated with the Michelin Guide, allowing diners to book seats at their favorite Michelin-starred restaurants directly from the official Michelin Guide website 24/7.

Michelin-starred restaurants in Kyoto are known for their stellar service, high-quality ingredients, and divine cuisine. Through theTableCheck reservation system, these restaurants can provide award-winning experiences to their guests and drive more revenue to their businesses.

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