Overview of Teppanyaki and Wagyu
The world "wagyu" literally means Japanese beef and there are lots of varieties to choose from with "Kobe" beef being one of the most well know around the world and often considered the best in Japan for its marbled fat which simply melts in your mouth. This is not the only wagyu to go for though, and it might even not be your cup of tea if you prefer leaner cuts of meat. It's never a bad idea to ask the chef what he recommends based on what you usually like to have back home.
Teppanyaki cuisine is always cooked on a flat iron grill with there being basically two types to go for Japanese and Western. Japanese style serve dishes like "okonomiyaki" which is often described as Japanese pizza with the main ingredients being cabbage, eggs, pancake batter and toppings like pork, beef or seafood. "Yaki-soba" is a fried noodle dish with similar ingredients minus the pancake batter. Both come with a healthy dollop of a brown sauce similar to HP sauce of the UK. Western style teppanyaki is the steak, seafood and grilled vegetables which most people are more familiar with. Don't expect the chef to be doing an impression of Tom Cruise in the movie "Cocktail" though. As much as they show off their skills the more flamboyant teppanyaki chefs are more of an American invention. As a rule, the Japanese style restaurants are a lot more local and cheaper than the Western style, but that said, even though the beef can be expensive it is really worth a try even if only once in your life.
Places to try in Kyoto
These are in order of expected cost from low to high.
Okonomiyaki Yoshino吉野This is a super local spot and a bit hidden away down a little alley but very tasty and very cheap too. It's Japanese style so no wagyu here. The portions of yakisoba and okonomiyaki are generous and the tables are tight to each other so you may end up getting chatting with the people next to you too. It looks like a bit of a greasy spoon diner but it is really tasty. Closes at 8:30pm so go early if you can.
Teppanyaki Manryu 鉄板焼き萬隆A kind of in-between option which does both western and Japanese style dishes. The prices are good and they are very welcoming to international visitors. It can get busy so reservations are recommended.
Planca Ken プランチャー健
A very small and tricky to find place that does Western style teppanyaki and wagyu beef without breaking the bank. Very reasonable course menus from 5,000 yen a person. A decent selection of wine in a hidden little corner of Gion too.
Itoh Dining 伊藤ダイニング 京都
Often considered the top in class, this place does amazing kobe beef and it in a great location overlooking the Shirakawa river in Gion. Note that they get some bad reviews as the service is a bit formal and not everyone is used to forking over that amount for one meal. That said, I think it's worth trying if you have the budget to splurge.
Teppanyaki Gozan Nozomu 鉄板焼 五山望
I have a new favourite and it's Gozan Nozomu which is a restaurant located in the Granvia Hotel at Kyoto station. Great views of the city and an excellent selection of beef, seafood and plenty more. Courses start at 12,000yen/person but it really is an experience and not too well known compared to other options which are more popular with travellers.
Got a place you like in Kyoto? Or tried one of the above and want to spread the word? Write a comment below.
This is my absolute favourite way to dine in Japan. Izakaya is a type of Japanese tapas pub where you can order lots of little dishes to share. We often visit them in groups and since there is a huge variety of items for sale, we can try a little bit of everything and there is something for everyone too, even vegetarians.
Here is a list of some of our favourites listed in order of estimated cost low-high. Expect to pay 2,000-5,000 yen a person for a good number of tapas and a few drinks too.
A student vibe izakaya with great gyoza and fried chicken. Also the salads are tasty and portions are big too. It's a bit tricky to find and you may have to share your table with others but a fun vibe. Super cheap too.
Daidokoro Tenya 台所 てんや
A rare find that is frequented by locals and serves great sushi, kushi-katsu (think deep fried things on sticks) a delicious daikon radish salad with plum dressing, a unique tofu skin pizza and lots of other tasty dishes. Portions are big and prices are small. Also one of our go-to places on the Gion Night Walk tour.
Gion Yuki 遊亀祇園店
Perhaps one of the more traditional and local places in Gion and quite reasonable in price too. The only issue here is that the word has gotten out on this place so you might find that there will be a line to be seated and the staff are not always so welcoming as in other places. This is not too out of the norm in Gion where regular customers are often treated a lot better. Still great food and a fun and lively vibe.
This place serves seasonal dishes and specialize in using local Kyoto vegetables and fresh fish. They serve a delicious potato salad too. Lovely warm atmosphere on a quiet residential street a little out of the main centre. Note that it can get busy so better to reserve in advance. Like above the second floor is tatami mat only seating but downstairs you can sit as normal.
Kohaku 京町家おばんざい こはく
Another great place to try tapas with more of a focus on vegetables. One of my favourite dishes here is the corn tempura. The setting is a little more fancy than Nakajimaya and it's a lot more central near to the Pontocho and Kiyamachi night life district. Also better to reserve especially on weekends.