Kyoto with Kids – Restaurant Recommendations

Kyoto, Japan

There’s no other place like Kyoto. Kyoto feels like another world, even to the Japanese.

Kyoto has everything, from culture, tradition, architecture, nature, and most of all…

 

FOOD!

Kyoto has the 2nd most Michelin star restaurants in the WHOLE WORLD with 135 stars in total, topped by Tokyo, having a total of 304 stars.

That’s a lot of stars…

In this post, I am going to review every single restaurant we went during our 3 day trip.

 

Day 1 – Lunch – Kinugasa Zen

We left Tokyo early in the morning, and arrived at Kyoto just in time for lunch. We wanted to pay a visit to Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion, so we Googled on the spot to find a nice place to get lunch.

 

 

Udon at Kinugasa Zen

 

Our kids love noodles, and I love noodles too. In Japan, we have names for all kinds of noodles, like soba, ramen, udon, somen, kishimen, I can go on.

Udon is basically noodles made of wheat flour. It is one of the very first forms of noodle we feed to babies, because it has a very bland taste. Udon is served with fish broth and soy sauce based soup.

 

We randomly picked this restaurant, so we were relieved when we saw a queue in front of the store.

 

 

More than half of the people waiting in line were not locals. We waited for over 30 minutes, so I recommend making a reservation if you are taking toddlers.

 

You don’t want to make your toddler wait… 

 

Here’s what we ordered

Tori Ten Bukkake Udon (Cold) 

Basically, this is Cold Udon noodles topped with fried chicken. The tsuyu – sauce / soup is on the side, and you pour it on everything. This pouring action is called “bukkake”. It was the most popular menu, so my wife and mother-in-law ordered it.

It also had fried (tempura) carrots, green pepper, green onions, tenkasu (crust of tempura topped to give the bland udon more flavor), sesame, and grated radish.

 

 

Zaru Udon

We ordered Zaru Udon for the kids. It is plain cold udon noodles served with soy sauce tsuyu – sauce. Unlike bukkake, you dip the udon in the sauce for each bite.

 

 

Tori Ten Don Udon Set – Tempura on Rice

Im gonna assume everybody knows what tempura is. This is a very popular dish in Japan, usually served in Soba / Udon restaurants. Mine came with a side of udon noodles.

 

 

General Information and Comments

Name: Kinugasa Zen

Address: 5 Kinugasa Kaidocho, Kita-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, 603-8372

Pricing: 

Toriten Bukkake Udon – ¥880

Zaru Udon – ¥650

Tori Tendon Udon Set – ¥860

Baby Friendly?: 2/5

Toddler Friendly?: 3/5

Child Friendly?: 4/5

Family Friendly?: 4/5

 

Comments: This was one of the best udon I’ve ever had. But I have to warn you, that it is the most al dente udon I have ever had. It was perfect for me and my wife because we LOVE firm noodles over over-cooked noodles.

If you don’t like firm, chewy noodles, it’s not for you. I also think children under 3 would have a hard time eating these noodles.

I assume that the udon in hot broth will be a bit softer and easy on the texture.

The pricing is amazing, and we all loved this restaurant. We definitely recommend it.

If you are bringing your stroller, you should bring a sling as well because the restaurant is tiny. You may not get a table that you can pull up your stroller.

 

Worth a visit?: Definitely. (If you like firm noodles..)

 

Day 1 – Snack – Aburimochi at Ichimonjiya Wasuke

Aburimochi is a local snack made of pounded rice cake on a stick, with sweet miso flavored sauce. It was our first time even hearing about aburimochi, so we had to try it.

After our visit to Kinkakuji, we hopped on a cab to Ichimonjiya Wasuke located right in front of Imamiya Shrine.

There are two completely DIFFERENT shops that serve aburimochi on both sides of the street. We chose the one on the Right, but honestly we do not now why these two are shops are so close facing each other.

 

 

You can smell the charcoal from afar.

 

 

Shall we?

 

 

Since we had our lunch already, we ordered 3 servings (10 sticks per serving). The rice cake is only as big as your thumb, so if you like it, maybe you can try and compare the two shops.

 

 

General Information and Comments

Name: Ichimonjiya Wasuke

Address: 69 Murasakino Imamiyacho, Kita-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto-fu 603-8243

Pricing: 13 skewers / ¥500

 

Baby Friendly?: 2/5

Toddler Friendly?: 2/5

Child Friendly?: 2/5

Family Friendly?: 3/5

 

Comments: 

Ichimonjiya Wasuke is one of the oldest tea house in Kyoto, with over 1000 years of history. No, it’s not a typo. One thousand years. It first opened in the year 1000 (I know I used a lot of “thousands” in this paragraph). I think the history itself makes this aburimochi tea house so special. I am not too sure if this is true, but the tea house across the street Kazariya, and Ichimonjiya Wasuke both claim that the aburimochi is their “original” idea. Reviewers also say that the aburimochi in both shops have their own distinct taste.

We picked Ichimonjiya Wasuke just because it was more open (literally, people were sitting outside eating), but we were first recommended by our friend to go to Kazariya, and we just wandered into the tea house, which turned out to be a different shop.

Neither my wife nor I have a sweet tooth, so the sweet miso flavor was not our absolute favorite. It was good. Let’s leave it at that, because taste buds are different for everyone.

What we really liked were the atmosphere, and it did feel like we time slipped to 1000 years ago. The tea house is originally a place for Geishas to entertain their clients by dancing and entertainment (not in a sexual way). Now it is just a tea house, but you can feel and relive history.

Kids didn’t like the aburimochi either, because it was their first time having sweet miso.

 

Worth a visit?: Yes, if you are a sweet tooth and interested in Japanese historical architecture. If not, not really.

 

Ichimonjiya Wasuke Aburimochi

 

Day 1 – Dinner – Komai-Tei

I admit, we do NOT do a lot of planning for our trips. My wife and I don’t like to exhaust ourselves by having a long to-do list when it comes to traveling. We would usually pick a few places that we MUST visit, and leaves the rest to where the trip takes us.

Our kids wanted to eat “meat” for dinner. And thank god for them being so vague, we were able to choose Komai-Tei, a Sukiyaki restaurant for dinner. We googled this restaurant, but to make sure, we asked the concierge if they know about it. And they told us it was a great choice.

 

Sanjo, Kyoto

Deep inside this nostalgic (and a bit scary) alley way, stands Komai-Tei with over 100 years of history.

 

Kyoto Alleyways

Kyoto has many, many, many alleyways like this, and so did Tokyo (before people started building skyscrapers). There used to be hundreds of thousands of bars, pubs, and shops in these small alleyways. You don’t want to be wandering around without any purpose, but I think it is fairly safe compared to the negative image of the word “alleyway” (especially when it’s so dark and narrow).

 

 

We were pleasantly surprised

We first joked about this restaurant because it looked like we were invited to someone’s home built a hundred years ago, not knowing that it really was built way over 100 years ago.

And we also know, that these very down-to-earth restaurants with no fancy chandeliers and props have the best food and reasonable pricing.

See, nobody wants to step in a tourist trap, and there are tourist traps everywhere, even for us Japanese citizens.

 

We found a door next to an empty shoebox right where we were eating. And we immediately knew this place was going to have something either AMAZING, or TERRIBLE.

 

The Sukiyaki Course

There were three main choices

  1. Sukiyaki – Simmered beef and vegetable pot with sweet soy sauce. ¥5,940 – ¥8,316
  2. Oil yaki – Japanese style steak (not teppanyaki)
  3. Shabushabu – Beef (or Pork) hotpot

Komai-Tei is famous for their Sukiyaki and Oil yaki. We had no idea what Oil yaki was, and since my wife doesn’t like heavy dishes, we chose Sukiyaki.

The course starts off with 4 small otoshi (appetizers). Going from the top clockwise, edamame, beef, tofu, and hozuki. 

 

 

Hozuki

My wife being unbelievably non-Japanese sometimes, she had no idea what this was so I thought I’d explain. Hozuki is also known as “Chinese Lantern”, obviously from the looks of it. There are two types of Hozukis, edible and non-edible. The non-edible ones are just like regular flowers, (they are no good AND poisonous so don’t try them). These ones are edible ones, and has a sour-sweet, taste.

 

 

Prepping for Sukiyaki

Komai-Tei is a traditional restaurant without a doubt. In a traditional Japanese restaurant that serves high quality food, the Nakai-san (a super respectful way of saying waitress) will do all of the serving for you. They will even take the cooked beef into your plate when it is ready to eat. Yes, just sit back and relax. Literally.

 

 

So, while we wait…

A toast with my wife, and mother-in-law.

 

OOOOMFG

The Nakai-san brought the beef, and our eyes were popping out. Our children were literally drooling.

 

 

Soy Sauce and Salt. (PERIOD)

If you are not familiar with Sukiyaki, this may not mean a lot to you, but if you are, you notice what is different here.

Sukiyaki usually has a special sweet soy sauce called Warishita. Each Sukiyaki restaurant will have their own recipe but it is usually pre-made.

Here, they put the soy sauce and sugar separately. We asked to make the sauce with less sugar. We have never had sukiyaki without pre-made sauce, so we were all excited to try it.

 

 

First, enjoy the beef by itself

Oumi-Ushi is the name of this beef. Kobe beef is probably the most or should I say the only known beef brand world-wide, but in our blog, we share many other amazing beef brands that you probably don’t know of. And this is one of them. Oumi-Ushi is an authentic Wagyu Beef, originating from Shiga Prefecture.

Sukiyaki is dipped in raw egg. Eating raw eggs in Japan are as normal as eating cereal for breakfast in the States. IF you don’t want to eat raw eggs, it is totally fine to eat without it. Personally, I like to eat the beef by itself.

This literally was the BEST sukiyaki that I have ever had. And when something is this good, you are just speechless.

 

 

And then, comes the next surprise

After we enjoy the beef, the vegetables come in. And we went speechless again.

Kyoto is famous all kinds of food, but especially vegetables. There is even a word for that “Kyo-Yasai” which literally means Kyoto Vegetables. We had onions, green onions, tofu, and mibuna (our favorite) and we just couldn’t stop eating.

 

 

There’s no such thing as enough

We honestly don’t remember how many extra servings of beef and vegetables we ordered in addition to our 3 sets we initially ordered. My wife and I were so full that we couldn’t even look at the rice, and so we politely asked to skip it, and our Nakai-san insisted that we try just one small bite of the rice because it is nothing like what you eat in Tokyo. And with a bit of a doubt we did, and we just ended up asking for more.

I never knew that rice tasted so different. The grains were smaller, but the flavor was so much richer than the ones we usually eat at home (no offense, Erika).

Being born and raised in Japan my whole life, I wouldn’t have imagined that on my 35th year of my life, I would be this surprised with Sukiyaki, one of the most popular Japanese soul foods.

 

 

 

General Information and Comments

Name: Komai-Tei (Sanjo)

Address: 532 Osakacho, Nakagyo-ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 604-8001

Pricing: 

Sukiyaki – ¥5,940 ¥7,128, ¥8,316 (Oumi Ushi)

Oil Yaki – ¥13,068

Shabushabu – ¥7,722, ¥8,910 (Oumi Ushi)

Baby Friendly?: 2/5

Toddler Friendly?: 3/5

Child Friendly?: 3/5

Family Friendly?: 3/5

 

Comments: 

When you have something amazing and delicious, all you can do is that wordless “mmm~” and an occasional eye contact fully expressing your “OMG this is too good I can’t open my mouth right now” feeling. Kids who usually get bored half way through dinner asked for more and more meat.

The downside of this restaurant is that it is NOT toddler / baby friendly. Don’t get me wrong, the people are  nice, and they pamper your kids as well as yourself, and most of the Nakai-san are women in their 50’s and up, so there is that feeling of that warm, homy atmosphere. BUT, the restaurant use portable gas stoves on each table, which is a bit dangerous for toddlers that walk around.

Another downside is that they do not accept credit card. This is the very weird reality of our country. Many old style restaurants and stores do not accept credit cards, even in large cities like Kyoto, (and even Tokyo!). You are going to have to carry a fairly large amount of cash, but I personally think it is not a problem because Japan is a very safe country.

 

Worth a visit?: YES in BIG BOLD LETTERS!

 

Day 2 – Lunch – Gion Kyomen

We had our breakfast at our hotel. Please check out this post to see what we had!

 

Hunting for lunch, we wandered the district of Gion, which is known for being a Geisha district.

We found this soba / udon house in the busy streets of Gion. Our children are noodlers (I just made that up), so we chose a place where there were no queues.

Oroshi Soba (Cold)

 

Hiyashi Udon Gozen

Ankake Udon

Tempura

 

General Information and Comments

Name: Kyomen

Address: 323 Gionmachi Kitagawa, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, 605-0073

Pricing: 

Hiyashi Udon Gozen – ¥1,530

 

Baby Friendly?: 2/5

Toddler Friendly?: 3/5

Child Friendly?: 3/5

Family Friendly?: 3/5

 

Comments: 

Brutally honest comment: It wasn’t bad, wasn’t amazing either. It is one of those places where it has so much traffic that people would dine despite the quality and service. The service was actually good, and the food wasn’t bad either. BUT, there is no reason we would want to go back.

It is not particularly child friendly, but again, you can bring your kids without a big hassle.

 

Worth a visit?: No

 

Day 2 – Snack – GYUGYU Gion Honten

“Gyu” means Beef in Japanese, so  GyuGyu literally means Beef Beef!

We found this right next to Kyomen, where we just had lunch. Since we didn’t particularly enjoy our lunch, we had to try, when we saw THIS

AND THIS, BEEF SUSHI

 

This was way more satisfying than our lunch. Sorry, Kyomen, not offense..

 

This is me eating…

 

If you wanna try it, look for this cow!

 

 

General Information and Comments

Name: GYUGYU Gion Honten

Address: 297−1 Gionmachi Kitagawa, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0073

Pricing: 

Wagyu Beef Sushi – ¥600

Wagyu Beef Sushi Premium – ¥900

Baby Friendly?: 1/5

Toddler Friendly?: 1/5

Child Friendly?: 1/5

Family Friendly?: 2/5

 

Comments: 

We only had the sushi from the take out stand, so we cannot tell you anything about the restaurant. I rated it low, because I personally don’t let my kids have half raw beef, especially when they are still little. That is the only reason for my low ratings, it has nothing to do with the restaurant quality. If you go to the restaurant, please let me know how it was in the comments!

 

Day 2 – Dinner – Junsei

Kyoto Food Tofu

 

One of the oldest and popular dish originated from Kyoto is Yudofu. The dish itself is just boiled tofu in a large donabe-clay pot. It is usually served in a course, which makes it a pricy dinner even though tofu is extremely inexpensive in Japan.

 

Since our children love tofu, we decided to give it a try. It was our first time to try the official Yudofu course.

 

Once you get inside, there is a beautiful Japanese garden. A very large one.

 

Our reservation was fairly late, so we had a large room to ourselves. The room was a surprisingly casual compared to the garden.

 

 

We ordered 3 servings of the Yudofu Kaiseki – ¥6,170.

It may seem reasonable for a course, but again, tofu is a very common food in Japan, costing as little as ¥90 per pack.

 

Appetizers – Vegetables and Goma Tofu (Sesame Tofu)

 

Tofu Dengaku – Tofu with sweet miso sauce

Yudofu

The Yudofu is served in this donabe pot made out of clay.

Three servings of Yudofu was … a overwhelming, even to look at.

Yudofu Kyoto

 

You can eat the Yudofu dipped in special soy sauce topped with green onions.

The course finishes off with rice and miso soup, but we forgot to take a photo of it.

We ordered some a la carte for our children,

 

Sashimi Set

Kyoto Sashimi Yudofu

 

Dashimaki – Japanese omelette

 

Grilled Matsutake Mushroom

 

Matsutake Mushroom Tempura

 

General Information and Comments

Name: Nanzenji Junsei

Address: 60 Nanzenji Kusagawa-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 606-8437 

Pricing: 

Kyo Kaiseki – ¥10,290~

Yudofu Kaiseki – ¥6,170

Shabushabu – ¥10,290

Baby Friendly?: 3/5

Toddler Friendly?: 4/5

Child Friendly?: 5/5

Family Friendly?: 4/5

 

Comments: 

In Japan, there are not many choices for vegetarians. I am just going to use the term “vegetarians” although there are many types of vegetarians with different principles.

I think it Nanzenji Junsei is a great choice for vegetarians, and those who want to try the simple and authentic Japanese food. Overall the food had very little flavor (which is authentic Japanese style), but to the point where we felt like we were Buddhist monks.

The Yudofu was a bit too bland for us, and there were definitely too much tofu to consume at once. We recommend one serving of Yudofu to be shared by at least 2 people.

The quality of the a la carte and the service was very… average.

Usually, a Kaiseki is served at the top quality restaurants, so the quality and service is also premium quality. We assumed by the pricing of the Kaiseki that this one was casual, but our expectations were a bit higher than what we experienced.

 

Day 3 – Lunch – Hafuu

This is the one place I had to try no matter what.

Hafuu is known for it’s Wagyu Beef, especially its ¥5,000 beef sandwich. Yes, that’s right. It’s approximately 45 USD. For 3 tiny sandwiches. I just had to see if it was worth the money.

 

Exterior

The restaurant is pretty hard to find. I wouldn’t get into detail because you probably would use Google maps, but it is in a very quiet area, not surrounded by many shops & restaurants. Just trust your map!

 

Seating is very limited. Although there are table seats, you may want to come early or make a reservation if you are taking your kids. This time, we decided to leave the kids with grandma, and get take out, because the famous ¥5,000 sandwiches are only available for take out.

 

 

1,900 VS 5,000

When we got there, we found out that there were TWO kinds of Beef Sandwiches.

One is an Australian beef sandwich – ¥1,900

The other is the Wagyu beef sandwich – ¥5,000

We decided to get one of each and took them back to our hotel room.

 

The 1,900

The ¥1,800 sandwich is in a red paper box.

Inside looks amazing. So far, so good. We ‘d thought that it would be more rare, but since we were going to share it with our kids, this was perfect.

 

Finally, the 5,000

Now, it’s in a wooden box!

They put the crust on the side (We assumed it was to prevent the pickle juice from ruining the sandwich). But, by the looks of it, the beef seems a little larger than the 1,800, but everything else seems great.

General Information and Comments

Name: Hafuu Honten

Address: 471-1 Sasayacho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, 604-0983

Pricing: 

Beef Sandwich (Take out only) – ¥1,900

Wagyu Beef Sandwich (Take out only) – ¥5,000

Steak Bowl – ¥2,800

Baby Friendly?: 1/5

Toddler Friendly?: 1/5

Child Friendly?: 2/5

Family Friendly?: 3/5

 

Our Super HONEST Comments

To start off,

The pickles were AWFUL.

My wife loves pickles, and whenever she goes to the states, she has a jar of kosher dills as a snack. I know. It’s weird, but in Japan, there are literally no good pickles. But, she always give the benefit of the doubt and tried one pickle, and she literally spat it out. Just warning you.

 

As for the sandwiches,

There is absolutely no point to buy the ¥1,900 sandwich, because there was nothing too special about it. The sandwiches are very tiny, and if this was my lunch, I would need another box, which would cost ¥3,800. Then, I would rather pay ¥5,000 for the Wagyu.

On the other hand, the ¥5,000 sandwich was amazing. It really was. I personally would like it a bit more rare, but I don’t think I wasted my ¥5,000. They should definitely replace their pickles.

I personally think that the portion is a bit small for the price.

My wife and I both agree that it is totally worth it to try the Wagyu beef sandwich, but there will be other better options if you have ¥5,000 to spare for lunch.

The taste was really really good, so if you don’t mind a small but amazing lunch, we truly recommend it.

 

Restaurant comments:

We didn’t dine at the restaurant, but we can say that there is very limited seating, so be prepared to wait if you go after 12 PM. We went before noon, so the place wasn’t full yet. There are table seating but again, make a reservation if you can. Credit cards are accepted but only from ¥5,000. Many Japanese stores set a minimum to accept credit cards, which is extremely meaningless now that credit card transaction fees are very small.

 

To sum up

We are extremely satisfied with our Kyoto Food experience. The number 1 restaurant we recommend is Komai-Tei. We will definitely go back there, every chance we get. If you are a vegetarian / vegan and do not eat meat, Nanzenji Junsei may be a good choice, but I am sure better vegetarian options are out there. Apologies for not being able to give more information since none of us are vegetarians.

Our ultimate goal was to have great Kyoto food but not pay ridiculous prices, since we were a party of 5. We achieved our goal of trying the ¥5,000 beef sandwich at Hafuu, which was amazing.

We only planned to go to Hafuu and Ichimonjiya Wasuke, and the rest were recommendations from the hotel concierge or Googling on the spot. I think we ran into pretty good places for not being prepared.

 

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