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Thread: An Insider’s Guide to Authentic Kyoto for Foodies

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    Default An Insider’s Guide to Authentic Kyoto for Foodies

    Prompted by another forumite, I'm making a shameless plug. Mods, if this is inappropriate, do delete the thread.

    Cover An Insider's Guide to Authentic Kyoto for Foodies.jpg

    An Insider’s Guide to Authentic Kyoto for Foodies

    Gastronomy is a way to experience regional style and, by extension, national style. The way a group or a nation approaches food and drink can reveal a lot about their history and approach to life, culture, and therefore, style. It is one of the most satisfying and enjoyable ways to experience a craft which is actually a confluence of a variety of crafts – cooking, knife making, vessel making, et al. You get to feel a fusion and complex layers of other people’s lived experience.

    Because I was getting numerous requests for advice on where to eat in Kyoto (likely because the yen is cheap as chips these days), I decided to write a Kyoto culinary travel guide about food, drink, and things related to gastronomy: from fine dining to favourite classics, ingredients, and utensils.

    There are numerous guidebooks and online resources on Kyoto. Does anyone need another one? The short answer is, it depends. Because Kyoto has so much to offer, it can become an enormous undertaking to sift through all the information, particularly if you have a more general starting point or you don’t know where to start, especially if this is your first time visiting Kyoto.

    Many guides are written to appeal to a broad audience for all the obvious reasons. In contrast, this one was, to use a fashionable word, curated with a specific audience in mind: foodies.

    It is based on what I had compiled for a pair of friends who are foodies and one of them had previously been a professional cook (and likely one of the best Firefly customers). They were visiting Japan for the first time, with Kyoto being their main destination. Compiling something for people who understand the subject – even if they have had only a limited exposure to the Japanese kitchen – can be both easy and daunting. Easy because it's always more fun to do something for someone that you know will appreciate it, daunting because they cannot be hoodwinked with random tripe – no pun intended. Therefore, I had to deliver substance, not fluff. In order to bring more focus to the selection of establishments, my working assumption was that this will be their only visit to Kyoto so that I need to make this one count. By that, I mean that whichever option(s) they choose, they will have a memorable and, hopefully, meaningful experience.

    Since this was their first trip to Japan, I also wanted to provide some context – history, ingredients, methods, etc. – rather than just giving a short description of what’s on offer. I think that knowing a bit about the background enhances the dining experience, allowing one to discern certain details that one might miss otherwise.

    In other words, the guide was curated with intent and purpose. It sounds obvious, but sometimes, it’s worth mentioning the obvious. (For those with gluten intolerance, I have tried to indicate where wheat is used.)

    This guide is not for everyone because it may challenge your notion of Japanese food or at times expose you to ingredients that are completely alien to you. The main focus is Kyoto cuisine, not Japanese food in general or the best pizzeria in the city.

    However, if you are like my foodie friends, this guide is a great shortcut, a valuable timesaver, particularly for a city like Kyoto with its tremendous depth and breadth. Much of the content is difficult to find in English.

    The establishments in this guide were selected for a couple of reasons.

    I have been to most of them myself. They are personal recommendations.

    There are a few places where I have not been, but they were recommended by other foodie friends whose opinions I trust, which I disclose.

    Many of the featured establishments have been around for generations, some for hundreds of years. The reason is that whilst Kyoto is a modern city, it is also an ancient city where much of Japanese culture sprouted and developed, including many aspects of the Japanese kitchen. Visiting these establishments, experiencing their hospitality, and sampling their wares is literally taking a tour through a significant part of Japanese culinary history, often in the original setting. It’s a unique opportunity for anyone taking an interest in Kyoto and Japanese culture more generally. Through these establishments, you can feel the Kyoto style and by extension a core aspect of Japanese style.

    I have included practical information including address on Google Maps, hours, and price range.

    The Guide is available on Amazon to preview and download for US$4.95 (plus VAT if applicable).

    I have had a multi-part feedback that I thought was interesting (or curious, depending on viewpoint). It does provide you with some more insight into the content, so I'll share it in the interest of managing your expectations.

    A nice little guide to Kyoto restaurants that may be most useful for those with some familiarity with Kyoto and Kyoto foods. I lived in Kyoto for a few years and recognized some old favorites and many newer places. I appreciate the addition of shokudo which I think tourists largely ignore, but used to be so much more popular. And the shopping advice and explanations of sake, knives, etc. will be appreciated by foodies.
    I did wish it was more comprehensive and photos would be a nice addition. It's very link heavy which is fine if you're reading it electronically.
    One might hope for a Part 2!
    • On being comprehensive, as you might discern from the subtitle and the description, it was not the intent. One of the challenges of a bigger city like Kyoto that has so much to offer is the tyranny of choice -- it's very real. The target audience consists of foodies visiting from abroad for a week or so and having a fairly focussed objective in terms of food and other things related to food.
    • There are only 2 photos that are actually in the Guide for a couple of reasons. One is that it's not intended as a coffee table book although the content could very well be a basis for a fabulous coffee table book with the help of a good photographer (not some shitty iPhone pics). Rather, it's meant to be carried on your portable device like you would carry a paperback edition of Zagat's. With that in mind, I also wanted to keep the file size as small as possible, which means not many images.
    • It is an e-book so you're meant to be reading it electronically. It may have not been clear to the reviewer that the Guide comes only in e-book format. And yes, there are plenty of links, many of which lead to photos of the subject at hand, but also other useful destinations like Google Maps.


    As of this writing, it is the #1 New Release in Culinary Travel in the US. It is in the Top 10 of Culinary Travel in the US and Dining Travel Reference in Australia.

    Once you've read it, please submit a review, however short or long, at http://Amazon.com/review/create-review?&asin=B0CPPYWZJ9.

    Many thanks for your consideration.
    Chikashi Miyamoto

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    Default Re: An Insider’s Guide to Authentic Kyoto for Foodies

    When I first read about the guide (in the Lyre Bird thread), my initial reaction was somewhat wistful, as we just visited Kyoto earlier this May and are unlikely to visit again any time soon.

    But having corresponded with @Chik on numerous occasions on another topic for which he is eminently qualified to opine (men's apparel), I've come to appreciate both his experience with the finer things in life and his ability to articulate his thoughts on these issues in a cogent manner. In a world where many reviews and guides are written either by those who don't truly know things (e.g. many tripadvisor reviews) or by people who choose to use overly-bombastic language, a guide that has solid grounding, refined writing style, and the right amount of discerning opinionation is a treat to read, and I bought the guide more for this than for immediately expedient reasons.

    In line with the helpful guidance I previously received, this guide to eating in Kyoto is squarely on-point when it comes to the knowledge shared and the prose used. I particularly liked the section on kaiseki, for although I must have seen ~10 videos and read 20+ articles on this time-honored culinary tradition, this guide is the first place where someone made an effort to explain the difference between lunch and dinner kaiseki. I've also found the section on fish-cakes and tofu.

    Even the topics on seemingly-mundane issue of how to properly eat a piece of sushi and whether/how to apply soy sauce are helpful, and I use "seemingly", b/c really, like any fine tradition, no detail is too fine to be ignored. As I've yet been to (even after our trip) to a proper sushiya where the food is presented omikase style, I'm hoping to put this knowledge to good use at a later time.

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    Default Re: An Insider’s Guide to Authentic Kyoto for Foodies

    Quote Originally Posted by echappist View Post
    When I first read about the guide (in the Lyre Bird thread), my initial reaction was somewhat wistful, as we just visited Kyoto earlier this May and are unlikely to visit again any time soon.

    But having corresponded with @Chik on numerous occasions on another topic for which he is eminently qualified to opine (men's apparel), I've come to appreciate both his experience with the finer things in life and his ability to articulate his thoughts on these issues in a cogent manner. In a world where many reviews and guides are written either by those who don't truly know things (e.g. many tripadvisor reviews) or by people who choose to use overly-bombastic language, a guide that has solid grounding, refined writing style, and the right amount of discerning opinionation is a treat to read, and I bought the guide more for this than for immediately expedient reasons.

    In line with the helpful guidance I previously received, this guide to eating in Kyoto is squarely on-point when it comes to the knowledge shared and the prose used. I particularly liked the section on kaiseki, for although I must have seen ~10 videos and read 20+ articles on this time-honored culinary tradition, this guide is the first place where someone made an effort to explain the difference between lunch and dinner kaiseki. I've also found the section on fish-cakes and tofu.

    Even the topics on seemingly-mundane issue of how to properly eat a piece of sushi and whether/how to apply soy sauce are helpful, and I use "seemingly", b/c really, like any fine tradition, no detail is too fine to be ignored. As I've yet been to (even after our trip) to a proper sushiya where the food is presented omikase style, I'm hoping to put this knowledge to good use at a later time.
    Many thanks for your purchase and kind words. I'm happy you enjoyed reading it.

    Yeah, the section on sushi... I did consider excluding the subject because it's a Tokyo cuisine, and someone from the Kanto region like me wouldn't really think about having sushi in Kyoto. However, I did put it in as an appendix since it wouldn't be surprising if visitors from abroad, like my friends, would want to have some sushi in Kyoto especially if they're not heading east to Tokyo.

    The (incorrect) use of soy sauce is one of my pet peeves so I used some strong language there. I still have difficulties understanding those who insist on using low-sodium soy sauce and then absolutely soak the sushi in it.

    As far as having sushi omakase style, the most sought after sushi restaurants in Japan, whether in Tokyo or elsewhere, are likely to offer only omakase: you get what they procured that day, end of story. The place I usually go in Tokyo is a bit more flexible (although they don't like strangers), but we always have a discussion about what they're hiding in the fridge vis-à-vis what I like / dislike (I don't like most molluscs). It's a slightly scary process because one never knows what the bill will be until it's time to pay up.
    Chikashi Miyamoto

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    Default Re: An Insider’s Guide to Authentic Kyoto for Foodies

    FYI, you cannot purchase e-books through the Amazon app (iOS or Android). You need to buy through the web site (unless, like in Belgium or Singapore, they don't sell e-books at all).

    I didn't know about this little nugget of inconvenience until last week, and this is why.
    Chikashi Miyamoto

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    Default Re: An Insider’s Guide to Authentic Kyoto for Foodies

    Reading now. Bless you son. Go to heaven three times.
    We are considering a bicycle tour from Tokyo to Kyoto. Your timing is impeccible :)

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    Default Re: An Insider’s Guide to Authentic Kyoto for Foodies

    Oh, wow! I'm excited about this.

    A little upstairs ramen shop, steps from Shinbashi-dori, was a highlight of our visit--so much so that my big kid went back with friends during their graduation trip. I can use this book to plan a return trip with my wife.
    Dan Fuller, local bicycle enthusiast

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    Default Re: An Insider’s Guide to Authentic Kyoto for Foodies

    Quote Originally Posted by Too Tall View Post
    Reading now. Bless you son. Go to heaven three times.
    We are considering a bicycle tour from Tokyo to Kyoto. Your timing is impeccible :)
    Thanks for your purchase!

    I don't think I have anything useful to say about the route for your tour; just thinking about the possibilities makes my head spin. Will you have a company helping you with the tour? Avoid summer if you can.
    Chikashi Miyamoto

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    Default Re: An Insider’s Guide to Authentic Kyoto for Foodies

    Quote Originally Posted by 72gmc View Post
    Oh, wow! I'm excited about this.

    A little upstairs ramen shop, steps from Shinbashi-dori, was a highlight of our visit--so much so that my big kid went back with friends during their graduation trip. I can use this book to plan a return trip with my wife.
    Ramen is a proper rabbit hole in itself. My fave chef discussed in the Guide had opened a ramen shop just across the alley from his main digs, but the project went sideways because of Covid. He has done some collaboration with another very highly rated ramen shop more recently. You can find them on IG.
    Chikashi Miyamoto

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    Default Re: An Insider’s Guide to Authentic Kyoto for Foodies

    This 5-star review sounds like I paid her, but I didn't.

    On another note, since we touched on sushi -- and how could we not when discussing Japanese food -- and I recently read that salmon is the most popular topping, thanks to massive and persistent marketing efforts by the Norwegians, I offer my unsolicited two pence on the matter:

    I think the current state of things is thanks not just to their marketing efforts, which are now expanding to cooked salmon, but also to their very effective lobbying. You should ignore all the conspiracy theories about the toxicity of Norwegian farmed salmon floating around the Interwebz, but they have been suffering bouts of contagions regularly. It's the sort of news that the Japanese mass media LOVE to write about, especially the weekly magazines, but their silence has been deafening. I wouldn't be surprised if the Japanese government have been persuaded that it would be bad for all those employed in the Japanese end of the supply chain if the media made a fuss about it.

    More importantly, (imported) salmon may be served up at the run-of-the-mill sushi joint, I don't think that a self-respecting sushi chef at the top end of the market will even entertain the thought of offering salmon. It's a bit like seeing salmon on the menu at an Italian restaurant in Italy. You can have it, of course, but it doesn't belong there.

    On the other hand, domestic wild salmon is lovely grilled, if you happen to come across some.
    Chikashi Miyamoto

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    Default Re: An Insider’s Guide to Authentic Kyoto for Foodies

    Chik, I was put onto a fellow who is co-owner of a tour company. He does small guided tours where the focus is small cultural treasures and rural places to sleep and eat. We are told that late October is a good bet which is fortunate in as much we have not invited people to join us. This might or might not happen this coming year. Riding without a tour guide is my true wish however it could also be a poor choice.

    Call me a poorly trained Sushi participant if you must however I'm a sucker for good toro. As a family my parents took us for Sushi from an early age, it seemed normal to me to have Sashimi. That was also where we determined I was ambidextrous ;)

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    Default Re: An Insider’s Guide to Authentic Kyoto for Foodies

    Hey great! My wife definitely needs this as she will be there next year at some point. We went a few years ago and had great food. Looking forward to reading through your recommendations!
    Jorn Ake
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    Default Re: An Insider’s Guide to Authentic Kyoto for Foodies

    Quote Originally Posted by Too Tall View Post
    Chik, I was put onto a fellow who is co-owner of a tour company. He does small guided tours where the focus is small cultural treasures and rural places to sleep and eat. We are told that late October is a good bet which is fortunate in as much we have not invited people to join us. This might or might not happen this coming year. Riding without a tour guide is my true wish however it could also be a poor choice.

    Call me a poorly trained Sushi participant if you must however I'm a sucker for good toro. As a family my parents took us for Sushi from an early age, it seemed normal to me to have Sashimi. That was also where we determined I was ambidextrous ;)
    The friends for whom I originally compiled the info went in mid-October. I think it's a good time to go particularly if you're going to be on a bike: the heat & humidity should have subsided by then, and it will be before all the leaves change colour and fall to the ground, which is beautiful but deadly for us cyclist. They hired a company to guide them around Kyoto and Nara for a couple of days on rented bikes, but they weren't overly happy with the arrangement for a variety of reasons.

    I think the ideal arrangement is not so much a guide but someone to make all the lodging arrangements and provide mechanical or other logistical support when necessary. I don't know if anyone offers that sort of thing, but I wonder if it's possible to pay for a regular guided tour but agree that they'll be scarce unless and until they're called upon.

    Once your plans firm up, there's one or two people I think you should try to meet over there, so shoot me an email in due course.
    Chikashi Miyamoto

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    Default Re: An Insider’s Guide to Authentic Kyoto for Foodies

    Quote Originally Posted by Chik View Post
    The friends for whom I originally compiled the info went in mid-October. I think it's a good time to go particularly if you're going to be on a bike: the heat & humidity should have subsided by then, and it will be before all the leaves change colour and fall to the ground, which is beautiful but deadly for us cyclist. They hired a company to guide them around Kyoto and Nara for a couple of days on rented bikes, but they weren't overly happy with the arrangement for a variety of reasons.

    I think the ideal arrangement is not so much a guide but someone to make all the lodging arrangements and provide mechanical or other logistical support when necessary. I don't know if anyone offers that sort of thing, but I wonder if it's possible to pay for a regular guided tour but agree that they'll be scarce unless and until they're called upon.

    Once your plans firm up, there's one or two people I think you should try to meet over there, so shoot me an email in due course.
    Thanks Chik and not to derail your thread. Your tome is a good read and reference....still reading :)

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    Default Re: An Insider’s Guide to Authentic Kyoto for Foodies

    Quote Originally Posted by Too Tall View Post
    Thanks Chik and not to derail your thread. Your tome is a good read and reference....still reading :)
    Well, this is a bike forum after all ;)
    Chikashi Miyamoto

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    Default Re: An Insider’s Guide to Authentic Kyoto for Foodies

    Quote Originally Posted by Chik View Post
    Well, this is a bike forum after all ;)
    it's so much more...

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