Kaiseki cuisine

The entrance to Gion Karyo, Gion, Kyoto, Japan

The entrance to Gion Karyo

Kaiseki Cuisine was something I had researched before heading to Kyoto and was something I was very much looking forward to trying. Kaiseki Cuisine Is a traditional multi-course Japanese meal often consisting of around eight courses. Although I hadn’t research a specific restaurant to visit I knew that there was a number of these types of restaurants in the Gion district of Kyoto. The majority of these types of restaurants are found on Hanamikoji-Dori which is one of the main streets in the Gion district and where the famous Gion Corner is located.

Entrance hallway of Gion Karyo, Gion, Kyoto, Japan

Entrance hallway of Gion Karyo

These types of restaurants can be quite daunting to enter but are well worth the effort. I chose The Gion Karyo as they had a sign with English outside and this explained that they had a set menu for lunch and that it would be made up of predominantly of seafood and vegetable dishes which suited me perfectly (I don’t really like meat).

Bench seating in Gion Karyo, Gion, Kyoto, Japan

Bench seating in Gion Karyo

The Gion Karyo is a modern restaurant. Housed in a beautifully restored traditional building it had a sleek modern interior of predominantly timber and grey and mood music played in the background throughout my meal. Despite this you are still expected to remove your shoes to be able to enter the restaurant and majority of the staff wear kimonos while they serve you. I didn’t find I had a problem with any of this as I was there for the food and the setting was still very enjoyable especially considering how cold it was outside.

The kitchen view in Gion Karyo, Gion, Kyoto, Japan

The kitchen view in Gion Karyo

There was two set menus available but with my non existent Japanese I ended up with one of the two courses without knowing the difference (I believe in the end my meal had slightly less courses then the other). You are not given a menu although eventually the staff found an English list of all my dishes as the chefs where finding it difficult to explain to me what I was eating (it was actually quite a lot of fun trying to figure out what all the flavors where though).

The kitchen view in Gion Karyo, Garland chrysanthemum and mushroom tofy salad and peanut tofu. Gion, Kyoto, Japan

Course one at Gion Karyo

Now I am no food photographer so forgive me for some of the images. It was also extremely hard to not dive straight in to some of these dishes. The first course was described as a garland chrysanthemum, mushroom and tofu salad and peanut tofu. I didn’t have the course list at this stage so when I started eating I was just guessing what everything was. The tofu was pretty easy to spot. Tofu looks like tofu but my how I was surprised at just how good peanut tofu tastes it was such a delicious surprise.

Course two, Gion Karyo, soup- white fish paste wrapped crab, japanese mustard spinach and yuzu (japanese citrus), Gion, Kyoto, Japan

Course two, Gion Karyo

The second course was a super fresh soup of white fish paste wrapped crap, Japanese mustard spinach and yuzu a type of japanese citrus. Still know course menu at this stage in English

Course three, Gion Karyo, Sashimi, GIon, Kyoto, Japan

Course three, Gion Karyo

Now this was something I expected to see in a traditional menu and I wasn’t disappointed. This was sashimi but to be honest I couldn’t name the fish. I believe one piece was tune but both pieces where different types of fish. I really like light course when you have so many to get through and this was so tasty.

Course four, Gion Karyo, Streamed sushi with conger eel, Gion, Kyoto, Japan

Course four, Gion Karyo

This course was surprisingly delicious and this was the point at which I got the course menu in English. This was steamed sushi with conger-eel. It was quite oily and on a bed of rice but had a lovely smoked flavor.

Grilled Spanish mackerel with miso taste, Wild duck, Fermented soybeans cured tofu, Carrot greens, parsimmon, mushroom salad dressed with sesame, Water chestnut chips and yuzu compote (japanese citrus), Gion, Kyoto, Japan

Course five, Gion Karyo

I feel like this was the main course out of the eight. It definitely had the most components. There was grilled Spanish mackerel with miso taste, Wild duck , a carrot greens, persimmon and mushroom salad dressed with sesame, there was also water chestnut chips and a yuzu compote (that Japanese citrus again).

Course six, Gion Karyo, simmered Yellowtail fish and Japanese radish, Gion, Kyoto, Japan

Course six, Gion Karyo

The sixth course was simmered Yellowtail fish and Japanese radish and was quite strong in flavor. The carrot flower on top was something special thought.

Course seven, Gion Karyo, Steamed rice, Gion, Kyoto, Japan

Course seven, Gion Karyo

I had been doing so well during this meal with my very little English till it came to this course of steamed rice. I was given a small dish of unidentified food and some soy sauce as well as a small bowl of miso soup. I poured some soy sauce onto the plate and began to eat the food. Turned out it was a garnish for the rice. Another set of dinners spotted me and we all had a little giggle. Considering how long the meal was I did pretty well to get this far without offending anyone.

Course eight, Gion Karyo, log cake, mixed berries, orange ice cream and rice crisp, Gion, Kyoto, Japan

Course eight, Gion Karyo

The final dish was a desert of log cake. mixed berries and orange ice cream and rice crisp. Really this was my least favorite out of all the course but still pretty impressive.

The Gion Karyo is a modern restaurant offering something very Japanese in flavored. The lunch menu is cheaper then the dinner menu and including tea and saki my entire meal only cost around $50aus. Considering how much breakfast cost in Australia this was a bargain. I was also the only non Japanese speaking person in the restaurant which surprised me. I really don’t think you could go to Gion and not take the opportunity to have such a sensory rich experience.

English address

570-23 Gion-machi Minami-gawa, Higashiyama-ku


5 responses to “Kaiseki cuisine

    • Thanks Grace. No I didn’t have to make a reservation I just walked in. Although I did go at lunch which I think always makes it easier to get a table.

      • Thanks for the very fast reply!
        Was it possible to inform the staff/ chef that you did not want meat in your dishes? Noticed that duck was served! I am going to Kyoto for the first time and would like some recommendations on good kaiseki (seafood!). Any to share?

      • I honestly didn’t try because it was only the one piece of duck in the 8coursed and it wasn’t touching anything else on the plate. Everything is prepared separately and then plated. I did pick this particular restaurant though because seafood featured so heavily on the menu and I just chose not to eat the duck. The language barrier unfortunately can be an issue in Japan so you have to pick your battles.

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