Authentic Indian restaurants can be found all over Japan, and Kyoto is no exception. Here are nine of the best Indian restaurants in the country’s former capital that will fit all dietary needs and budgets.
Diners will find many Indian restaurants in the Sanjo, Kawaramachi and Shijo neighbourhoods of Central Kyoto. One of the most authentic is Mayur, which specialises in Indian and Nepalese cuisine. Kyoto-based writer Martha Knauf talks to the owner and head chef, Krishna Shrestha, about running an Indian restaurant in Japan. “I came to Japan when I was 17; I wanted to see the world outside Nepal. I’ve been working as a chef ever since,” says Shrestha.
Shrestha opened his first restaurant, also called Mayur, in Nara in 2012, followed by his Kyoto location in 2018. Shrestha notes that the cuisine from both India and Nepal is becoming more popular in Japan, stating, “Many of my regular customers buy imported spices from me to make their own curries at home. I teach them recipes and techniques.” Whether you’re looking for an all-you-can-eat buffet or a Japanese take on Indian food, these are the best Indian restaurants in Kyoto.
“We have many Nepalese dishes like chowmein, chicken momos (steamed dumplings) and spicy mutton. My regular customers come back for the alutama (a classic soup curry made with chicken, potato, black-eyed peas and bamboo),” says Shrestha. To find the Indian-Nepalese restaurant, which is located on Kawaramachi Street not far from Sanjo Station, look for the sandwich board out front bearing its name. Then, take the elevator to the sixth floor to a spotless dining room tastefully decorated with hanging glass lamps, beneath which long benches line the walls, covered in colourful throw pillows. The curries are authentic, with nuanced, sophisticated flavours. You can customise your meal to your tastes by choosing from five spice levels. Many different lunch sets are on offer, including four vegetarian and one vegan option. In fact, Mayur is very accommodating to customers with special diets; their menu clearly marks what is dairy, gluten and egg free, as well as which meals are halal or vegetarian, and what can be made vegan. Come between 5pm and 7pm for their happy hour deal; ¥1,000 (£7.40) gets you a drink (wine, beer or a cocktail) and a plate of five delectable appetisers.
Located just a few minutes from Sanjo Station, Kerala has been a Kyoto institution for more than 30 years. It’s situated on the second floor of an office building, but its presence is marked by the sandwich board below. Inside, the intimate space is decorated with colourful tablecloths and Indian art and statues. Although it’s named after a Southern Indian state, Kerala serves both Northern and Southern Indian food, including perfectly crispy dosas (a thin, rice-based flatbread). The menu is extensive, including 40 kinds of curry (vegetarian, vegan and halal dishes are available). Try the unusual and tasty black sesame naan. For the best deal, go for their thali lunch set for ¥900 (£6.60), which includes two curries, one tandoor, papadum, salad, naan, rice and tomato soup or chai. Set menus at dinner start at ¥2,600 (£19); you can add ¥1,500 (£11) for the all-you-can-drink option.
DiDi offers a Japanese take on Indian food in the northern part of the city, a 15-minute walk (or one train stop) north of Demachiyanagi Station, and not far from the Hyakumanben area north of Kyoto University. An old north Kyoto standby, DiDi was one of the first restaurants in the city to serve Indian curries. The comfortable and cosy interior is a fusion of Japanese and Indian design with wooden accents, Indian paintings on the walls and bamboo screens. It has a homely vibe, with handwritten menus, rustic ceramic dishes and fresh flowers on the tables. Set menus are available for both lunch and dinner, including a generous thali set with three types of curry; you might wish to pair it with a lassi drink, which come in multiple flavours. The menu also includes options that go beyond Indian cuisine, with a wonderful vegetarian lasagne and a tasty Thai curry.
Salman & Sohel Halal Kitchen is one of Kyoto’s few 100 percent halal restaurants. The owner is from West Bengal and his focus is on Mughlai cuisine from Northern India. However, his extensive menu also includes Persian, Turkish, Middle Eastern and Indo-Chinese cuisine. Customer favourites include dum biryani (a dish of pressure-cooked rice, meat and potatoes) and adana (Turkish-spiced lamb kebab). Many vegan and vegetarian options are available, including their popular falafel platter, and all spices, juices and ice cream are imported from India. It’s a 10-minute walk from Jingu-Marutamachi Station, one block east from the Imperial Palace and just down the street from the Kyoto Islamic Culture Center.
The Japanese owner of Indo Shokudo Tadka studied Indian cooking in Southern India and returns there every so often for spices and lessons. His menu reflects his experience with a variety of authentic Southern Indian dishes (a rare find in Kyoto) such as dosas, sambars (lentil-based stews) and coconut chutney. The menu changes daily; a thali set with five different curries is always available, as are many vegetarian options. The lunch set with three curries, rice, pakora, salad and roti is a generous deal. The restaurant is small, and so cannot accommodate groups larger than four, but if you do manage to bag a spot, you’ll find a simple space with white walls, wooden furniture and posters from India taped to the walls. The chai comes with free refills – another rarity on Kyoto’s Indian restaurant scene.
Located next to Kawaramachi Station in the Teramachi Shopping District, this restaurant has been open for more than 30 years. Carved wooden screens and old paintings of Indian design accent the dining area, lending it an authentic vibe. Customer favourites include tandoor meats such as chicken tikka and mutton kebab, biryani dishes and the baked-to-perfection naan. A seven-dish vegetarian lunch is a steal at just ¥900 (£6.60). Four different types of samosas are on the menu, including a vegan option, and there are numerous curries to choose from, many of them vegetarian, such as the rich paneer butter masala. The staff are extremely friendly; ask a waiter which dishes are halal. There’s another location with the same name in Central Osaka.
This restaurant just a few steps from the popular Nishiki Market specialises in Nepalese food, but also has a good amount of Indian curries and very generously sized naan on offer. The lunch menu features seven different sets to satisfy various tastes and appetites, and the prices are fair, starting at just ¥695 for a curry set. The amiable staff can accommodate gluten-free guests. Nepalese specialties such as momos are sure to please vegetarians looking for some unique appetisers, and there are also many vegan options. Whatever you go for, consider pairing your meal with their Nepalese beer. Yak & Yeti is a good place for late-night eats after an evening of drinking in the area (it’s open until 11pm).
Located in Central Kyoto near Sanjo Station, Mughal opened in 1987, making it one of Kyoto’s oldest Indian restaurants. You can still find the Japanese owner, who travelled to India to study its cuisine, greeting his guests during dinner hours. Some menu items have a Japanese twist: the seafood curry is made with ikasumi (squid ink), while the fish tikka contains cubes of fatty tuna marinated in yoghurt and spices. The interior is fairly formal, with tablecloths, decorative draperies and high-backed chairs. Large thali sets are available for both lunch and dinner, and a separate vegan menu features 10 different curries and four soups, salads and appetisers; a highlight is the fried vegetable pakoras. Several different biryani and pulao (Indian fried rice) dishes are available, and the kids’ menu features mild butter chicken and naan. The menu is colour-coded to aid those with dietary restrictions and to show the spice levels of each dish. The house wine comes from India.
The owners of New Delhi, a father-and-son team, are very hospitable and welcoming to guests of their simple, casual restaurant. A 10-minute walk from Nijo Castle, it’s ideally located for a post-sightseeing meal. They have a wide selection of naan (in huge portions), including aloo naan (stuffed with potatoes) and kashmiri naan (stuffed with nuts), as well as curries, with 18 different kinds of vegetarian curry alone (along with many meat curries). For something a bit different, they also have a special party menu that’s just ¥2,500 (£18.40) for 90 minutes of all-you-can-eat curries, meats, naan and more. For an extra ¥1,000 (£7.40) you can get all-you-can-drink too, choosing from their selection of Indian beer, wine and spirits. Whatever you pick, you can choose your level of spice, and some dishes, such as the onion kulcha (a type of flatbread), can be made vegan. Free wifi is available.
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