One of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan, Kyoto has a delicious food scene. It can be hard trying to find something other than Japanese food so we show you to the best places to sample French cuisine.
Think you know French food? Think again. Opened by French chef Stephen Pantel, Ryoriya Stephen Pantel breaks down culinary conventions, combining French cooking with Kyoto’s abundant natural ingredients, which change dramatically with the seasons. For example, tilefish is served with shitake mushroom ika no shio kara, a kind of preserved squid. This place is housed on the verge of the Kyoto Imperial Palace, in a gorgeous, historical machiya, the kind of wooden town house common in Kyoto. It presents innovative dishes that are the perfect union of Western and Eastern food. 4-182 Yanaginobanba Marutamachidori Sagaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-0974, +81 75-204-4311
Crab dish | Courtesy of La Biographie
This gorgeous restaurant is one of the only Western restaurants in Kyoto to be awarded a Michelin star, and it isn’t hard to understand why it was given this honor. It is housed in a gorgeous, traditional townhouse, behind which lies an elegant and modernistic Western setting, with wide glass windows that allow you to look over the gardens. Of course, the food they serve is paramount to a restaurant’s success, and La Biographie holds up to the test. Chef Takimoto is incredibly particular about the cooking temperature and process of his dishes, and you can taste the dedication behind every bite you put in your mouth.
It’s no secret that Western, in particular French, food can get expensive in Kyoto. But for some authentic, simple French fare, Le Bouchon is our pick for you. With a warm, casual, and lively atmosphere, it is reminiscent of a Parisian bistro. Its usual crowd is made up of locals and French expats, a testament to the authenticity of its food. With great value for money, fantastic service and filling courses, this is the place to go it you’re longing for some straight-forward French food.
Hidden in a nondescript house near the Kyoto Imperial Palace, Blanc Pierre is much-loved by locals but little-known by travelers. A tiny restaurant with less than twenty seats, and half of them along the counter, you may be fooled by its humble, homey appearance. But this establishment is a Bib Gourmand restaurant, an award given by the Michelin guide to restaurants that serve excellent food at a moderate price. For the most part, Blanc Pierre serves authentic French food. However, the chef uses local, seasonal ingredients, as per the Kyoto culinary practice, giving the French cuisine a little Japanese twist.
For the most lavish experience of French cuisine in Kyoto, Motoï is a superb place to go. This restaurant is the holder of one Michelin star, awarded for their clever incorporation of Japanese ingredients with French cuisine. This fine dining establishment is housed in a century-old machiya, formerly a private residence, with an interior that is now renovated to become an atmospheric and elegant space. While the French culinary style is clearly dominant, their food is influenced by styles of cooking from all over the world, and by seasonal ingredients available in Kyoto and in Japan.
Located near Kyoto’s Kamo River, Comme Chez Michel is a small, intimate restaurant where you will receive some of the best French food and service in Kyoto. This bistro was opened by Japanese chef Takashi Okawa, who studied cooking in France. He worked for a number of years at the Parisian restaurant Chez Michel, hence the name Comme Chez Michel. This establishment has been awarded a Bib Gourmand rating for its authentic French food, which occasionally uses local produce to take advantage of their freshness.
A fine dining restaurant by the same group behind Le Bouchon, La Part Dieu is an old, yet charming and elegant establishment that will satisfy anyone who loves classic French or Western food. This restaurant, established in Kyoto several decades ago, has remained a favorite for locals and French expats. This is due to its authentic cuisine and relatively inexpensive price, for food quality of this calibre. If you’re looking for a classy place that serves Western food without being elaborate or pretentious, La Part Dieu is a fantastic choice.
Bar, Bistro, Pub, Restaurant, Beer, Cocktails, Japanese, $$$
This charming family-run restaurant and bar is like a cross between a Parisian bistro and a pub. It has a quaint storefront of potted plants, interior of wooden tables and benches, and bar counter along the back of the establishment. They serve simple, hearty French fare for reasonable prices and have a selection of beers and cocktails. Though it is nothing fancy or exquisite, A La Chalamont is sure to win you over with honest food, warm hospitality and cozy ambience.
It’s easy to mistake fusion restaurant Yonemura for a Japanese restaurant. After all, it is housed in a 100-year-old machiya in Gion, the city’s district of geisha training, which is preserved in an ancient style. However it is unlike other Western restaurants situated in these oriental townhouses, which have remodeled the interior into a modernistic, Western-styled space. Here, much of the traditional Japanese elements of decor, such as paper screens and wooden furnishings, has been retained in Yonemura. Their fusion dishes are reminiscent of kaiseki, a kind of Kyoto cuisine, in its meticulous presentation. With its bold, experimental style in combining flavors and ingredients, you’ll either love it or hate it – but we guarantee that this will be a fantastic gastronomic adventure.
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This gorgeous cafe, with a storefront reminiscent of a French bistro, sits at the edge of the Shirakawa Canal. They have a selection of homemade pastries available, all beautifully arranged and as delicious as they appear to be. They also have bread and sandwiches, which are thick and hearty, unlike most of the bread available on the market in Japan. Au Temps Perdu is ideal for an afternoon tea after a day of enjoying the nearby Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art and the National Museum of Modern Art. If the weather is warm enough, you can sit outside and enjoy the view of the canal.
Located in the picturesque, historic district of Gion, Mavo is a stylish restaurant that serves top-notch French cuisine. What you will be served is a mystery, though, as Gion Mavo only has one menu item, which is a set lunch or dinner depending on which meal you’re there for. The menu changes according to seasonal ingredients, in accordance with Kyoto’s culinary tradition. This makes for a surprising, delicious, and locally flavored French meal.
If you’re looking for simple, hearty French food, look no further than Citron Ble. This charming bistro specializes in steak, and they use Japan’s domestic cattle for the beef. Their beef is of good quality, and is cooked so that it is charred and crispy on the outside but juicy and tender on the inside. Their steaks come with deliciously fried fries or potato wedges. They have a decent drinks menu which features Japanese wines and craft beer, as well as international labels. While Citron Ble does not serve anything fancy, it is a great option if you need a break from the somewhat bland flavors of Kyoto’s Japanese cuisine.