Kyoto used to be the capital of Japan and is its prettiest city, with beautiful temples and gardens, many dating back several centuries.
It is also the home to kaiseki cooking, the most formal style of Japanese cuisine, involving a sequence of dishes involving a variety of cooking techniques and showcasing the very best seasonal ingredients.
Kichisen gained its third Michelin star in the 2014 guide. Next to a famous shrine, the cooking of Yoshimi Tanigawa is traditional, using top class ingredients such as precious Matsutake mushrooms when in season.
Nakamura is one of the most traditional kaiseki restaurants, opening in 1827 and awarded its third Michelin star in 2011. Dishes might include crab in ultra-thin noodles or salmon trout cooked on a Hamachi grill.
Kitcho is perhaps the most famous restaurant in the country, operating since 1930 on the outskirts of Kyoto. You will experience formal service from kimono-clad waitresses, the presentation and quality of the dishes exquisite.
Chihana in the geisha district of Gion serves formal kaiseki dishes at a counter rather than a private room. From impeccable velvety tuna or prawn and pear tempura, the food here thoroughly deserves its trio of Michelin stars.
Hyotei has been running since 1837, serving traditional kaiseki meals in private dining rooms with sunken seating. Its three Michelin star dishes range from sashimi through to grilled ayu (sweet fish) when in season.
Mizai is widely regarded as the finest restaurant in Japan, recently relocated within Marayuma Park. Ingredients are impeccable, such as Matsutake mushrooms when in season, and cooking technique is superb. The dish presentation can be stunning, with flavours to match. Reservations are exceptionally hard to make.
Kikunoi is on a hillside overlooking the city, one of its three Michelin star kaiseki restaurants. Service is formal and presentation elaborate, with dishes such as barracuda sushi or pike conger eel served shabu-shabu style.
Tsuruya is a kaiseki restaurant overlooking particularly beautiful gardens. In a traditional private room you will be served dishes such as grilled sea bream or a delicate mushroom broth, depending on the season.
Takesebune is a simple but charming tempura restaurant in the heart of the old town. This tiny family-run establishment cooks high quality tempura using fish and shellfish from the nearby market.
For a change from kaiseki dining you may consider an Italian meal at Ghiottone, with modern interpretations of Italian dishes seen in spaghetti with mackerel or compote of peach with basil sorbet.