10 Best Michelin Star Restaurants in Kyoto

Food & Drinks in Kyoto
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Misty Fujii is a Canadian who moved to Osaka, Japan in 2019 and married her Japanese sweetheart. In 2022 they had a baby and moved to Fukui for the clean country air. She is a DJ who teaches English part time and writes in order to share Japan with the world. She gets excited about collecting vintage vinyl records, food of all countries, travelling and renovating her traditional Japanese house.

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Tradition and innovation blend seamlessly through exquisite cuisine in Kyoto, Japan. That’s right, Kyoto isn’t just a feast for the eyes with its temples and gardens; it’s an irresistible treat for your taste buds! Prepare to embark on a mouthwatering journey through centuries-old kaiseki cuisine, cutting-edge interpretations of sushi, and culinary masterpieces that have earned prestigious Michelin stars. In our quest to discover Kyoto’s gastronomic gems, we’ve combed through the city’s exciting food scene to curate a list of the “10 Best Michelin Star Restaurants in Kyoto.” So, loosen the obi and prepare to savor the finest flavors Kyoto offers!

1. Nakamura

Culinary history meets innovation at Isshi Souden Nakamura, a Kyoto institution since 1827. This Michelin 3-star treasure, under the stewardship of 6th-generation chef Motokazu Nakamura, guards a family secret passed down through the ages. But it’s not just tradition; science plays its part in perfecting their cuisine. As members of the Japanese Culinary Academy, they’re spreading the love of washoku (Japanese food) worldwide, even shaping in-flight meals for EVA Air. Service here is a tea ceremony-inspired art, cherishing every moment. History and grace collide, mirrored in dishes like sake-dressed fried tilefish and white miso rice soup with mustard. It’s Kyoto’s flavor legacy, etched in every bite.

Make a reservation here!

2. Aji Fukushima

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Aji Fukushima, a Kyoto legend, offers an omakase journey through the city’s culture. Headed by chef Tsuji Yoshikatsu, this restaurant turns kaiseki into a full-blown Kyoto experience, showcasing the region’s flavors and sensibilities. Chef Tsuji’s meticulous attention to ingredients and techniques shines through with a rotating nine-course menu that mirrors the seasons. 

Beyond the food, Aji Fukushima is both ochaya and okiya, where maiko and geisha add to the cultural spectacle. Simplicity is prized here, focusing on well water, fresh ingredients, and traditional Kyoto dishes like bamboo shoot bozushi and fry-simmered kamonasu. This Michelin-starred treasure embodies Kyoto’s culinary tradition, right down to its temple garden-inspired courtyard. It’s a taste of Kyoto’s four seasons in every bite.

Make a reservation here!

3. Mizai

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At Mizai, the pursuit of perfection never ends, echoing the Zen saying “Mizai,” meaning “not there yet.” Owner-chef Hitoshi Ishihara embodies this philosophy, serving all guests simultaneously to encourage communication. Freshly steamed rice symbolizes gratitude for Japan’s bounty, and matcha is crafted with holy water from the Yasaka Shrine. Following the tea ceremony-inspired kaiseki format, the meal comprises over 300 carefully selected seasonal ingredients. Ishihara, who honed his skills at Kitcho Arashiyama, debuted his restaurant with three Michelin stars, earning it a reputation as a gourmand’s dream. Mizai’s ambiance reflects the changing seasons, and its name reflects limitless ambition. With only one seating at 6:00 p.m., reservations are a precious commodity.

Make a reservation here!

4. Soujiki Nakahigashi

Sojiki-ryori is the art of herbivorous cuisine and celebrates nature’s bounty with Chef Hisao Nakahigashi at the helm. Every ingredient is cherished, leaving no room for waste. His culinary canvas reflects the changing seasons, like the carp dish adorned with spring buds and autumn mushrooms, a nod to Nakahigashi’s love for the hills and dales of Kyoto’s northeast mountains. Gathering wild treasures like mushrooms and edible flora from these very slopes, along with homegrown garden veggies, he crafts exquisite kaiseki creations. His open kitchen, centered around a warm grill, welcomes diners to savor premium omakase fare. But beware, reservations go fast, so stake your claim early!

Make a reservation here!

5. Gion Owatari

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At Gion Owatari, Chef Mahito Owatari adds a dash of originality to Kyoto’s classic cuisine, creating unforgettable dining experiences with ingenious ingredient combinations. For example, imagine white asparagus with kinome miso, a twist on bamboo shoots, and the meal wrapping up with a delightful zosui using leftover broth. Owatari’s cheerful, light-hearted service shines through in the relaxed smiles of diners. This Fukuoka-born, Osaka-trained chef is a master of Kyoto cuisine, crafting traditional dishes with a contemporary flair. Quality ingredients, Shimogoryo Shrine’s water, and a tea ceremony nod elevate the experience. A sommelier ensures perfect wine pairings, while the lack of a set closing time invites you to savor every moment. Gion Owatari is a kaiseki masterpiece that balances culinary excellence with a friendly ambiance; just be sure to secure that reservation!

Make a reservation here!

6. Nishikawa

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Tucked in the heart of Gion, this kaiseki restaurant exudes elegance and holds a well-deserved spot among Kyoto’s culinary elite. Chef Masayoshi Nishikawa, a Gion veteran, earned his Michelin star in 2010, drawing from his deep connection to Kyoto. From the cobblestone approach to the traditional cooking methods, every detail oozes classic charm. Nishikawa’s motto, “True flavor is subtle flavor,” guides his dishes, interlacing Western ingredients with Japanese gastronomy. 

Inside, a sukiya-style design exudes stylish elegance. The narrative of your meal unfolds with about ten courses featuring 70 meticulously selected ingredients, capturing the essence of Kyoto’s seasons. The drink menu offers a variety of seasonal sake and wines. Whether dining with family, friends, or colleagues, Nishikawa promises a sensory journey through Kyoto cuisine, complete with post-meal matcha tea and a chat with Chef Nishikawa himself.

Make a reservation here!

7. Kenninji Gion Maruyama

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Savor the best of Kyoto’s cuisine at Kenninji Gion Maruyama, where Chef Maruyama Kasakura, a true master of the craft, curates unforgettable kaiseki experiences. With decades of expertise rooted in Kyoto’s culinary culture, Maruyama’s two Michelin-starred restaurants have been acclaimed for over a decade. Private rooms at Kenninji Gion Maruyama feature individual charcoal grills, offering seasonal meats, fish, and veggies grilled to perfection. 

Maruyama’s culinary mastery harmonizes with Kyoto’s seasonal treasures, from spring’s bamboo shoots to winter’s snow crab. His creations appeal to all five senses, embodying the essence of Kyoto cuisine and its rich tradition. Indulge in a culinary experience transcending sight and sound to convey Japan’s culture and spirit.

Make a reservation here!

8. Gion Matayoshi

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Discover Matayoshi, where an Okinawan chef crafts exquisite two-star Michelin Kyoto cuisine with an unrivaled sake selection. Nestled in a quiet corner of Gion, this hidden spot surprises with its unassuming exterior. Inside, bask in the minimalist elegance with handcrafted furnishings and subtle lighting. Kazutomo Matayoshi, the owner-chef, showcases his culinary artistry through dishes like lily bulb dumplings and perfectly baked vegetables. This kaiseki restaurant blends tradition and innovation, offering a dramatic yet dignified dining experience. Imagine a three-hour gastronomic journey, savoring ginkgo nut cream, sea urchin with miso, sashimi, and sushi for a seasonal meal, all deserving of its coveted Michelin stars.

Make a reservation here!

9. Yusokuryori Mankamero

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Step into Yusokuryori Mankamero, a Kyoto legend, sizzling with ten generations of culinary tradition! Established in 1722 as a sake brewery, this restaurant is an ode to Kyoto’s culinary roots. Chef Masakiyo Konishi wields the ancestral ceremonial knife for the regal “yusoku” dining experience, an exclusive treat. Unchanged recipes dating back centuries grace the menu, featuring seabream and carp dishes. Mankamero goes the extra mile, cultivating flowers for seasonal displays and offering various seating styles across seven private rooms. Dive into this historic flavor journey, where tradition and innovation unite in the heart of Kyoto.

Make a reservation here!

10. Wagokoro Izumi

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Savor the flavors of Wagokoro Izumi, where chef Masaki Izumi’s Kyo-ryori dishes shine with direct-sourced meats and fish. This Kyoto restaurant embraces tradition, crafting dishes that melt in your mouth, like the Kawachi duck that is so fresh you can eat it raw. There are no middlemen here; the owner deals directly with farmers and fishermen. With clams and oysters from bountiful Mie prefecture, this Michelin 2-star kaiseki restaurant excels in sourcing and preparation. Chef Izumi’s passion for Japanese cuisine shines through, with a focus on dashi and seasonal highlights. Experience the spirit of Japanese dining, where every dish is a work of art and a taste of tradition.

Make a reservation here!

Japan Wonder Travel Food Tours 

Japan Wonder Travel is a travel agency that offers guided tours throughout Japan. 
From private walking tours to delicious Food and Drink tours, we can help organize the best tours just for you! If you want to explore Japan and learn more about the history and backstories of each area you are traveling in, our knowledgeable and friendly guides will happily take you to the best spots! 
In addition, we can provide you with any assistance you may need for your upcoming trip to Japan, so please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or need some help! 

Tokyo Fish Market Tour @Tsukiji – Enjoy Local Food and Drink
Explore the most lively and popular fish market in Tokyo where you will have the chance to try some of the local’s favorite street foods and sake along with your friendly English speaking guide! 

tsukiji tour

Shinjuku Bar Hopping Tour: Experience Tokyo’s Nightlife in Izakaya
Check out the best spots in Shinjuku while bar hopping through the lively and vibrant area. Try some delicious local food and drink as you explore the narrow yet photogenic alleys that the town has to offer. Experience Japanese izakaya culture and drink in Shinjuku like the locals!

shinjuku-drinking-tour

Kyoto Food and Drink Tour @Nishiki Street
If you’re looking to learn more about the culture and the local cuisine of Kyoto, this is the perfect tour for you! Take part in this Kyoto food and drink tour and explore the 400-year-old market and the surrounding areas.

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