Sushi is one of the most iconic Japanese foods known throughout the world. However, when you go to Japan you may discover that even though local sushi are a lot better than those served back home, their quality varies greatly. Here are the top 14 sushi restaurants that serve nothing but the very best food in the ancient capital of Japan, Kyoto – it simply doesn’t get more authentic than this!
Tai Sushi is a local sushi restaurant founded more than 50 years ago by the current owner and his wife. The place offers seasonal dishes, and you simply must try their “8 Recommended Sushi” plate for about JPY 2,000! Tai Sushi is known for making sushi with small amounts of rice (shari) and very thick slices of sashimi (raw fish). You can enjoy your food at the counter, the place is fairly small and the interior is kind of old-fashioned.
There is no menu at this restaurant, you just tell the owner what kind of sushi you want to eat directly. It won’t cost you over 10,000 yen per person, which is a good deal for this level of restaurant, so there are many frequent guests!
Izuu is famous for their mackerel sushi (鯖寿司), which is one of the main dishes served at Kyoto’s festivals. Izuu was established 200 years ago when mackerel sushi was still food available to the rich people only. But Izuu doesn’t only serve mackerel sushi, they also offer various traditional Kyoto sushi. Make sure to order some Japanese sake with your food!
This place is also famous for the takeout option so you can take your order back and enjoy it at your hotel or even outside near Kamogawa river.
Sushi Iwa is well known among celebrities as the best sushi restaurant in Kyoto. Even Steve Jobs, Apple Inc ex-CEO, visited this amazing place. You can even see his autograph that he gave to the owner’s daughter. This place serves maguro(tuna) from Oma region, also known as “Black Diamond” which is considered the highest quality tuna in the country. Along with the food, this place offers some of the best Japanese liquors. The owner also speaks English quite fluently and is used to working with non-Japanese travellers, so there’ll be no misunderstanding even if you speak no Japanese whatsoever!
Sushi Iwa also serves Sushi kaiseki (traditional Japanese course meal). Local Tai and Maguro are among the most recommended choices. Sushi Iwa offers various special seasonal dishes as well. There are also many Japanese celebrities who love coming here, so if you go to Sushi Iwa, the chances are you will dine next to a local celebrity!
Umanjo serves very large volumes of sushi. They are pretty much as big as onigiri (rice balls), so you will become full instantly. Along with sushi, they serve amazingly delicious miso soup with red dashi base. Their “tempura tower” is also among the most recommended dishes. Unfortunately, if you are travelling with children, please note that kids are not allowed in this restaurant.
Umanjo is also known for the generous thickness of sashimi slices they serve. If you like donburi (rice with toppings), make sure to try salmon-don and ikura-don.
The sauce for raw fish donburi is usually made from wasabi and soy sauce, but here they use special sweet sauce.
Wasabi is a highly sophisticated restaurant with fine interior. Other than sushi, this place serves sea urchin tempura, Japanese pepper chicken grill and many more original dishes. Living up to its name, it serves the Wasabi rolls, a rare and highly recommended dish!
Many Gion restaurants do not allow walk-in guests without invitation, but at Wasabi they welcome everyone, as they strive for a more casual atmosphere.
Their sushi and sashimi come from Ise fishing port. Other food is also delivered from all over Japan and you can enjoy chicken from Omi, vegetables from Kamigamo and beef from Tottori. There are also various courses so if you cannot decide what to eat, you can just enjoy the recommended course meal.
Suehiro Sushi is one of the oldest sushi restaurants in Japan. The recommended dishes are the Mushi Sushi, topped with eel, egg slices, shrimps and gingko. Mushi sushi are a steamed type of sushi, that are served warm. Mushi Sushi normally take around 15 minutes to steam. This is a very traditional dish and is especially enjoyed by elderly people.
Mushi zushi is offered only from November to March. Kyoto is quite cold in winter so you would definitely like this warm dish!
Other dishes that deserve special attention are their unagi(baked eel) sushi.
Izu Juu was established more than 100 years ago, you can enjoy the most traditional Kyoto sushi here. Mackerel sushi is among the most prized dishes of this place. The fish comes from the Sea of Japan. Local Tai Sasamaki Zushi is another must-try!
Sakai is located 6 minutes from Shijo station close to Nishiki market (known as Kyoto’s kitchen). Mix-don (mixed sashimi on top of rice) here is highly recommended, it is made from several types of the extra fresh fish. The restaurant itself is very small and minimalistic so it might be difficult to spot it right away, however do not give up as it is totally worth it. There are only 6 seats and it doesn’t look like a famous restaurant although trust us, it is. The owner is a very energetic and charming woman, who will surely make you feel welcomed. She, the atmosphere and other guests make this place feel like home away from home. This place, too, serves the prized mackerel sushi. But be careful about the timing because it closes at around 6 p.m.
Totoya is located right next to the Kyoto Wholesale Market. Taking advantage of its perfect location, Totoya offers extra fresh tuna sashimi and is open for lunch both and dinner. The front of Totoya is a fish shop and the restaurant is located inside the building. The menu always changes and costs depend on the market prices! One of the most popular meals is Maguro-don, a bowl of rice topped with slices of raw tuna. Toro is a fatty part of tuna, and several dishes made from this juicy fish, like toro bowl and fried toro cutlet bowl are widely loved by Kyoto people. Definitely worth trying! Various types of Japanese sake and shochu are offered as well, so you can enjoy them along with your food.
Sushitetsu is popular for its reasonable prices. One piece of sushi starts from 100 yen. Fresh urchin sushi (2pcs/630 yen), is one of the most popular dishes here. Sushi chefs are usually dressed in white clothes and are very reserved, but at Sushitetsu, chefs wear casual outfits and are extremely friendly and cheerful compared to typical sushi chefs!
Sushi Matsumoto is a sushi restaurant in Gion that constantly receives stars in Michelin Guide Kansai every year. It is frequently visited by Kabuki actors and other Japanese celebrities. The owner has previously been working in “Sushimizu” in Tokyo. Based on his experience, he opened Sushi Matsumoto in Kyoto with authentic Tokyo-style “Edomae” sushi. Rice is seasoned with salt and red vinegar and fish is delivered from Tsukiji, Tokyo. The place only has 7 seats at the counter, and 1 table for four. Sushi Tetsu is ranked No.1 on Japan’s biggest gourmet website Tabelog.
Sushi no Musashi is known as the pioneer of the conveyor belt sushi restaurants. The prices are reasonable and start from 146 yen. Apart from seafood, it also offers Sakura Niku (raw horse meat) sushi. This is the most famous sushi restaurant in Kawaracho area.
The charcoal grilled style dishes are what makes Robata Sushi Hotaru stand out. It’s old-fashioned Japanese interior and atmosphere surely make one feel nostalgic. The high-quality groceries are delivered from all over Japan: fish from Toyama prefecture, potatoes from Hokkaido and sweet onions from Awaji island.
At Tomi Sushi the rice you eat comes from Omi region, which is said to be the best match with sushi. Since the sushi are smaller than the usual ones, you can have a lot more different varieties! The food here is also available at very reasonable price (from JPY30!). Customers consist of both frequenters and walk-ins, visitors here often talk to each other which creates a friendly casual atmosphere.
This is a sushi restaurant only a 13 minute walk away from Nishi-Oji station. Their Kaisen-don (seafood bowl) is topped with the freshest ingredients and only costs JPY900, because of the large amount of food and great taste of this dish, the restaurant has countless frequent customers. Other than that, they also offer Negitoro Don (Raw Tuna with Green Onion Rice Bowl) for JPY900, Kyoto-style rice bowl with toppings for JPY700 and many other dishes for under JPY1,000, what a treat!
A sushi restaurant that offers nothing but the best variety of fish dishes and alcohol all-year-round. This place pays special importance to the freshness of their outstanding seasonal dishes, their extensive menu includes dishes such as large Nigiri Plate with chu-toro (medium fatty tuna) sea urchins and salmon roe, or Assorted Tuna dish with all the tuna types you can think of! Lunches here are also very popular with dishes like Mini Seafood bowl with Udon lunch set, Kushi-katsu (pork cutlets on skewers) plate, and Tempura.
This popular restaurant is located right next to Saiin Station and offers various nigiri sushi at a very affordable price.
It has great assortment of local Sake from all over Japan, and serves foods such as sushi, sashimi, fried foods and countless a la carte dishes.
You can seat at the counter and chat with chef and customers, or take your time and relax in a tatami room.
A place to fully enjoy most excellent nigiri. Have a seat at a counter and enjoy delicious a-la-carte sushi. Apart from sushi this place offers other various dishes to go with your sake, such as rice bowls with toppings, and exotic dishes such as Fugu Shirako (Fugu milt), Kani Miso (crab brains) or bolied Ankimo (monkfish liver).
A sushi restaurant located near Kyoto’s Nijo with an at-home feeling.
The most recommended dishes are their superb sushi with flounder, sea urchin, ark shells, striped jack and roast duck hot pot. It is strongly recommended to get their prized egg custard after you’re done with your main meal.
This store is famous for offering delicious fish at a low price.
Believe me when I say, you absolutely must try their Hokkaido dish of salmon roe, crabs, squid and sea urchins topped with caviar that will only cost you around JPY680.
Other than that, try their flatfish sashimi for JPY280 or a plate of 6 assorted nigiri for JPY390.
It is great to know that for such modest prices you can try some of the tastiest sashimi, nigiri, meat and fish. The restaurant has both counter and tatami room seats.
Going to Japan is an exciting and thrilling experience on it’s own, but trying some of the best authentic sushi will only make your trip better! Make sure to visit at least one of this places on your next trip to Kyoto.
Enjoy hand-rolled sushi in the Muromachi area of Kyoto