Tempura is one of Japan's most famous traditional dishes, loved by locals and tourists alike - and Kyoto tempura might be considered king by many. There are many ways to enjoy crisp, delicious tempura, whether dipped in sauce or on top of rice.
Today we will introduce three of our top recommended tempura restaurants in the ancient city of Kyoto, from high-end restaurants to casual shops. Each has its own flavor secrets, and all adhere to strict measures against coronavirus.
1. Tenso: Kyoto Tempura Made with Delicious Local Vegetables
The shop has a very homey atmosphere. But once you step inside, it is surprisingly spacious. The first floor is an open area with 10 counter seats. On the second floor are 5 more counter seats in a small private room.
All tempura is fresh, seasonal, and made with local Kyoto vegetables. You'll find bamboo shoots in the spring, Fushimi togarashi and Yamashina eggplant in the summer, Kyoto turnips and carrots in the autumn, and Horikawa burdock root and shrimp taro in the winter. Most of the seafood is sourced from the Seto Inland Sea. Seasonal staples also include Awaji conger eel and Lake Biwa sweetfish.
Tenso has two course meals: a day course (3,500 yen and up, tax not included) and an evening course (11,000 yen and up, tax not included). Appetizers and sashimi are always included in evening courses. Prices vary depending on the grade of tempura and how many you order.
You'll start with the shrimp tempura. Both the shell and body are fried before your eyes, and served fresh and piping-hot. The batter coating is light and doesn't leave an oily feeling in your mouth.
The tempura is deep-fried to a golden color in a batter made of flour, water, egg, and cottonseed oil. This is what gives it such a unique flavor. The flavor is also highly dependent on the oil temperature, which must be finely adjusted depending on ingredients, outside temperature, and humidity.
Tentsuyu dipping sauce, made from a kelp/bonito stock and an original Hiroshima/Agunijima seaweed salt blend, are provided for your use, along with lemon.
Next up are the Kyoto vegetables: Yamashina eggplant and Kyokanzashi carrots. The simple flavor and sweetness of these long, thin carrots and eggplant are maximized once cooked as tempura.
You can eat every part of the whiting tempura, including the bones. The "Gold Rush" corn tempura is topped with salmon roe and sweet potato. Seasonal items are served in a special order to bring out each piece's deliciousness.
The final item is a dessert dish: muscat topped with cream cheese. The sweet fruit and the salty cream cheese flavors pair perfectly well together. Desserts are also made with seasonal ingredients. There's always something to look forward to!
"It makes me happy to hear customers enjoying themselves," says chef Haruo Tomiyama. At the counter seats, you can enjoy conversation with the chef while you eat!
Measures Against Coronavirus:
All staff required to wear masks. Thermometers and sanitizer are readily available. Seating reduced and acrylic plates installed.
Gion Tempura TENSOUぎをん天婦羅 天宗
- Address 570-119 Gionmachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, 605-0074
Access: 7-minute walk from Hankyu Kyoto Kawaramachi Station, 5-minute walk from Keihan Gion-Shijo Station
- Phone Number 075-561-0555
Hours: 11:00AM-1:30PM(L.O.), 5:30PM-8:00PM(L.O.)
2. Kyoboshi: Not Your Average Kyoto Tempura!
Kyoboshi is a Kyoto tempura restaurant located along Sueyoshi-dori on the north side of Gion. It is a 6-8 minute walk from Keihan Gion-Shijo Station and Hankyu Kyoto Kawaramachi Station. There are only 9 counter seats in the small space on the 1st floor. It is a well-known shop and requires reservations. They currently allow up to 3 reservation groups a day.
Opened in 1991, this long-established tempura specialty shop will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2021. Shop owner Toshinori Sakakibara proudly states, "We don't serve anything other than tempura. It's tempura from 1 to 10." As it should be. This well-known shop was featured in the "Michelin Guide to Kyoto Osaka + Okayama 2021", and has been featured for 12 consecutive years!
The only thing you'll find on this menu is tempura. There are 18 a-la-carte dishes and one course meal (12,000 yen, tax not included).
Seafood and vegetables are purchased fresh at the market every day, and tempura is made from only the finest ingredients. Seasonal dishes include bamboo shoots and vegetables in the spring, sweetfish in the summer, conger eel and matsutake mushrooms in the fall, and smelt in winter. Their firm belief is that "meat is not suitable for tempura", so you won't find meat on their menu.
There is no tentsuyu dipping sauce. However, they have prepared lemon juice, homemade salt, and grated radish for you to use to your liking.
The most important thing is oil temperature and frying time. Depending on the ingredients, some should be cooked thoroughly while others should only be lightly cooked. Each item must be carefully fried for the best results.
There is a great variety of tempura on this menu. This is a braid of young sweetfish, fried to appear as if it were actually swimming! It is crisp and has no fishy odor. The next dish is skewered beans, which are fried and arranged in a radial pattern, resulting in this interesting shape.
Next up is their famous Kyokanzashi, a small, thin carrot. The carrot is hollowed out with a tool called "tazunanuki" and then fried in oil. Both the unique shape and the taste of the ingredients require exceptional skills to master. The batter is egg-free, so it is suitable for people with egg allergies. The oil, coating, and salt are all secret recipes of undoubtedly excellent quality!
Here we have a classic autumn staple, matsutake mushrooms wrapped in eel. What an extravagant combination! The final dish is tenchazuke (rice with tea poured over it) with fried shrimp. Dessert is a sweet potato tempura soaked in brandy and sugar.
"You won't find tempura like ours anywhere else. We are breaking the mold with our tempura," says Sakakibara. This well-known shop certainly knows how to create unique, original dishes!
Measures Against Coronavirus:
All staff required to wear masks. Sanitizer always available and space is ventilated every hour. Groups are seated one seat apart.
- Address Futaba Bldg 1F, Gionmachi Kitagawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, 605-0073
Access: 8-minute walk from Hankyu Kyoto Kawaramachi Station, 5-minute walk from Keihan Gion-Shijo Station
- Phone Number 075-551-2303
Hours: 6:00PM-8:00PM (last entry)
3. Makino: Delicious Kyoto Tempura Rice Bowls that Pack a Punch!
Tendon Makino is a chain restaurant operating as part of Japan's nationwide Tridoll Corporation. Their Kyoto location is in a corner of Teramachi-dori. This old-fashioned street gets its name (which literally means "the Temple District") from when Toyotomi Hideyoshi built temples and shrines all around the city.
There are 16 counter seats on the 1st floor and 16 tables on the 2nd floor. It is a shop that anyone can enjoy! Watch the chefs hard at work as they fry their deliciously inviting dishes right before your eyes.
The oil is fragrant, made of sesame and salad oil, and the batter is made from dissolved tempura powder. Tempura quality is highly dependent on the temperature at which the batter is cooked, so it is adjusted very carefully. Listen to the mouth-watering sizzling as you top your hot tempura with sauce. Oil temperature is always kept constant, and measured with a thermometer three times a day.
Now for those new to the world of tempura, "tendon" is
a rice bowl that's topped with select tempura.
Makino's most popular dish is the Tendon Ro (1,250 yen, tax not included). There are three variations that differ by amount. "I" (990 yen, tax not included), "Ro", and "Ha" (1,450 yen, tax not included). There is also the Wild Shrimp Tendon, which includes 5 natural shrimp (1,490 yen, tax not included), and the Tempura Assortment Platter (990 yen, tax not included). All 5 items are seasonal dishes and are highly recommended.
There are seven types of tempura included in the Tendon Ro: conger eel, shrimp, squid and scallops kaki-age, egg, seaweed, and green pepper. The egg is one of the most popular pieces. A boiled egg is fried into tempura, leaving the inside soft-boiled and delicious. Enjoy this hot, freshly-fried tempura together with their sweet-and-spicy sauce!
Together with the black pepper and dipping sauce on the table, there is also sliced ginger with burdock. This goes great with the tendon bowl. There is also a Tendon Bento (800 yen, tax not included) that you can order as takeout.
Measures Against Coronavirus:
All staff required to wear masks. Sanitizer always available and space regularly ventilated.
Tendon Makino Kyoto Teramachi天丼まきの京都寺町
- Address 481-3 Nakasujicho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, 604-8047
Access: 5-minute walk from Hankyu Kyoto Kawaramachi Station, 6-minute walk from Kyoto Municipal Subway City Hall Station
- Phone Number 075-222-5560
Hours: 11:00AM-9:30PM (L.O. 9:00PM)
The Kyoto tempura shops introduced today span high-end restaurants to popular casual shops, each with their own style of tempura. Choose your favorite spot depending on the occasion and the number of guests, and indulge yourself in some delicious tempura!
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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