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No trip is complete without experiencing the traditional Kaiseki Kyoto meal when you visit beautiful Kyoto. We were truly lucky to have that experience, not just once but twice, on our second day in Kyoto, for lunch and dinner!
Traditional Kaiseki Kyoto meal
What is Kaiseki? To put it simply, kaiseki is a traditional Japanese dining experience involving multiple courses. Various cuisines, from shojin ryori to kyo ryori, are sometimes served kaiseki style. Menu tends to change frequently, placing special emphasis on seasonal ingredients and subtle flavors for sophisticated and artful results.
Shojin ryori is vegetarian Buddhist cuisine which dates back to Kamakura period (1185-1333). it is often heavily associated with kaiseki. The most famous place in Kyoto that servces shojin ryori is Shigetsu restaurant located inside Tenryu-ji temple in Arashiyama. We had lunch here on our 2nd day in Kyoto, among the 6 things we accomplished over just half day in Arashiyama. Another place to experience shojin ryori is Izusen, located on the ground of Daitokugi Temple.
Kyo ryori, or Kyoto cuisine, has a history of over 1,200 years and is highly refined. We planned the entire evening of our second day in Kyoto to experience this famous traditional Kaiseki Kyoto meal at Ganko Takasegawe Nijoen.
Ganko Takasegawe Nijoen
Ganko is a sushi restaurant chain with many location throughout Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo and beyond. You will see them almost everywhere in major cities in Japan. Ganko Sushi is one of the most approachable and reasonably priced sushi places in Kyoto. Less known is their 300-seat mansion in Kyoto called Ganko Takasegawe Niljoen. This 400+ year old restaurant was once a vacation home for a powerful merchant. It has a beautiful Japanese garden in the back with a creek running through. The restaurant also provides a special meal that includes maiko (apprentice geisha) performances.
Our evening was a little bit unusual. It was arranged by my friend Lisa who lives in Tokyo and joined us for the weekend in Kyoto. Through a very close friend of her husband, the dinner was set up for us at Ganko Takasegawe Nijoen. The restaurant has 15 private rooms, accommodating as few as 4 people and up to as many as 90 people. We were given a huge private tatami room, with table set up and dishes awaiting when we arrived.
Our meal was pre-ordered, so I never saw the menu, which changes every month and a sample could be found here. All I know was that we had the set menu priced at 9,000 yen. Food kept coming out through the evening. Each course was very fresh. We were beyond stuffed when we were only half-way through.
Takasegawe Nijoen has a lovely Japanese garden in the back of the restaurant. Our waitress gave us a tour after the meal. Even in the dark I could tell how lovely the garden would be during the day. In my mind I couldn’t help but picturing it through the seasons: with plum in spring, fresh green in summer, autumn leaves in fall, and snow makeup in winter!
Other restaurants serving Kaiseki Kyoto meals
I wouldn’t have known Ganko Takasegawe Nijoen if it weren’t for Lisa. So glad that we made it here and had an unforgettable night of experiencing traditional Kaiseki Kyoto meal during our short visit. There are other highly recommended Kaiseki restaurants in Kyoto, including Gion Karyo in Gion district, Kaiseki Mizuki inside Ritz Carlton, one-Michelin-star restaurant Kiyamachi Sakuragawa in downtown Kyoto, two-Michelin-star restaurant Kodaiji Wakuden located inside Kodaiji temple, as well as the three-Michelin-star restaurant Kyoto Kitcho Arashiyama.
Have you experienced Kaiseki meal in Kyoto? If so, I would love to hear about your experience and recommendation! If I weren’t traveling with kids, I would probably be willing to bite the bullet and dine at Kyoto Kitcho Arashiyama, just to experience a three-Michelin-star restaurant in Kyoto!