Japan takes its food very seriously and Japanese cuisine is diverse as well as being among the healthiest in the world. For those in the Kansai region looking to indulge in some traditional Japanese cooking, there is no shortage of options – from sushi to teppanyaki to haute cuisine to Japanese steakhouses. Here is a small selection of some of the best places to try out.
One of the most popular Japanese cities for sampling delicious local food, Osaka has over 200 Japanese restaurants including 99 Michelin-starred outlets.
Located in the quiet district of Esaka and 15 minutes by walk from the station, this restaurant has two Michelin stars and prides itself on exceptional food and a zen-like atmosphere. Shunsaiten Tsuchiya specializes in tempura dishes as well as traditional kaiseki cuisine, using the best seasonal ingredients such as gingko nuts and matsutake mushrooms. A wide selection of local sake and wine is also on offer to accompany the meals. The menu is quite pricey but worth it if you’re looking for that exquisite experience. Book early.
Price: 5000-6000 yen (lunch); 15,000-20,000 yen (dinner)
Hours: 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. (lunch); 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. (dinner) (Closed Sundays and lunchtime on Mondays)
Endo Sushi Kyobashi
This renowned sushi specialist situated in the Keihan Mall above JR Kyobashi station began as a store over 100 years ago. It’s one of the most popular sushi restaurants in Osaka with both locals and visitors, offering a great menu at affordable prices. The menu is also available in English making it ideal for westerners who want to try some authentic Japanese recipes. One of the most popular items on the menu is Maze, which consists of 5 different types of sushi served in quick succession.
Address: 2-1-38 Higashinodamachi, Miyakojima-ku, Osaka 534-0024
Price: Around 1000-1600 yen per plate
Hours: Daily 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Having been Japan’s capital city for centuries, Kyoto has a rich cultural heritage that manifests itself in a diverse and immense range of local restaurants.
Honke Owariya began life as a confectionery shop in Nagoya way back in the 15th century. Its owners eventually relocated to Kyoto during the Edo period and started up as a restaurant specializing in soba noodles. These noodles are made from buckwheat and created fresh every day for a unique texture and aroma. The restaurant’s speciality dish is hourai soba served cold with shiitake mushrooms, shrimp tempura, wasabi and grated daikon. Restaurant seating consists of cushions and tatami mats to add to the authentic experience.
Price: Ranging from 800-3000 yen
Hours: Daily 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Chihana is a little restaurant on a side street in the busy Gion district. Running since 1946, it’s become a haven for foodies due to its inventive haute cuisine kaiseki dishes. Seating is limited (there are only around 10 places) and the menu is expensive, including delicacies such as crab and soft-shelled turtle. The chef’s culinary prowess and experimental techniques have earned Chihana three Michelin stars. Guests can choose to sit on tatami mats and meals are served on small colourful plates and bowls.
Price: 10,000 yen for lunch; between 15,000 – 40,000 yen for dinner
Hours: 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. (lunch); 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. (dinner) (Closed on Tuesday. Lunch served only on Saturday, Sunday and Monday)
Kobe is world-famous for its beef but has many traditional Japanese restaurants serving up all kinds of great local cuisine.
There are many steakhouses in Kobe serving its wagyu beef and Wakkoqu is one of the best. Diners can choose from various set menus and can then salivate as the beef is cooked in front of them on a large iron griddle. There are numerous authentic side dishes, soups and sauces to accompany the meat. Korean and Chinese menus are also available.
Price: Around 6000 yen for lunch and between 9000–15,000 yen for dinner courses
Hours: 11:45 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
There’s one reason why diners have been returning to Hyotan for more than 40 years: gyoza. These light Japanese dumplings come filled with savoury cabbage, minced pork and leek and, judging by the popularity with locals, Hyotan has perfected the recipe. It’s not easy to find – hidden under the tracks at Hanshin Sannomiya station and with no English sign – but it’s worth tracking down. Look out for the red curtains hanging over the entrance.
Address: 1-31-37 Kitanagasadori, Chuo-ku, Kobe 650-0012
Hours: 11:30 a.m. – 12:00 a.m. (until 11:00 p.m. on Sundays)